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Fewer Computer Science Majors 901

skrysakj writes "USA today reports that there are fewer undergraduate students choosing computer science related majors in the USA. What really woke me up was their statement that only 6% of the worlds engineers are educated in the USA. Before there was a dot-com bubble to burst, I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had non-IT degrees, so how is this new trend any different than before?"
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Fewer Computer Science Majors

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  • by erick99 ( 743982 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:51AM (#9928656)
    I worked for a company that did high-end engineering and programming for the military. They currently have about 120 network engineers, programmers, and other related staff. Maybe 10 of these folks have computer science degrees. However, they *all* had Cisco cerifications and many had MCSE and other certs as well. Perhaps measuring the amount of people getting certified for hardware platforms, languages, etc. might provide more insight into how many people are pursuing computer science type jobs. Also, in this area, if you want to be an engineer or a programmer you might be as well off going to one of the schools that provide training and various certs in 12 month to 24 month time frames. Colleges are not the exclusive path to a career in programming or engineering.



    • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:57AM (#9928738) Homepage
      Colleges are not the exclusive path to a career in programming or engineering.

      I'd grant the first, but argue the second. Unless you meant "software engineering."

      Not to troll or bait flames, but most real engineering companies require a Bachelor's or better from an Abet accredited institution from new hires. I guess it's possible to start as a tech in the lab and work your way up (eventually experience is worth the same or more than a degree, it's just hard to get without the degree.)

      My $0.02.
      • by Shant3030 ( 414048 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:35AM (#9929158)
        Not to troll or bait flames, but most real engineering companies require a Bachelor's or better from an Abet accredited institution from new hires. I guess it's possible to start as a tech in the lab and work your way up (eventually experience is worth the same or more than a degree, it's just hard to get without the degree.)

        I agree 100% with your post. If I handed in a resume for a software engineering job with even a degree in Information Technology, I probably wouldnt get a second glance.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:43AM (#9929279)

        The distinction you made is interesting. The reason there is so much crappy software being produced is companies don't require adequate computer science credentials for developers. It's extremely common for me to get stuck with people that don't have the slightest clue how to analyze the efficiency of an algorithm or properly handle parallel access to resources. I consider those rock bottom basic requirements for a developer.

        • I think you make an interesting statement, one that I agree with for the most part (regarding quality of software).

          However, I believe that the reason we're seeing a "decline" in the number of people seeking C.S. degrees isn't because the degrees are losing their meaning or because people are hiring those with certifications (that cost less and take less time to obtain) more than those with degrees. IMHO it's because the field continues to grow, along with the number of available positions. People without C.S. degrees are fully capable of filling the majority of these positions, even without experience, because the majority of these positions don't involve things like parallel access to resources or algorithm efficiency (as you mention).
          I'd say the majority of these positions involve rudimentary (for lack of a better word) application development that don't usually need complicated algorithms or parallel programming.

          I believe the issue you speak of (the quality of software) stems from when those without the formal software engineering education are put into positions that require such skills.

          just my 2 cents
        • by fitten ( 521191 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @01:23PM (#9931292)
          I have even seen many folks who don't know basic data structure concepts either... things that should be as ingrained into a programmer as breathing is... things like trees, hashes, linked lists, arrays, etc.

          There's nothing like talking to a new hire and who is fretting over how to store some data for later lookup and saying something like "just put it in a dictionary or something" and seeing his eyes glaze over.

          Getting a degree (actually, in many scientific/engineering fields) isn't as much about what you know as about having exposure to lots of different things, knowing how to find out what you don't know, and having the discipline to do it right and follow through instead of beating it until it fits and then declaring yourself "done".

          The *most* common things that I have seen about non-CS (non- engineering/scientific) programmers (especially folks who "taught themselves") is that
          1. Degrees are a waste of time because you don't need them and that they are a shining example of not needing a degree (when in many cases, they are a shining example of why you need a degree - they just don't, and won't, realize it).
          2. They are always right, even when confronted with indisputable evidence that shows that they might not be right.

          They also typically make lots of obvious mistaken conclusions that a basic algorithms or data structures class would have easily avoided.
      • by GoatChunks ( 758276 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:44AM (#9929284)
        Up until recently, I would have argued that you don't need a degree of any sort to be a successful software engineer. Me, and about 5 of my peers are/were living proof of that.

        Of the top 10 software engineers in my organization, up until about a year ago, 6 of them had no degree at all. None of the top 5 did. Then suddenly we all hit a brick wall. We were told by our organization that we were pretty much at a standstill in our careers until we got our degrees.

        This is an odd thing for someone who's making $80-$100k to hear. You'd think with all of that experience under our belts nobody would care anymore. But as we try to move up by moving out, we're seeing the same thing. Nobody wants to hire software engineers without a degree.

        None of us are far from getting them, as we all seemed to have the same story. We were plucked out of college by an up-and-rising dot-com a semester or three before graduating. But basically everything is on hold until we get those degrees. After that, or so I'm told, we can write our own tickets.
        • by zogger ( 617870 )
          ... and the best in your division. Why not just start your own company instead with your affected peer group? Walk away! You get to keep your brains, they don't. If your employer was able to pay you 6 figures average, that means they were making at least probably double that off of your labor. Screw em! They want a piece of paper instead of productivity, take your productivity to your own office and take all the cash, not some of it. The proof is in the product, not the degrees hanging on the wall.

          And some
        • by putaro ( 235078 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:36AM (#9929911) Journal
          When I was in college I started working as an intern at a local computer manufacturer (this was in the mid-80's when there actually were many real manufacturers). They made a Unix based system, soup-to-nuts (that is, we had our own processor architecture, compilers, and version of BSD Unix). It was basically incredible OJT and I learned fast and before long they had started throwing real projects at me. At one point they asked me to drop out and go to work for them full-time. Things were going on in my life that required more cash than a part-time job would give me, but I figured that finishing my degree wasn't a bad thing, so I cut a deal where I would go full-time working and become a part-time student.

          Shortly afterwards they hired a recent college grad. She was a pretty sharp gal, no doubt about it, but I would say we were pretty much on the same level and I had more experience than her. We got to be good friends and one day the question of salary came up and I discovered that she was making substantially more than I was. I went to my boss and said, "WTF?!" The answer - "You don't have a degree."

          I was glad that I hadn't stopped out, stayed in school and got my degree. About the time I graduated the company went thru a near-death experience, everyone was laid off for about two weeks and I found a new job paying twice as much as I had been making. (After two weeks the company was resurrected and everyone went back to work except for Y.T and one other person)

          I don't bear any animosity towards them for not paying me less for not having a degree, but I am still a little peeved that they tried to get me to drop out of school. Every time I've gone looking for a new job (or venture capital :-) ) since then, I'm glad that I finished my degree since I don't have to start interviews with a song and dance about why I didn't get my degree. Instead, when we talk about education, I say "Yup, been there, done that, let's talk about something more interesting".
          • I'm glad that I finished my degree since I don't have to start interviews with a song and dance about why I didn't get my degree.

            A great way for an employer to get a graduate without paying them a graduate's salary is to find someone who is willing to drop out of school several semesters short of a degree. This accomplishes several things for the employer. They know that they are basically getting a graduate for a lower salary, but they also know that this person will cost them less over time and that th

        • Forget about getting a state or federal technical job without a degree. Most require a degree to "weed people out." And the higher the degree, the more you earn, regardless of actual job duties. That's been my experience.
        • by severoon ( 536737 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @01:27PM (#9931336) Journal

          What you say is true...there are exceptional cases where people can be good software engineers even though they don't have college degrees. But so what? This is a numbers game, and getting through college nowadays is a badge that means you can reasonably stick through and complete a long-term goal at a relatively young age. That's means you were forged in an environment that allowed you to balance your personal life with a work load (not a terribly tough one) and carry off both.

          Your argument by example (5 examples, actually) is just flawed logic. By that argument, I could say the same thing about being a billionaire--Gates didn't complete college, therefore it's reasonable to expect that billionaires do not generally have degrees. But this would be wrong...most billionaires do have college degrees.

          That's how companies look at hiring. They want to mitigate their risk. They interview someone, and that person seems good (interviews are notoriously bad ways of judging how people are going to perform on a job, except the part where they talk to past employers and consider your past experience, or the guy walks in and has an obvious chip on his shoulder), but they're still pretty worried about whether he'll perform when he walks out. So say they hire two guys, one with a degree and one without and they both turn out to be disasters. How does the manager that hired the guy without explain the hiring decision to his boss? The boss'll say, "What were you thinking, this guy doesn't even have a college degree!"

          You could keep living in the clouds and say the manager should patiently explain to his boss his view that college degrees don't really matter...except that's totally wrong. Remember, we're not talking about the exceptional case here, we're talking about a numbers game, and whether you like it or not, it is generally true that people with degrees will, on the average, outperform people without.

          In discussions like this it's common for people to pay so much attention to the exceptional cases that they forget they're still dealing with exceptional cases.

          Having said that, I think your way of looking at things has become increasingly popular over the last generation or two. This is because in the 50s, 60s, and 70s having a college degree meant more than it does today. It was difficult to get one. Now the average university has become a rubber stamp mill that just passes students through. The average bachelors degree student today knows less than the average high school graduate of the 1950s. Jobs like engineer, architect, etc, didn't used to require college degrees for this reason.

          Now college is necessary because our public schools are in decline and have been for several decades (my journal entry on public school []). As the teachers unions force one decision-by-committee on the system after another, things get worse and worse and all the good teachers get driven into other professions. Couple this with the sense of entitlement that most people in the US have nowadays about education ("my child has a RIGHT to an education whether he works hard or not!") and you get the current situation, where everyone must have college degrees just to prove they're smart enough to breathe. This is why the top 20 or so college institutions of each particular field, that have managed to retain their previous high standards, are so sought after.

      • by betelgeuse68 ( 230611 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:10AM (#9929581)
        I have a BS in CS but I wholeheartedly disagree with you.

        "Sofware engineering" is an oxymoron. You can employ strict process control, aka protocol, but that is not engineering per se. For example, the idea of version control or staging to deploy new web applications, that may be "release engineering" but you are stil talking about setting protocols for pushing files around.

        Today I muse at some of the research interests of some professors I had back in the day, "software engineering." Yeah sure, they changed the software engineering world.

        Given that the number of abstractions the software space allows is infinite (vs. being bound to the physical universe) there is a level of complexity and an opportunity for induction (by drawing from all these abstractions) that ascribing a pithy label such as "software engineering" seems quite moot in my book.

        I might add I spent 2-1/2 years at Microsoft and have moved onto the *NIX space. I've seen both ends of the spectrum and I haven't seen any real notion of software engineering except for ONE small company I had occasion to work at. The problem is that 99.9% of the situations that are cranking out code have no semblance of what was going on there.

      • by AB3A ( 192265 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:26PM (#9930524) Homepage Journal
        Speaking as one who has a degree, my response to you is BALDERDASH!

        Some people are simply very well organized and know what they're doing even before they get to college. I was one of them. My degree is in electrical engineering. But most of what I learned, I got from building ham radio gear.

        Likewise, most of what I know from computer science is from playing with it as it evolved from mainframes to the S100 CP/M systems, to early versions of DOS and so on and so forth.

        Yes, I have a degree that says I know something. Yes, I did learn some useful mathematics. However the rest of the experience was really OJT.

        The problem is getting an employer to recognize and reward such experience and independent learning. We are stuck in a society where Human Resources maggots label us by virtue of what scouting badges we have achived --not what we can actually do or understand.

        And then so many turn around and wonder at the mediocrity of today's graduates...
      • I'd have to agree with this. As one of my profs put it, they don't teach you the details, they teach you how to learn the subject. Any specific certificate is going to become dated VERY fast--basically, if you don't have a job within 18 months, you're dead in the water. A degree teaches you the principles that all of the rest is based on. You can pick up the rest. When I was a consultant, I would often be dropped into situations where I had never used the specific software, but I had enough general knowledg
      • You *can* get and do the job without a degree.
        If you're good.

        You *will* be paid about 20% less without a degree.
        Whether you're good or not.

        You *will* be at or near the top of the "list" come layoff-time.
        Even if you're good.
        (your manager who knows you do good work does not make this decision. Some bean-counter in HR who never met you makes this decision).

        Your resume *will* be at or near the bottom of the "list" when you look for a new job.
        No matter how good you are.

        This is what my 14 years of experience
    • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:01AM (#9928790) Homepage
      Implying that an MCSE is a path to a career in programming or computer science is like saying that a certificate in oil and air filter changing from Micks auto shop is a stepping stone into car engineering and design! Sorry , I'm not trying to be anti MS but MCSEs are just mickey mouse qualifications (and frankly a lot of other companys in house certs arn't much better). Learning to do A,B or C if X,Y or Z happens is NOT computer science!
      • by TheHonestTruth ( 759975 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:10AM (#9928877) Journal
        Learning to do A,B or C if X,Y or Z happens is NOT computer science!

        Really? Because I really don't understand finite state automata then. Crud. :-)


        • Learning to do A,B or C if X,Y or Z happens is NOT computer science!

          Really? Because I really don't understand finite state automata then. Crud. :-)

          The poster to whom you replied was correct, and your retort was misplaced. "Doing A, B or C if X, Y or Z happens" is merely what FSAs do rather than FSA theory, and does not require any technical knowledge about FSAs at all. MS admins are often taught to perform reactive duties like that too, as if they were cogs in a machine, since the platform is largely a
        • by guitaristx ( 791223 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:11AM (#9929589) Journal
          Finite State Automata, discrete mathematics, knowledge of performance metrics (and how to tune algorithms for better performance), and knowledge of how compilers, operating systems, and assemblers are built are just a few things that separate programmers from computer scientists. This is why we've got so many, er, pieces, of software out there. They're not engineered, they're just slopped together.

          There's a reason why all that "useless" stuff is taught to CS majors.
        • "Learning to do A,B or C if X,Y or Z happens is NOT computer science!"
          Really? Because I really don't understand finite state automata then. Crud. :-)

          No, I think it just means that you, yourself, are not a finite state automata.
      • No kidding... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I'm in the middle of interviewing candidates right now to fill a junior network admin position, and the overwhelming vast majority who shout out their list of certifications loudest at the tops of their resumes, trying to look impressive, are proving to be the least knowledgeable of the whole bunch. All they know how to do is memorize a study booklet or braindump full of quick answers long enough to take a test. No thanks. The MCSEs are the worst. Even the Cisco CCNA's are getting to be just as bad. Part of
      • hear hear!!

        I'm a windows admin. I've been working with Windows since version 2.0, and NT since version 3.51 (couldn't get my hands on a copy of 3.1 when I was 14). Every job that I've had that has had MCSEs, MCPs, etc..., I end up taking over the majority of the department. It's not my intention when I go in, but the amount of incompetence that I see in these guys is astounding.

        The problem with MCSEs, and more recently CCNAs (the only cisco cert that I still respect is CCIE, because it requires you to
    • I'm sorry (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bsd4me ( 759597 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:07AM (#9928847)

      I'm sorry, but there is a huge difference between a software crash course and a proper computer science or computer engineering degree.

      A good CMPSCI or CMPEN program doesn't teach programming languages; they teach how to program in general and how to reason about programs. Once you master this, you can apply it to any language.

      Too many people with these crase course certificates only care about getting something working, whereas understanding why it is working will always be better for the project in the long run.

    • by deebaine ( 218719 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:15AM (#9928935) Journal
      Perhaps measuring the amount of people getting certified for hardware platforms, languages, etc. might provide more insight into how many people are pursuing computer science type jobs.

      I think maybe measuring the certifications might provide insight into who is pursuing technology-type jobs, not computer science-type jobs. My CS degree didn't teach me to do a darned thing with a Cisco router and doesn't even necessarily make me a very good programmer. Likewise, all the Cisco certifications in the world don't mean that one knows snot about computer science. The two are not exclusive, mind you, but they're not synonymous either.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:52AM (#9928668)
    Basically this post can be summed up in a few sentences:

    I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had non-IT degrees
    You need to BS boots rather than a BS degree. It sucks but you have to play the game play - say things like sir, thank you, and yes I can develop 2.57 billion lines of code this month all with zero defects fully tested delivered signed and sealed. Let me say that if you don't have a degree today, you have closed a lot of doors yourself. Very few will hire you without a degree - why should someone unless there is nepotism. Get a degree where you work closer to the money and make tech a secondary skill.

    43% of computer science and engineering recipients are non-resident aliens
    Our government is making it a little harder to float into the country. Now the schools are whining about loosing revenue - tuition must be cheaper here than overseas (hard to imagine)?

    computer science and computer engineering majors in the USA and Canada fell 23% vs. the year before
    Students of today are not stupid. Would you choose the tech field today? You would be better off getting a MBA and if you like the tech stuff than you can still assist with it but you have to be closer to the money or your at risk of someone else making your life decisions.
    • by tarunthegreat2 ( 761545 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:25AM (#9929036)
      It is most certainly not the tuition that's sending people to USA. It's the hope that the student visa gets turned into a work visa which gets turned into a green card, which means that some day 17 years from the time of getting your student visa, you may be an American, provided you aren't murdered for being a no-good-foreigner-living-off-the-fat-o-the-land, and that your boss doesn't fire you when the going gets rough. There's that and the fact that in my country at least(India), it's exactly 15,000 times harder to get into a local college, considering the size of our population. The hardest b-school [] to get into in the entire world is IIM Ahmedabad []. Compare that to the Admissions Page for Stanford []. The same is true for engineering schools...We're leaving India for a lot of reasons, and one of them is the past few generations' high fornication (and fertility) rate. That's one of the reasons why there are so many non-resident aliens in yer schools
    • by Malc ( 1751 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:43AM (#9929266)
      You haven't been paying attention either. MBA's are also out of vogue. Even FedEx commercials are now poking fun at them for being useless!
  • by mikieboy ( 661018 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:52AM (#9928669)
    about 75% of the worlds lawyers. maybe that why sco in such a pickle
  • Maybe now (Score:5, Insightful)

    by w.p.richardson ( 218394 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:52AM (#9928672) Homepage
    people who major in CS are actually doing it because they like computers and want to learn about them, instead of viewing a degree as an easy ticket to big $$$$.

    Supply and demand, no?

  • Not true geeks... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danielrm26 ( 567852 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:52AM (#9928681) Homepage
    This is a no-brainer. Most people in computer science got into it because they heard there was money in it - not because they had a love for it. Now that it's become clear that compsci's not a crap shoot when it comes to getting a high-paying job, they're jumping ship like there's airborne HIV on board.

    Only the true geeks (the ones who love the stuff) will stay with it even when it gets rocky.
    • Re:Not true geeks... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jbrocklin ( 613326 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:59AM (#9928764) Homepage Journal
      I'm going into my senoir year in CS this fall at a university who has their CS degree in the engineering college. I help out with some of the college recruiting things and you wouldn't believe the number of people who want to come to a CS degree for game programming. Just because there isn't the big $$ involved all the time doesn't mean people are still coming to CS degrees for the wrong reasons.

      Those that do come into the program for this usually end up dropping out or switching to a non-engineering major because they want to PLAY games all the time and not do the stuff like algorithm design and analysis that the CS degree requires.
      • by prozac79 ( 651102 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:32AM (#9929852)
        I help out with some of the college recruiting things and you wouldn't believe the number of people who want to come to a CS degree for game programming.

        I would say that a good half of the CS people I knew in college my freshmen year got into CS because they wanted to be game programmers. They sat down in front of a Playstation or Nintendo 64 (Playstation 2 and Xbox weren't around yet) and thought, "I want to make this". However, most of them got out of CS entirely after taking the intro courses. The rest of us learned that being a game programmer meant that you would have to be one of the best programmers on the planet. I had an internship at a game company and it is a tough world that combines physics, math, logic, and of course, knowing every single caveat of C++. You have to be both a "jack of all trades" and an expert in multiple domains. If you've ever read "Game Developer" magazine, a lot of programmers, even good ones, don't know what these articles are talking about.

    • Re:Not true geeks... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by thafreak ( 705824 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:01AM (#9928782) Homepage
      Actually, from talking to everyday "non-geek" people, I find that they're all still under the impression that there is alot of money to be made in CS. So I bet the people leaving the field ARE the real geeks who love computers. I bet they're all waking up and realizing that if they want to survive (and afford their expensive habit if you will), they need to get a real job that pays...
      I'd venture to say the poeple sticking with it are still mostly money grubbers who are going to have a very surprising wake up call when they graduate.
      Maybe all the real geeks are going over to MIS...anyone compare the decline in CS to the numbers from business schools???
      I'd like to see them...
    • by jdh-22 ( 636684 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#9928841)
      I have to somewhat agree with you.

      I think that many people are interested in computers as a degree. They want to learn how to program, or how to network. When they get into CS program, it isn't quite what they are looking for. Computer Science isn't about programming, or how to get computers to network, it is about learning how they work, and how to make them work better, the theories, and philosophies of controlling those bits.

      At Purdue, there have been many people that don't understand what they get into. Each semister, you notice someone else drops out of the program.
      • by jbarr ( 2233 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:30AM (#9929109) Homepage
        You nailed it! Computer users really fall into one of two groups: Those who focus on "how to use them" and those who focus on "how they work". While this has always been the case, it's just that the majority of people who now deal with computers fall in to the "how to use them" category. You don't need a college degree in CS (or a degree at all, for that matter) to learn how to use computers, but understanding how they work is another story. Obviously, you don't NEED a degree to understand how computers work, but if you are interested enough and driven enough, then you WILL learn. I got my degree in Psychology, but have been working in IT for 15 years...
  • Not exactly news (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lord Grey ( 463613 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:53AM (#9928689)
    From the article:
    Blame the bleak tech job market. In the past, a computer degree meant "instant riches, or at least a well-paying, secure job," says San Jose computer science chair David Hayes. "Now, the perception is jobs are going overseas, and people are being laid off."
    Students are always attracted to job segments where either of two things are reported:
    1. The press reports explosive growth in an industry
    2. The press reports that there are not enough workers in a particular industry
    Both of those items imply a higher salary. This is not new. Students who don't have a true interest in something before they get to college will nearly always opt to go where the money is. When the expected salary dries up, they look elsewhere. It's happened over and over in the past and, I expect, will continue.
    That's not necessarily a bad thing, says Peter Lee, an associate dean at Carnegie Mellon. ... [The fewer new] students are often of higher quality, motivated more by love of technology than dreams of stock options, he says.
    Those are the students who do have a true interest in the computer field before they get to college. Again, this is not new, and virtually every job segment has people like this.

    Speaking as an employer, I'm very happy with this trend. The quality of graduates with programming degrees has been absolutely terrible for years now.

    • by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:08AM (#9928854)
      It's happened over and over in the past

      Not every 18 months, however. People in previous generations could actually expect to sign a mortgage and SETTLE DOWN somewhere. Not U-haul everything they own to some dustblown flyspeck on a side-of-the-road-diner map every 36 hours because they had a third-hand tip there might be 10 hours work available.

      That's not necessarily a bad thing, says Peter Lee, an


      associate dean at Carnegie Mellon

      The quality of graduates with programming degrees has been absolutely terrible for years now.

      Wow. So the Universities are just arbitrarily passing out degrees at the exits?
  • Why a surprise? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Peter Cooper ( 660482 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928692) Homepage Journal
    What really woke me up was their statement that only 6% of the worlds engineers are educated in the USA.

    I'm not sure why this is seen as surprising. This is actually pretty good, given that Americans make up less than 5% of the world population. America isn't particularly known for its long line of fine engineers (although there are many, I'd admit), or its large scale industry, being known better for the development of the service industries. I'd like to see the figures, but I'd put money that there are significantly more engineers coming out of industrial stalwarts like France, Germany, or Japan (which have large manufacturing sectors).
    • Re:Why a surprise? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is actually pretty good, given that Americans make up less than 5% of the world population.

      If all things were equal than it would be a good thing. But keep in mind that a large percentage of that 95% is third-world, and I doubt they are producing their share of engineers.
    • Re:Why a surprise? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Otter ( 3800 )
      I think this is more a case of an apples to oranges comparison -- almost everyone coming out of Soviet universities, for example, was an "engineer". The same people in the US would be getting business or economics degrees and going on to do pretty much the same jobs. It's more a reflection of the fashions and structures of the different educational systems than of real differences in what graduates learn and can do.
    • Indeed (Score:3, Funny)

      by pjt33 ( 739471 )
      At the risk of being modded flamebait, my immediate reaction to the line you quote was to wonder whether the surprise was at the fact that there are people outside the USA.
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928697) Homepage Journal
    The article is followed by a bunch of ads for distance degrees, in which the University of Phoenix features prominently. Has there ever been a greater curse on the CS field than people getting degrees from places like this in the middle of the dot-com boom? The worst aspect, I think, being how many of these degrees are in "IT management" or some such garbage, thus turning out a whole bunch of apprentice PHB's who think they're qualified to tell people with real educations what to do. If the current decline in enrollment trims the fat by getting rid of those people, it won't bother me a bit.
    • by edremy ( 36408 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:38AM (#9929203) Journal
      Hmmm. Education is bad?

      I've looked into an UP MBA program in tech management. Why?

      • I'm at a point where I have to decide on my career path. (I'm in academic technology) Right now most "better" jobs have a lot more management in them- my chemistry PhD and self-taught computer skills don't always give me the background I need.
      • I've already been to a few shorter management training workshops. Management is a skill- it can be learned like any other, and there's a lot I don't know about it.
      • I've got a full-time job and a family. Spending a lot of time shuttling back and forth to a physical campus doesn't really excite me, and I can pace the courses to my schedule.
      I could stay in my current job for a long time if I wanted, but I need to think about what to do in the future. More education is never a bad thing.
      • Education is always good. MBA's, MCIS's, etc. are not, however, education. They're fake degrees for fake people for the sole purpose of getting fake jobs. If you want to condemn yourself to PHBness as a career ... well, that's your choice. <shrug>

        I'm not arguing against distance learning per se, only against the type of people who so often seem to think it's a good idea, and the type of schools that seem to cater to them.
    • by nate1138 ( 325593 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:46AM (#9929308)
      Don't discount the online schools so quickly. I have been a programmer for about 10 years, and did not have a degree. To advance into management, a degree was pretty much a requirement. For somebody like me, Phoenix was ideal. I don't have the time to go to a campus (not to mention that there isn't a good school near me), and I really have no interest in doing so. At the same time, I needed to finish my degree to advance my career. University of Phoenix fit the bill nicely. I am about to complete a degree in MIS, and that, coupled with a decade of hard software development experience puts me in a good position for the future. While I agree that simply having a degree doesn't qualify you for "IT Management", I don't think that it is fair to single out online programs. Traditional 4 year brick and mortar institutions turn out just as many (more, probably) clueless wanabees.

  • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928698) Journal
    What really woke me up was their statement that only 6% of the worlds engineers are educated in the USA.

    This shouldn't be surprising. Since engineers are naturally capable people, they tend to be the type to start their own businesses and create with an education of their own appetite. Just because someone doesn't have a formal degree doesn't mean that they aren't "educated".

    What about the proverbial millionaire/billionaire who dropped out of college to start [insert successful company here]. I know several.
  • by frostman ( 302143 ) * on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928703) Homepage Journal
    I make my living as a programmer and database designer, though my formal education is in German literature and fine art.

    Among the many great computer people I've worked with in the last 11ish years, about half had computer science (or for that matter engineering) degrees.

    My brother writes insanely complex software for NASA, and his degrees are in aerospace engineering, not CS.

    We all "played computers" back in the 70s, and now many of us work with them. Seems pretty natural to me.

    TFA is really a FA (at USAToday? gasp!) in that it draws a scary picture based on very little real information.

    Of course CS and related enrollment is down.... for the same reason it was up during the dot-comedy. These are perfectly normal cycles, and have precious little to do with the actual talent pool.

    If you want to blame the lack of interest in engineering and science on something, blame it on the miserable quality of public schools in the US.

  • expected? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by musikit ( 716987 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928705)
    with the outsourcing thing going on shouldn't we be expecting this?

    in the mid-late 90s having a CS to a lot of people ment lots of money. they thought it was a secure job that paid well. now however it seems you actually have to want to program for a living to go into CS.

    i have nothing wrong with that. the college i went to 70% of the undergrads changed majors by their sophmore year.
  • What's surprising? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Freon115 ( 672518 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:54AM (#9928706) Journal
    I find this a bit arrogant. The USA population doesn't even represent 5% of the world population. That's nothing compared to countries like India.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:55AM (#9928710)
    I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had non-IT degrees

    I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had NO degrees. Desire for self-study combined with a willingness to take on resposibility went father than a whole room of antisocial PHDs.
    • I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had NO degrees. Desire for self-study combined with a willingness to take on resposibility went father than a whole room of antisocial PHDs.

      But I will have to interject that there is a difference between software engineers and programmers/IT professionals. We talk about how "software engineering" doesn't get the same respect as "real" engineering, yet we call everyone software engineers. People want to take a few programming classes and call

  • I was recently "orphaned" in my program - a degree/diploma compsci/telecom course in Canada. The college providing the telecom/IT portion of my classes has dissolved their IT department, and while they'll finish any students still in classes, we're now orphans...

    With everyone hearing about how the tech industry is still doing crappy overall, and how jobs are getting outsourced, it's no wonder compsci enrollment's down...
  • Jobs and such (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stevyn ( 691306 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:57AM (#9928736)
    After all the flood of comp sci majors realized they couldn't make $150,000 with just a degree and no ambition or geeky desire of computers, people stopped choosing that major. A lot of schools were rushing them through and dumbed down the curriculum to get them through. People just chose computer science not because they liked computers, but they thought they'd have an easy job that paid well. The job market became flooded with these people who could maybe use windows and simple programming, but not much else. I've read accounts on slashdot of people saying how many people in their classes could barely use a CLI. I'm happy there are less comp sci majors, it takes away the needless competition facing the good ones.
  • by MarkEst1973 ( 769601 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:58AM (#9928747)
    There is a lot to learn from books. In fact, books form the backbone of the college lecture, so it is plausible that a sufficiently motivated student can learn everything there is from the books w/o the need for the accompanying lecture. I've learned computer languages from books, as well as more abstract things like design patterns.

    That said, I wish I had gotten a comp sci degree. I think it would have been much more "hands on" than my poli sci degree and would have been equally as interesting. As it was, I learned programming by myself, motivated by the many luminaries who said that many great hackers are self-taught. Nevertheless, I would have appreciated a general OS class, an algorithms class, or learning how to make a language with accompanying compiler. I'd love to learn how to make a runtime like Java or Python. I can code in Java and Python, but I want to understand the guts of it.

    These are a few examples of things I think one would learn with a comp sci degree.

  • by Wansu ( 846 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @09:58AM (#9928748)

    Most engineering schools are reporting declines in enrollment. This is hardly surprising since most engineering curriculums, including CS, are difficult compared to other fields of study. Without the prospect of a good job waiting for them, many college students are veering away from these majors.

  • by lukewarmfusion ( 726141 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:00AM (#9928768) Homepage Journal
    CS doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. To some, it's a computer degree. To others, it's a science degree.

    At my school, there are three options:

    1. Computer Applications - Learn how to use programs
    2. Management Information Systems (MIS) - Learn how to write programs
    3. Computer Science and Engineering - Learn how to write an operating system

    You don't need a computer-related degree at all to be able to do any of these. I started programming when I was about ten years old, using the Apple IIe from my elementary school. By middle school, I was writing bulletin board door games and by high school I was writing my first applications.

    In college, I was bored in the few programming classes I took (three weeks to learn conditionals?!) and started taking self-directed courses because I could teach myself better (with the aid of Google) than most of the profs I could take classes from.

    Oh, and I was a Japanese major. Go figure.
  • A nitpick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noose For A Neck ( 610324 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:00AM (#9928771)
    Engineers have absolutely nothing to do with IT workers and programmers. We're talking professionals vs. people straight out of high school, and it's not even close to the same field, except for maybe computer engineers.

    It's not like us mechanical engineers had a sudden influx of phonies and money-grubbers in the dot com bubble.

    • Re:A nitpick (Score:3, Interesting)

      While I see the overall point of what you are saying, I want to add my own nitpick in saying that programming has a lot to do with engineers.

      I, too, have a Mechanical Engineering background and an Electrical Engineering Degree. I have worked on autonomous robots (which the engineers programmed, not CS students), VoIP over WDM in a telecommunications research lab (programming is required for things like OPNET, and certainly this has to do with IT. All of the people in the lab are EEs, because hardware to
  • by Roached ( 84015 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:03AM (#9928813)
    "Graduate programs haven't seen the same decline yet."

    When I got my masters degree in CS 4 years ago, it seemed that about 45% of the grad students were from China, 45% were from India, and the rest of the 10% of us were US citizens. Since the graduate community in this country is already overwhelmingly foreign, that might explain why these numbers have remained stable.
  • by methangel ( 191461 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:06AM (#9928837)
    I am glad that things are evening out and people are jumping ship. I am a Computer Science graduate, what separates me from most of the others is that I wanted to be involved in a computer industry since age 7. My dream back then was to design video games (I'm sure most of my fellow geeks went through a similar phase..)

    I worked as a Computer Vision developer for 3 years during college, and more recently as a Database Monkey (current job.)

    I think it takes a lot of love for the field to be able get through some of the more mundane days. The pay isn't that great either, but I really can't think of a job I'd rather be doing that doesn't involve a computer.

    Choosing a career based on a market trend seems like a bad way to go about choosing a profession for life. It's like becoming a Brain Surgeon because the pay is "good".
  • by Jinsaku ( 729938 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:11AM (#9928894)
    I work for a start-up that has a team of 4 developers. In skill order and value to the company, they are:

    Developer A - Architect, super-badass.. self-taught, went to MIT for 1 year but has no college degree. 2nd Youngest of bunch. (late 20s)

    Developer B - Me, Senior Developer, pretty good all-around coder and designer, went to college for 2 years but didn't do much with it and has no degree. Youngest of bunch. (mid 20s)

    Developer C - Developer, Masters in Psychology and some other discipline of that type (non-comp related). Pretty good developer, but not great. (2nd oldest of bunch) (Early 30s)

    Developer D - Junior developer, Masters in Computer Science.. can't grasp anything bigger than a small feature, all code has to be reviewed by someone higher up. (oldest of bunch) (Late 30s)

    What does this tell me? Experience and work-skill are a *lot* more important than degrees. This is just one small example, but most every company I've ever worked for, the super-badasses never had degrees, and were all either self-taught or had a little bit of college, and tended to eventually rise to the top.

    • by Yosemite Sue ( 15589 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:33AM (#9929140) Journal
      Your sample size is so tiny, at best you can form a hypothesis (i.e. not a conclusion)! I guess you'd need a much larger workplace to actuallly carry out the experiments that could support or disprove your hypothesis.

      Okay, I'm admittedly in the middle of preparing lectures for first-year science students ... hence the nit-picking ...

  • by blanks ( 108019 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:13AM (#9928924) Homepage Journal
    What do you expect from a country where education and intelligence is not a "High priority"? Education is competition, meaning tomorrow's educated students, who become business men could be your next big competitor. And as everyone knows in the USA people don't matter, Big business does. Yes business's would not be around if people couldn't buy their products, so they (we) get paid just enough to buy their products. And for those who can't afford it, that's what credit cards are for. We are losing a battle, not just with the rest of the world dealing with education, business, ethics(?) but a battle of bettering ourselves and giving our children a chance to survive in the future.
  • Incentives? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Glock27 ( 446276 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:20AM (#9928990)
    Before there was a dot-com bubble to burst, I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had non-IT degrees, so how is this new trend any different than before?

    The difference is that the cat is out of the bag as far as people knowing that CS is a risky career in several respects - long hours, difficult work, offshoring, value dilution from OSS (sorry guys), and few new exciting software startups.

    It's not just fewer CS majors, fewer people will be switching from other career areas, unless some of the above changes.

    What really woke me up was their statement that only 6% of the worlds engineers are educated in the USA.

    Since the U.S. only has ~5% of the worlds population, this isn't too out of line... However, I'm sure we have the capacity to educate more, it's just that people aren't choosing engineering careers for a variety of reasons. Also, don't forget that a substantial percentage of those educated in the U.S. head back to their native countries with the knowledge they've gained - and the percentage of U.S. educated foreign science/engineering grads is quite high.

    Simply put, we need to interest more U.S. students in math and science AND provide real incentives to choose science/engineering careers.

  • This is bad because? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:28AM (#9929088)
    What really woke me up was their statement that only 6% of the worlds engineers are educated in the USA

    We have 4-5% of the population, and produce 6% of the engineers. Sounds like we're well ahead of the curve there. Not mind-numbingly ahead, but decently so.

  • by DaoudaW ( 533025 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:31AM (#9929119)
    I knew lots of *amazing* programmers and IT professionals who had non-IT degrees, so how is this new trend any different than before?"

    Never let well-researched statistics get in the way of anecdotal evidence.

    Students are now trying biology, nursing or other majors.

    This line brought a smile to my face. Somehow I don't believe any computer nerds are saying, "Hmmm, maybe I'll go into nursing instead".
  • Retention (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Forman99 ( 547739 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:36AM (#9929176)
    The retention rate for computer science was low even in 1998. I began with 275 computer science majors and by the next year there were only 75 remaining. The coursework is difficult and requires true commitment. Maybe it begins because people want the money, but once they see the road ahead most back out to an IST, CIS, or MIS major.
  • by acroyear ( 5882 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:39AM (#9929216) Homepage Journal
    as kids get into CS when there seems to be interesting things to do with computers.

    The early PC boom of '81-'85 is one example, where JMU had about 200 CS majors. By the time the IBM-PC took over the world ('89), the general feeling was static, of things not really changing, not being interesting, not being worth a career. JMU's CS class of '93 (my class) was only 24 graduates -- and those of us who were programmer-hackers tended to prefer hanging out on the Unix boxes or the Vax/VMS system over the stoic IBM-PC (which we only went over to for playing games).

    5 years later, in the midst of the internet and dot-com boom, things looked interesting and promising and people were really doing "new" things (in spite of what the granted patents of the time would tell us) and CS seemed an interesting thing to get into again. JMU's CS graduates got up to about 125 / year.

    So now, the rush to do "new" stuff of the dot-com era is gone, people are back to just doing work for businesses that pay, which is rarely interesting, and the military has slowed down its spending on software in order to pay for the replacement weapons we've been detonating all over the mid-east. Add the outsourcing demonstrated by the dot-bomb fallout and it leads people to think that CS and the software industry is just business and not interesting (or lucrative) enough to bother with.

    something will arrive in a couple of years which nobody would have predicted (hint: it isn't Longhorn, and like Netscape it WON'T come from Microsoft) and will spin the cycle round again.
  • No passion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dfj225 ( 587560 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:41AM (#9929241) Homepage Journal
    As a current CS major at university, I think that most people coming from high school have a general misconception of what CS is and what it involves. I think people still look upon computer science as an insanely lucrative field that is fairly simple to master. However, I think they are quickly shocked once they start to learn that it really is a difficult major. At my university upperclassmen speak of how some of the more advanced CS courses are famous for causing people to switch majors. For instance, one class started with two sections of about 50-75 people each and by the middle of the term they were down to around 12-15 each. This drop was very shocking to me, at least.

    I have always had a passion for computers and technology and I can't really see my doing anything else with my life. However, I sense a lack of this passion from many of the CS majors. In one of my classes we had mock interviews and some of the questions revolved around general ideas of technology and things that you probably wouldn't pick up in class. I was surprised by how many people couldn't answer the questions or didn't seem to really care about anything that wasn't taught in lecture. I have always paid attention to technology and things going on in the computing industry, but I seem to be in the minority among my fellow CS majors. I can't imagine choosing a major simply because it seems lucrative, but it seems that many choose CS for that reason.
    • Re:No passion (Score:3, Insightful)

      by wazzzup ( 172351 )
      To many, college or university is a fancy trade school. You pick a career you make money in and those that don't are fools.

      I'm a Political Science major working in the Civil Engineering field of all things. Unknowingly, people around me have made fun of the "idiots that went into poli sci". They can't comprehend that I went into it because I found it fascinating. In fact, if I won the lottery, I'd quit my job and go back to school to get an advanced degree in Poli Sci.

      Personally, I can't fathom throwi
  • by 192939495969798999 ( 58312 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @10:54AM (#9929417) Homepage Journal
    Computer Science is not the same as Information Technology (professional I.T.). You can do I.T. without knowing one lick of Computer Science -- lots of people do. Also, you can do Computer Science knowing surprisingly little I.T. (I help Senior Engineers do basic IT stuff all the time, because they just couldn't figure it out/don't have the patience/focusing on something else/etc.)
  • Good Riddance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Baavgai ( 598847 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:16AM (#9929650) Homepage
    Their are two kinds of computer professionals in the world; those who truly enjoy the tech (geek) and those who simply do their job (drone). The drone will do what is required, but only what is required. He takes no joy in his profession and marks time until he can leave it.

    The geek on, the other hand, is the far more desirable employee. He'll keep up to date without prompting and will even educate himself on his own time. While work can be a grind, the satisfaction of doing it well is often enough compensation to keep him going. He'll even occasionally work for a lower paycheck if he finds an environment to his liking.

    Unfortunately, while these two species can easily recognize each other on site, outsiders have a harder time differentiating. In an interview, the successful drone has a disconcerting ability to mimic the geek, casting a cloud of confusion around their true skill level. Conversely, the geek may not adequately convey their skill level to those not conversant in reading the signs.

    I now see fewer drones than in years past. If this is a sign they are dying out, I welcome it.

    For the record, I'm an Oracle DBA / developer with a BS in English Lit. The best geeks are, as always, self taught.
    • Re:Good Riddance (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gillbates ( 106458 )

      I'd like to expand on your statement about drones and geeks. Geeks are almost never in hiring positions. The next time I'm asked by a drone "what was your biggest challenge...", this is what I'll say:

      "My biggest challenge in professional life has not been professional development - I like my job and keep myself current. Nor is it technical - I've never found a problem which I could not solve given enough time and energy. My biggest challenge has been other people. If you are thinking I don't commun

  • by mattboy99 ( 637246 ) <> on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:19AM (#9929684) Homepage
    I think a lot of open source projects are proof that Comp Sci degrees are almost pointless.

    I just graduated with CompSci degree and instead of being taken seriously at my new job, I am the new guy fresh out of college. I've been programming since I was 4 years old (Commodore 64), and I can confidently say I know more and code better than the guy who's been at this company for 10 years.

    Experience is really the key. You have to know your stuff and be prepared to tackle tough problems. You have to be a great problem solver.

    True, Engineering courses at school help you learn how to solve problems better, but those were only 5 really helpful courses and then there is the rest of liberal arts easy A stuff :-).
  • by Nuttles ( 625038 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:29AM (#9929817)
    I think it is a good thing that there isn?t as many CS Majors as in the bubble. I was in the CS Major (doing the classes to get my major) from 1999-2001. During that time the bar of excellence was lowered repeatedly because a great number of the majors were doing it for the money and not the love of tech or computers. It was quite annoying to work hard and get a good score on a project or something like that, let?s say a mid A and then to have the proff slide everyone up, lets say a D to a C+. My grade couldn?t go up anymore but all of a sudden my knowledge of some material was equivalent to another that it wasn?t! I also got tired of the people who could barely get through high school algebra in the Major because they have repeatedly taken math up to what, the Calc I required and squeaked into the major. I can go on, but I think my point is made. Back in the bubble there were many people getting a CS degree for reasons other than the love of computers/tech and many people getting degrees in CS who should have been flipping burgers at McDonalds. The bursting of the bubble was a good thing, now the industry will be filled with better qualified, my passonate workers.


    Christian and proud of it
  • by drtomaso ( 694800 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:32AM (#9929855)

    First a disclaimer- one of my undergrad degrees is in CS, I did 3 years of a CS PhD program, and taught undergrad CS. My feelings on CS are colored accordingly

    Could someone please explain to me why this is a bad thing? The economy cannot support the current numbers of IT professionals, as evidenced by the unemployment statistics. Further, outsourcing isnt entirely to blame for this, though I do see it mitigating job growth. Fewer CS majors means we will have a higher "signal to noise ratio", our universities will output higher quality CS grads, and the economy will have a better chance of supporting them with job opportunities.

    The vast majority of people fleeing CS at the moment are doing so because they have no interest in the subject matter other than fiscal. Most of my freshman CS majors fell into this category in 2000-2001. Does this mean that we might miss the next Turing? Possibly, but truely great minds will find a way to enrich our society regardless of the field of study they pursue. If anything, these numbers are further evidence that the dot com bubble burst was a return to sanity.

    • by harborpirate ( 267124 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:45PM (#9930738)
      The vast majority of people fleeing CS at the moment are doing so because they have no interest in the subject matter other than fiscal.

      Lets hope so.

      A couple friends and I had a term for these people when we were CS undergrads from 1997 through 2000:

      CS Mercenaries.

      The goal of these folks was to gain a degree so that they could make lots of money. They generally did as little work as possible to get through. They were not interested in writing good code (or any at all for that matter), or gaining knowledge and insight into how a computer works.

      This attitude struck us as very similar to that of someone who would kill for the highest bidder. They were simply trying to find the program that paid the highest starting salaries that they thought they could actually graduate in.

      Lets hope that those who have a true love for computing are the folks that are still majoring in computer science. I certainly will not shed any tears over the lack of CS Mercenaries enrolling in (leeching) CS programs.
  • Why not rename CS? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Theatetus ( 521747 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:34AM (#9929884) Journal

    As someone (dijkstra? soustroup? one of those guys with a funny name) said, computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes. Knuth said in his lectures on theology that he was not the person to ask if you had problems getting lotus 123 working. Computers are very useful to computer scientists in that they can perform the algorithms computer scientists study.

    Why don't we change the name of computer science to something more appropriate. Algorithmics? Computational theory? (that one still comes too close to the word "computer") Symbolic processing? (and that one may just be my Lisp background showing through.)

    I don't know. But I'm both amazed and saddened by how many job postings I see saying something like "need a cold fusion developer. Bachelor's in CS required." That's idiotic.

    Computer science is not programming, though programming is a skill that most computer scientists need to ahve. Ditto networking, hardware troubleshooting, etc. But that's also true of physicists and chemists. Computer scientists study efficient means of transforming sets of symbols and numbers. Why don't we just sever the imagined link between that discipline and writing the crappy string transformation routines that make up most of development today?

    • See chemistry... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DarkMan ( 32280 )

      Computer science is not programming, though programming is a skill that most computer scientists need to ahve.

      Let me draw an analogy here. Consider chemical lab monkey. Their job is mixing things to make stuff, and performing any one of a batch of analysis techniques.

      The most important skill for them to have is good lab procedure - keeping thing clean, labeled, and not spilling things. Also, knowing what to do if one of the above is not true.

      This does not need a degree in chemistry (and I say that as

  • by Gannoc ( 210256 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:37AM (#9929930)

    Computer Science is a facinating field of study, and a great hobby. Its a rotten career.

    Its like being the high school nerd for the rest of your life. There are very few companies out there that truly respect their programmers, and with outsourcing becoming more and more popular, that trend isn't going anyway anytime soon.

    College Students: It may sound GREAT to have a swell job where you get free coke and code all day. Thats because you associate coding and programing with learning and new discoveries. Every programming project, every new linux distrubution, every class has been something new and interesting. When you hit the real world, that ends. It becomes the same old shit everyday. Yes, you can learn on your own, but that isn't your job. Sure, i'm "learning" C# .NET now for my job, but I'm an experienced programmer. Its just the same shit with different syntax. Maybe it will let me do my job easier. I'm not excited about it.

    I myself am halfway through my masters in a different field so I can change my career. Do you really think you'll be excited about working on version 6 of the same product you've been working on for 5 years? Do you think you'll be able to switch jobs at a whim when you get bored?

    I make it a part of my life to talk young people out of entering technical fields. Maybe when our society starts respecting us, instead of treating us like we're a bunch of strange teenagers, i'll change my mind.

    BTW: I've made my own situation better by demanding to do other tasks at work, and again, working towards a new career in my spare time. I see so many programmers hit their early 30s and really hate their jobs. Think before you choose a career with computers.

    • by east coast ( 590680 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:49AM (#9930091)
      I see so many programmers hit their early 30s and really hate their jobs.

      Most people in their early 30s hate their jobs period. It has nothing to do with CS, it has to do with the terms of the real world. Their late teens and early-mid twenties were great; college, away from home and making their own rules for the first time in their life... mid-20s - 30; buy a home, a new car that they really like, making a bit of money, maybe getting married if they're not clubbing every weekend... early thirties... 25 years more of a house payments, 2 more yeras of car payments on a car that really isn't that bitchin anymore, kids, divorce, the loss of their friends to their own lives of the same, long hours, less freedom. And the worst part of this hits them; this is what their life will be like for 30 more yeras, the same routine for as long as they've lived. It's pretty depressing that most people can honestly say that 17-25 was the best time of their life especially when you hit 32 and know that you're either stuck where you are or that you're going to have to sacrifice plenty to get somewhere else.

      Think before you choose a career with computers.

      Luckily the concept of computers being a fun, carefree job is going away and fast. but you have to consider any job from mutliple aspects before getting into it. If it was just a matter of pay we'd all be lawyers and doctors, if it was just an easy lifestyle we'd all be in politics, etc etc...
  • by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:46AM (#9930068)
    So why is it a surprise that the US has 6% of the engineers in the world? That seems about right...
  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:55AM (#9930156)
    The sad truth is that all science and engineering jobs that can be will be sent overseas. It's a major strategic problem for our country as a whole, and IMHO it could lead to us losing our world status. However, if anyone's complaining, they're not doing so loudly enough. It's very hard for CEOs to resist the temptation of 90% labor cost savings.

    One thing I remember hearing a year or so ago is that "Americans will have two jobs in the future, CEO or janitor." Otherwise smart people are being forced into management as the only choice to move up in an organization. I'd much rather use my brain all day long instead of writing e-mails and having endless conference calls.

    If I were president, I'd do something similar to what Kennedy did in the 60s. He set a deadline for a mission to the moon, and backed it up with federal resources. Imagine what would happen if whoever ends up running things in November mandates that we end our dependence on foriegn oil in 10 to 15 years. Instant end to the middle east problem, and a great boom for science!
  • by scottennis ( 225462 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @11:58AM (#9930190) Homepage
    In the 11 years since I graduated college I've been a technology project manager, a programmer, a manager of internet development, a system administrator, and a systems analyst.

    And to think, people used to give me weird looks when I told them I was getting a degree in English and Philosophy.
  • by Tangurena ( 576827 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @12:28PM (#9930545)
    Over twenty years ago, people were complaining that we in the US were graduating more lawyers than engineers. They were also complaining that Japan was graduating more engineers than the US was.

    In the US, we value money and power. We absolutely despise knowledge and intellect. This is why academic research in CS is 5-30+ years ahead of the industry. Why can't we do a better job programming? Because people refuse to learn why things went/go wrong and what can be done to prevent them in the future. Those are social factors that will end up causing the US to sink to the bottom. We may have invented this profession, but if we continually fail to properly educate people, we will end up the lowest cost workers in the world.

    You will see dozens of anecdotes here claiming that the best programmer at their shop never got a degree. As a result, everyone in the industry ends up reinventing the wheel. The plural of anecdote is NOT data. Yes, there are some smart people who never got edumacated; they would have been even better people if they had been. You wouldn't go to a self-taught doctor. Why would you trust your business to a self-taught IT worker?

  • Defining terms... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mratitude ( 782540 ) on Tuesday August 10, 2004 @01:32PM (#9931387) Journal
    It appears from the comments that few, if any, differentiate between merely science and the merely technical; The difference between a scientist and a technician, for instance.

    Someone with a 4 year CS or CE degree probably won't make a good system/network administrator/manager, and likely didn't get his or her degree for that reason. I'd like to think that people enter into a field of science to expand the discipline into as yet undefined areas of applied knowledge and study. Whereas someone acquiring technician skills are doing so for more narrow and defined purposes - Applying the known state of the science as a vocation.

    How many scientists does a culture need in a given discipline? More important to the topic, in my opinion, is the quality of innovation graduating CS/CE majors bring to technology frontiers.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"