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Education Science

The Continuing American Decline in CS 727

abb_road writes "America's recent dismal showing in the ACM Programming finals may be more than just a bad year; a BusinessWeek article suggests that the loss is indicative of the US's continuing decline in producing computer scientists. Despite the Labor Dept's forecast of a 40% increase in 'computer/math scientist' jobs, planned CS enrollments have plummeted from 3.7% in 2000 to just 1.1% last year. Other countries, particularly China, India and Eastern Europe, are working hard to pick up the slack, with potentially serious long-term effects for the US economy. From the article: 'If our talent base weakens, our lead in technology, business, and economics will fade faster than any of us can imagine.'"
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The Continuing American Decline in CS

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  • Good (Score:4, Funny)

    by jaypifer ( 64463 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:04AM (#15196234)
    More demand for me! I'm raising my rates!
    • i'm getting offers for $90/hr, so its almost back to the pre-dotcom days! :D
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lucabrasi999 ( 585141 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:08AM (#15196257) Journal
      More demand for me! I'm raising my rates!

      This is your boss, I demand that you lower your rates or I'll hire less-expensive overseas developers.

      • Re:Good (Score:2, Funny)

        by JanneM ( 7445 )
        This is your boss, I demand that you lower your rates or I'll hire less-expensive overseas developers.

        I am an overseas developer you insensitive clod.
    • Re:Good -- or not (Score:3, Insightful)

      by artgeeq ( 969931 )
      As a long-time computer professional and contractor, when I went to grad school to get a masters in computer science, the tax law gave me no break whatsoever. I cannot deduct my tuition as a business expense. On the other hand, if I took some vendor-specific courses from Cisco or Microsoft, I could take a business deduction. How messed up is that?

      It also seems that there are not very many Americans in my CS courses either, but there are many students from China and India. Does anyone have any comments on th
      • I assume that you aren't contracting as an employee of your own corporation. If so, you should be able to deduct education costs as a business expense, up to $5250 under an educational assistance plan. IRS publications 525 and 15B cover that.

        I also wonder whether you could take it as a deduction on your personal taxes. Have you spoken with an accountant? Pub 15B under Working Condition Benefits discusses deducting education expenses if they would be deductible by the employee as a business expense, and ment
    • Re:Good (Score:4, Funny)

      by P3NIS_CLEAVER ( 860022 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:26AM (#15196396) Journal
      Maybe us old fuckkers (30+) will have a chance.
    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15196414)
      More demand for me! I'm raising my rates!
      Haven't you been following the illegal immigration issue? The fact is, market forces yeild to firm preconceptions about what different jobs are inherently worth. If the going rate for a job is more than The Man thinks he should have to pay, then he simply changes the rules, either by promoting outsourcing or allowing illegal immigration to drive down the cost to fill a job.

      If a CEO makes $147,000 per day, well that's market forces. If technical people start to break into 6 figures annually, well that's a threat to our global competitiveness which must be remedied.

    • Re:Good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alex P Keaton in da ( 882660 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:36AM (#15196492) Homepage
      I don't want to argue about whether the perception is true or not, but rather how the preception affects the issue. From what I have heard (anecdotal eveidence, but we all have it) many people in th US are shunning CS because the perception is that you won't be able to get a job. As I said, I am not arguing reality, just perception. A lot of people assume that you will maybe get a job for a couple years before you have to train your replacement in a third world country who will make $2 an hour.
      I would solve this by making companies show that there are NO Americans at all who can do the job before getting an H1B. Also, I would love to see companies that are shipping jobs away boycotted.
      • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cayenne8 ( 626475 )
        "many people in th US are shunning CS because the perception is that you won't be able to get a job. As I said, I am not arguing reality, just perception. A lot of people assume that you will maybe get a job for a couple years before you have to train your replacement in a third world country who will make $2 an hour."

        Thank you...this was my thinking exactly. After the past 4+ years or so of hype AND actual practice of off-shoring of IT jobs...young students are seeing and perceiving

        • Re:Good (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Kadin2048 ( 468275 )
          I think this pretty much describes my perception of the issue as well. I freely admit my perspective may be distorted, since I work doing a lot of "business transformation" ('outsourcing' is such a dirty word these days), but I wouldn't advise a young person to go into CS. If they're really interested in computers, maybe CompE -- since at least then they'll legitimately be able to call themselves an engineer -- but even then I'm not sure that it's worth the investment of time and effort for the pay and secu
      • xenophobic much? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by adpowers ( 153922 )
        I would solve this by making companies show that there are NO Americans at all who can do the job before getting an H1B. Also, I would love to see companies that are shipping jobs away boycotted.

        Why do we have to ensure jobs for anyone who is even the most minimally qualified? If a company wants to bring in smart foreign workers, since they are smarter than the folks at home, then more power to them. By propping up poor CS students, we are doing the same thing the RIAA does that we hate so much: getting gov
    • Surpluses and shortages of labor are a normal part of the free market. Surpluses correct the overpricing of labor, and shortages correct the underpricing of labor. When the government attempts to "fix" the shortage by importing foreign workers, say, H-1B workers, and injecting them into the labor market, the government actually damages the operation of the free market.

      When the government counteracts the corrective force of the shortage, the government inevitably suppresses wages and salaries or prevent

  • by shredthrashgrind ( 960700 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:06AM (#15196247)
    Counterstrike is old.
  • by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:08AM (#15196263) Homepage

    I graduated in 2000 when life was sweet for Computer Science majors. When the bubble burst, there was a false impression that computer related fields were doomed. I always found that amusing because our whole society is based on technology and will always need people to run it. Media reports and articles on websites like this didn't help either. They gave the impression that Computer Science wasgoing the way of the dinosaur when it truly was healthy.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
    • I graduated in 2002 just when there were no jobs left :) But I wonder if this drop is due to that fact. IT was hard going there for a bit and maybe this is just the aftermath hopefully it will pick up.

      On the other hand maybe it is due to the large amount of tech colleges poping up like ITT and the guaranteed technical training schools. Why get a CS or engineering degree when you can do half the work at a vo-tech :)

    • "I always found that amusing because our whole society is based on technology and will always need people to run it."

      This does not require university CS degrees. It requires technical training through technical colleges. At least, that's what companies are willing to pay for, and it's about what management expects.

      In hindsight, I do wish I went the community college route. It would have given me more flexibility to re-train, if needed, without the burden of being "overqualified" for some of the decent-pa
  • Because the field is undefined. What is a computer scientist? What do they do after they graduate?

    I earn my paycheck doing network admin, in all that encompasses. I went to college for a year and half before I realized that the education I was getting wasn't going to prepare me for my chosen profession.

    The schools get CS majors ready to be programmers ( bad ones at that ). That's it. There is a huge gap between what the schools teach and what businesses need from their computer personel.

    I'm more valuab
    • Blah blah blah. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Inoshiro ( 71693 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:48AM (#15196617) Homepage
      You have the wrong perspective on the education. CS is applied logic and mathematics. Read this carefully changed copy of your post if you don't understand:

      "Because the field is undefined. What is a mathematician? What do they do after they graduate?

      I earn my paycheck doing accounting, in all that encompasses. I went to college for a year and half before I realized that the education I was getting wasn't going to prepare me for my chosen profession.

      The schools get math majors ready to be theorists ( bad ones at that ). That's it. There is a huge gap between what the schools teach and what businesses need from their accounting personel.

      I'm more valuable now than I would have been had I stuck around and graduated.

      Now, you can't teach problem solving, but it's hoped after 4 years in school you have some idea of how to be useful. Learning technical trivia is easy; anyone can do it. It doesn't take a genius to change an oil any more than it takes a genius to administrate a small network. However, understanding the deeper concepts (CSMA/CD!) and other principles is very useful if you are a computer scientist.

      The difference between a degree and a certificate from a trade school is exactly what you mentioned; people go to a trade school to learn how to do 1 job. People go to University to learn how to solve a superset of problems, which they can apply to any job they want from a particular perspective. I can attack problems of compiler theory, networks, operating systems, programming language theory, etc, because I'm well grounded in the theory behind these concepts, and have experience (both in class and with jobs and projects I've worked on around school).

      In 20 years, the tools you use will have changed dozens of times. In 20 years, Dijkstra's algorithm for finding the shortest path on a network will likely be just as useful for link-state routing models as it is now. So your final sentence, "I'm more valuable now than I would have been had I stuck around and graduated." is probably wrong, because you didn't understand why the education was useful. Maybe you weren't cut out for it, or maybe you just wanted money now. That's ok. Just don't preach it like it's the gospel truth on Slashdot.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:10AM (#15196279)
    This is just more of the H1B lobbying to raise the cap on IT staff which is wanted to keep the price of IT staff depressed.

    If you look in USA, everywhere but the Valley has an oversupply of IT people, my own employer just recruited a load of experienced staff in Portland, many excellent programmers too.
    • This is misguided. H1Bs arent the problem, and it is specious to suggest that they are. The quota for h1bs at its peak was less that 200,000 per year. This is a tiny drop in the bucket given the size of the IT industry in the US, and so small as to be insignificant with respect to your salary.

      In fact, had we *increased* the number of h1b's, we may have limitted the number of jobs being shipped offshore to places like India. In 2000 there was a shortage of good programmers - and a limit on h1bs, so the m
  • by keshto ( 553762 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:11AM (#15196280)
    I participated in the ACM World finals when I was in college. Take it from me, the contest has exactly zero to do with the general state of CS education in a country. 3 kids are picked from each college. Each World finalist team is almost always very smart and quite capable of winning it. But the winners, of late, have overwhelmingly been Chinese or Russians or East Europeans. What differentiates them from the rest is that they actually prepare very hard for it-- with actuve faculty and school encouragement-- because they think it's a big deal. Most others just show up, expecting to have fun. You see, ACM finals require you to have a lot of practice in certain idiomatic programming problems and an ability to code map any new problem to one of the standards and code it up quickly. So you can be very smart and good at CS, but you might still lose.

    ACM contest is fun but that doesn't mean that the winners are the world's best CS people. Nope.

    • by guitaristx ( 791223 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:35AM (#15196486) Journal
      Hear, hear!

      I have also participated in the ACM programming contest (only got to regional competition, but it was fun). I had the unusual experience of having a programming-related job while I was still in college, and I can certainly confirm the parent's description of ACM programming contests being far from real-world earning-an-income coding. It's clear when you realize that an 8 to 5 desk job is much different than you remember from the contests in college, but it's really clear when you've already got a programming job and you go to an ACM programming contest.

      The really successful coders are the ones that can learn new APIs and languages over a weekend. They're the ones who can communicate with non-technical people. They're the ones who can write a design for an application that will take a team of twelve developers a year to implement. The ACM programming contest compares to real-life CS work in the same way that a lumberjack competition [kentuckylumberjack.com] proves a person's suitability for work in the logging industry. In both cases, the two sets of skills (contest vs. real life) overlap very little.
    • ACM contest is fun but that doesn't mean that the winners are the world's best CS people. Nope.

      When I was in high school, I ran track (poorly), played hockey (poorly) and dated (poorly). Then I got to college and was mightily impressed by all these kids who had been in the International Chemistry Olympiad or Physics Olympiad or whatnot.

      Check back a few years later and I seem like a much better hockey player, now that I only play against other researchers. Meanwhile, the former Olympians have never done an

    • ACM contest is fun but that doesn't mean that the winners are the world's best CS people.

      Certainly true, but then again, that could also be said about almost all other such and similar competitions. Nevertheless, trying to discredit those people by simply stating that "we didn't go there to compete, but to have fun" is just silly, to say the least. If you go to a competition without the wish to win, you shouldn't be there, do something more fun, or someting more productive. At the end, they were who won th
      • Regardless, though, all the competition says is that the Chinese ACM team cares much more about it than the American team did, and worked harder for it. Good for them, I say, and it would be nice if the American team took it more seriously, but it says absolutely nothing about the general state of computer science programs in America.

        That's like saying that because an American won an olympic medal in track and field that Americans are in better shape and run faster than the Chinese.
    • Seems like a lot of the responses think you're wrong, but just to add some support...

      I also went to the ACM world finals. We didn't do that great, but we did alright, and we had fun. My university was one of the best in the US in CS, but there was never even a chance of our winning ACM overall, and we never thought there was.

      The reason is exactly what you describe: the groups that are winning the contest right now are putting in immense effort, going over literally thousands of ACM-style problems. They

  • job pressure (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gravesb ( 967413 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:11AM (#15196285) Homepage
    I majored in computer science, but I don't feel comfortable entering it as a career field. I spent five years in the military, so I am not as cutting edge as I should be, not to mention a complete lack of experience despite being 27 years old. I buy books and keep up with things well enough to be a good hobbiest, but it is rough being in the tech world post-boom. I will go to law school, and hopefully provide a much needed technical viewpoint to the legal system that is currently strangling technological innovation in this country. I think some of the first things that law makers could do would be to reduce restrictions on people who want to study technology, such as the DMCA. As long as India and China can provide competent coders for less money, we will continue to lose jobs. That is part of globilization, and is no different than factory workers losing theirs in the last century. The key is to find the jobs that Americans can do for less opportunity costs, or that other countries can not do at all yet. Globilization is a good thing overall, as the standard of living will rise throughout the world, but it is very painful now, especially for people in the computer industry.
    • Re:job pressure (Score:3, Informative)

      by plopez ( 54068 )
      I would encourage you to find a niche. Someting hard to send over seas. In my case it is programming, databases and business process modeling for an Env. Engineering firm. If fact, you should take some project mgt. courses and business process modeling courses.

      Find a small to midsized company, show them how you can help them apply technology to solve problems. The technolgy, being 'buzz word compliant' is secondary, it just takes a little retraining. And college is all about retraining yourself, right?

  • blame academia (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    the problem? who's to blame?

    graduate school admissions for computer science.

    "oh you went to harvard and studied anthropology, sure, you're better than the kid who went to a small state school and studied computer science. okay we'll take you."

    the current attitude of admissions for grad school is so bad that this is the actual truth. someone once tried to justify why harvard anthropology kid (straight out of undergrad) was better than midwest comp sci kid.

    honestly, academia is behind this decline.
  • Honest (Score:2, Interesting)

    When I was applying to grad school in the midwest ... I was told by a pair of CS Department Chairs and my own undergrad advisor that I had a an excellent chance at getting in ... simply because there aren't many good young white american applicants anymore.

    End of story ... I got in, and quickly became a prof favorite ... but there weren't many others around the department like me.
  • Recruit Them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ToxikFetus ( 925966 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:13AM (#15196304)
    I know I'll get flamed to hell, but screw it. If we truly* have such a shortage of computer scientists, then let's recruit the foreigners and bring them in as immigrants. Remember all of those European scientists came to the U.S. before/during WWII? How much of the American technical supremacy of the 20th century can be traced back to their contributions? The best way to develop/maintain technical prowess as a society is to secure the best intellectual capital.

    *Of course, this is assuming that the U.S. has an actual shortage and the study isn't some ploy to get cheap code-monkey labor for Microsoft, Intel, et. al. I'll let my fellow slashdotters belabor that point.

    • Remember all of those European scientists came to the U.S. before/during WWII? How much of the American technical supremacy of the 20th century can be traced back to their contributions?

      While I agree with the overall attitude of your post, I am just reminding everyone that one of the primary reasons Einstein and the rest of those European scientists came to the U.S. was because they were trying to escape Nazi Germany.

      • Re:Recruit Them (Score:3, Informative)

        by bjorniac ( 836863 )
        And then a lot of the nazi scientists came to avoid the Russians or trials for war crimes etc. Both the USSR and the USA got a lot of these scientists to work for them after the war sometimes in exchange for not asking questions about how their research had been focused before...
    • Good idea! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alienmole ( 15522 )

      I find it rather amazing that there isn't already more of this. When it comes to immigration, it almost seems as though many people with real skills are lumped in with unskilled labor sneaking across the border (thus proving the U.S. commitment to the idea that "all men are created equal", I suppose). While there are some immigration programs for people of "exceptional merit and ability" and similar categories, the number of people who get in this way are a tiny fraction of the people who could truly ben

  • by PaulRivers ( 647856 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:14AM (#15196310)
    Isn't everyone else getting a little tired of this chicken little stuff? First it's "OMG, All the programming jobs are being outsourced!" then it's "OMG, there aren't enough computer science majors!".

    It can't be both that the programming field is in danger because we're outsourcing all our programming work, leading to no jobs for programmers, AND be that we're in danger of not having enough new programmers.

  • Let's see. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by porkchop_d_clown ( 39923 ) <mwheinz@NOSpam.me.com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:15AM (#15196317) Homepage
    1. People still smarting from the tech-bubble popping? Check.
    2. New home machines much less accessible to proto-hackers than machines like the C64? Check.
    3. Popular culture that denigrates "geeks" and "nerds" and makes it a social crime to get A's? Check.

    And people are confused about a decline in the number of student engineers?
    • Re:Let's see. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by evilviper ( 135110 )
      How about:

      4. Grade inflation, and a public-school system that rewards attendance (and effort) far, far more than actual knowledge and learning.

      5. Touchy-feely political correctness which demands the elimination of all sense of competition of any kind.

      6. Dumbing-down (and enlarging) classes, and brainless teachers who memorize their course, but hardly know anything else about the subject they teach.

      • Re:Let's see. (Score:3, Interesting)

        I think maybe you missed the point of grandparent's point #3. Even with the admittedly dumbed-down environment in many schools, it's still socially unacceptable to be a high achiever. It's regrettably true that in many school districts, a kid can pass and get a diploma just by showing up, but you still don't get straight A's without putting in a fair amount of work. And kids who do put in that work, because they want to, you know, learn stuff, get pretty much zero encouragement from the educational syste
  • Perhaps Americans are instead signing up for MBA programs combined with courses in Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, and other languages needed to effectively manage software projects when a great number of your programmers/coders live on the Indian subcontinent.
  • Hmmmmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Billosaur ( 927319 ) * <`ten.enilnotpo' `ta' `rehtorgw'> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:16AM (#15196325) Journal
    Software programmers are the seed corn of the Information Economy, yet America isn't producing enough. The Labor Dept. forecasts that "computer/math scientist" jobs, which include programming, will increase by 40%, from 2.5 million in 2002 to 3.5 million in 2012. Colleges aren't keeping up with demand. A 2005 survey of freshmen showed that just 1.1% planned to major in computer science, down from 3.7% in 2000.

    Let's see if we can figure this out. American kids aren't going into CS -- why? Perhaps because:

    1. Tech jobs are being outsourced overseas in a great number of cases, so getting a CS degree is not some automatic ticket to a job like it used to be and doesn't mean long term stability if you can find a job
    2. By the age of 18, kids have been using/learning about computers and using the Internet for a while, many have developed some level of technical skill, and are possibly getting jobs without having to go through 4+ years of drudgery
    3. Unless you're working for the biggest companies, programming is a grind. It's not glamorous, seldom exciting, and while the paychecks are nice, you sometimes end up working crazy schedules which don't allow you to enjoy the money

    Did I leave anything out?
  • You have to actually look at this like you do stats about Apple Computer:

    There are MORE college students today than 6 years ago ... a lot more. Therefore the actual number of enrollments may actually be HIGHER.

    Apple Computer:

    Marketshare is lower to flat ... but individual unit sales are 2X because there are more people buying computers
  • It's not competition (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mahkno ( 887550 )
    Look around, how many software packages are available to encourage, enable and are targetted to 8-12 year olds. NONE. There was a point where schools were attempting to teach that age group fundamental computing. Not script writing for games or website design. Basic computing. Heck schools aren't teaching the other stuff either. More n more of the materials to learn computer programming is being geared for and designed for college students and professionals. You have to inspire kids to want to do
  • by bziman ( 223162 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:22AM (#15196363) Homepage Journal

    As a graduating computer science student (and long time professional), I was interviewed [broadsideonline.com] on this topic by George Mason University's student newspaper. I also wrote a little piece of my own on the declining number of CS students [swisspig.net]:

    I have two perspectives on this -- one, as a veteran software engineer, and two as a computer science student.

    I chose computer science because it seemed to make sense, given my job as a software engineer. However, many years of interviewing and hiring have shown me that a computer science degree is not necessarily going to be of any use to a software engineer. The position "software engineer" could mean any number of things. At my company, it requires a wide domain knowledge of different applications, almost none of which are addressed in GMU's computer science program. The computer science program teaches programming at the most rudimentary level, and is not even remotely adequate for a job that requires programming. However, a computer science degree does introduce important concepts that are necessary for understanding the underlying principles of working with computers (even if it isn't presented that way), and also teaches logic and problem solving, which are fundamental to any technical job.

    As far as students not choosing computer science, I think there are a number of reasons. At GMU (and my previous university) I used to hear all the time, "oh, there's too much math required for a degree in computer science, I'm switching to a degree in information technology or business information systems, because there's not as much math." Also, when the Internet "bubble" burst, I think a stigma developed, where people don't think they'll be able to find a job in the computer industry when they graduate, or that they won't be able to get the kind of pay that they would like, or have job security.

    I think it's a sweeping generalization to say that the US is lacking computer science students. What the US is lacking is individuals who are sincerely interested in developing their technical skills and solving interesting problems for their own sake, rather than people who are trying to find the easiest way into a high paying position that they care very little about -- having worked with both, I'd choose a British Literature major who does programming on her own, just for fun, over a Computer Science major who hates computers, but just wants a high paying job.


    • I'd choose a British Literature major who does programming on her own, just for fun, over a Computer Science major who hates computers, but just wants a high paying job.

      And do you think those Chinese and Indian students are getting into Comp Sci "Just for fun"?
  • Mediocrity (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ranton ( 36917 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:24AM (#15196370)
    I think this is a direct result of our colleges encouraging mediocrity and making it very difficult for advanced students to, well, "advance". Colleges are built around helping out the most mediocre students get a passing grade, and just letting the gifted students learn on their own. It is the same thing that happens in our high schools.

    My girlfriend is just finishing her degree in Education, and it is horrible just how bad it has gotten. They have dozens of programs designed to helping out disadvantaged children and poor performing students, while the gifted students are left to their own devices. My boss is from Europe, and their schools (at least in Sweden in the 1980s) encourage their best and brightest. The gifted students are the ones that are going to make the biggest difference in the workplace, while the struggling students are simply going to fill up the jobs that dont take much skill.

    If we want to keep up in a technologically advanced world, we have to start caring about our gifted students, not just helping the below average ones pass school.

    • I think this is a direct result of our colleges encouraging mediocrity and making it very difficult for advanced students to, well, "advance". Colleges are built around helping out the most mediocre students get a passing grade, and just letting the gifted students learn on their own. It is the same thing that happens in our high schools.

      Huh? Come on down to my classes here. I'll make sure you get the grade you deserve.

      Look, CS is a tough discpline requiring long hours of work, sacrifice and committment to
    • Re:Mediocrity (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jafac ( 1449 )
      well, to be fair, it is the gifted students who typically HAVE their own devices. Perhaps the best thing to do for them is to leave them to their own devices, and in this way, they'll be exercising the skills that are most relevant to their own future success.
  • Academic Majors (Score:4, Informative)

    by dingDaShan ( 818817 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:24AM (#15196375)
    As a student at a major university (the University of Michigan), I must say that our CS department is extremely lacking. Computer Science must be taken either in the form of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) - where CS is combined with EE (lots of useless info) or through the School of Literature Science and Arts (LSA) where the CS program is more direct, but students are required to take the EECS classes. One of the biggest problems is the use of the most basic programming class as a 'weeder' class instead of an actual learning tool. The class is made excessively difficult to weed out students (even though the students may simply take more time that 2 weeks to get acclimated to programming). The problem might be with curricula.
  • It's not only the Decline in CS, is the decline in everything : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090985/ [imdb.com]
  • A result of the sensationalist junk about poor job prospects for IT professionals.
  • No CS Degree needed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kwhite ( 152551 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:26AM (#15196390)
    I am not sure what some will think about this but I think one of the reasons that there are not as many CS degrees being given out is people are realizing they do not need a degree in CS to get a job in computers. As one poster already put, he did not even finish his degree because he did think it benefitted him, I will not argue that just point out that there are not many other "professions" that you do not need a degree in to get into the business.

    I do not know how many people I've met in my 7 professional years that either a)said they did not have any degree at all or b)said they got a degree in some other program and many of them not even in a technical profession. I think this is the larger problem. Our industry is one of a few where they want highly talented individuals, but also want a break on price. Easies way to do this is let anyone in which drives cost down because it is not specialized. For those of us that are CS Majors think how much more we could demand if someone from outside of the degree program could not come in and take our job. Also think how much more weight might be given to us in project management as well. If someone knows that this person really knows what they are talking about because of his education and experience perhaps those ridiculous deadlines might be fewer and fewer.

  • Perhaps the reason that the US is experiencing a decline in producing computer scientists has to do with the decline in employing them? It's a little difficult to believe that the "concerns (of losing your job to outsourcing) are overblown" when those of us in the industry saw almost every single one of our peers lose their job in the last 5 years.

    Even the article qualifies the security of tech jobs:

    Programmers with leadership and business skills will do just fine.

    Translation: You can be a programming man
  • by SilentChris ( 452960 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15196416) Homepage
    I studied CS in college and got my BA. I got out school and was immediately bombarded with hundreds of requests for 3-6 month, low-paying contractual positions for programming/systems administration/etc. What wasn't being offshored was being outsourced at ridiculous levels. I took a look around and realized the only people with truly stable positions were IT management. I talked to others and they agreed. So I went back for my MBA. When I graduate I'm going to be looking to leave the programming/administration side entirely.

    When you're faced with poor, unstable job prospects and declining salaries due to offshore competition, what do you EXPECT us to do? The smart ones are realizing management (unfortunately) is the way to go. The rest will wither and die, unfortunately.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Computer Science is exactly that, Science.

    You don't go to school for 4 years if you want to go be a code monkey, just like you wouldn't get a Ph.D. in Chemistry if you were going to enter pharmacutical sales. A Computer Science degree allows for study in the area of new algorithms, new computing paradigms (grid, neural net, et al.), and other RESEARCH oriented goals.

    Computer Engineering on the other hand allows people to gain the skills needed to participate in industry, leading teams of developers and (ho
  • CS is such a new field, even many of its founders are still alive and well. Dijkstra, for example, died only recently.

    Perhaps, the current number of the practitioners of this particular Art reflects the demand?

    The articles talks about the number of new CS-majors "in pipeline", but how many have exited the workforce in the same time?

  • A few observations (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plopez ( 54068 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:31AM (#15196444) Journal
    Computer Science != Software Engineering. CS is more research oriented, basically an applied math degree. CIS, IS, Information Management and Software Engineering are more where your day-to-day programmers should be coming from. Unless they are lumping these areas under CS then the statistics may be meaningless. Are we looking for researchers or people who will apply the technology?

    Stalin said "Quantity has a quality all its own", which may have been valid in an industrial economy. What is not apparent is whether it is valid in a service economy. I strongly suspect, and some of the numbers I have heard about the best programmers being 10x more productive than the average programmer reinforces this, is that it is not valid to use an industrial paradigm in a service industry. But I think most managers, political leaders, economists and average Joes just don't get this. Too often projects fail beacuse to save money the work is given to the lowest common denominator in programmers and managers. Whether in-house, out-sourced or off-shored. And make no doubt about it, software is a service industry.

    Finally I say, good riddance. This is as good a way to filter out the riff-raff as any. Let those who love the field be the ones who enter it and stay in. They are the ones more likely to develop the tools needed for the next generation of development, both in terms of process paradigms as well as actual software tools.
  • With a huge budget deficit, neverending wars, a corrupt Congress & White House, outsourcing at every level, a growing gap between rich and poor, and stagnant wages, I would say the US is in decline - period.
  • by Reverend528 ( 585549 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:34AM (#15196473) Homepage
    It's kind of funny that Computer Science is on the decline, despite the fact that software engineer is considered the best job in America. [slashdot.org]
  • ...I am sure it will be said in this thread many times, but I bears saying for reinforcement, just incase some corporate type actually sees the thread.

    Its damn simple why go into CS when most CS jobs are getting outsourced/offshored for cheaper rates. This is causing a Glut of talent in the market and cuasing the rates that a company will pay for CS talent to go down. It sucks as a job course in life.

    If US companies cut the crap and word gets out that they are willing to pay for talented CS people at decent rates and the workers don't have to be concerned with having the job cut out from underthem, then the enrolements will go up.

  • by MrZaius ( 321037 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:37AM (#15196500) Homepage
    Out of the small May, 2005 class of ~20 computer science students at a small state university in the midwest, I know two that are still working part time in unrelated fields, looking for work related to their degree. The only people I knew that were working immediately after graduation were the ~50% that were working before they started the degree program and three students that grabbed the only three internships in the area.

    There are tons of listings for sysadmin and programming jobs in Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, etc., but you almost never see any entry level positions. It took me six months to find something, and that was a fluke.

    Are there any places (other than Cali) where recent graduates are quickly hired? I'm certainly not aware of any.
    • The job market seems to be fine here in Columbus, Ohio. I graduate from OSU this spring, and I've had three job offers (with a solid salary for around here) and more interviews that I had to turn down already. My fiancee, who will also graduate this spring in CSE, has had the same experience.

      We're both solid programmers and/or computer scientists, but I don't think anyone talking in this forum is complaining about a lack of jobs for crappy graduates - although, perhaps, that *is* what this is really about.
  • Bad Profs (Score:3, Informative)

    by Hellad ( 691810 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:43AM (#15196570)
    Disclaimer:: this is purely anecodotal and from one univeristy...

    I was a computer science major for 3 years, but was always taking classes outside teh department "for fun". Half of my profs were non-native speakers which made difficult subjects even more difficult. For example, a friend of mine went an entire semester of assembly trying to figure out what the hell a regis was. The professor was simply referring to registers, but never bothered pronouncing the whole word.

    In computer architecture, the book came with a cd full of power point review slides. Because the prof couldn't converse in English, she just read the slides offered by the CD. OK, great. But when you don't get what the book is talking about, the review slides/therefore class notes are in the direct language of the book, and the professor can't converse in English-- you are screwed.

    My point isn't that CS profs have accents. My point is, Universities aren't hiring based on teaching skills and the students pay for it. I don't need fluent speakers, but I do need someone who can explain difficult concepts in understandable terms.
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:47AM (#15196601) Homepage Journal
    It's certainly never been "cool" to be a programmer, but for a while there it looked like that was the way to go to earn massive $$$. Dot Com crazyness was in full swing and many of the students who would normally get MBAs tried the CS route instead in the hopes of getting some of that fat venture capital and possibly ride the bubble.

    Those days are over (for now) and those students have gone back to pre-law or MBA courses. Also, the fact of the matter is that in a CS cirriculum (like engineering), you're going to work twice as long as your English/History/MBA friends who are always out partying and never seem to study. You'll be taking the "hard" math courses while they're learning how to draw graphs incorrectly in Economics. They'll have plenty of time for shmoozing with girls while you work on two projects until late in the night. When you graduate, they may very well make more money than you (or they'll end up broke and living with their parents, depending on how good their network is by the time they get out of college).

    On the other hand, you'll be creating something that will be useful to people. Those guys will often only manufacture bullshit for the rest of their life.
  • Offshored? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AutopsyReport ( 856852 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:56AM (#15196702)
    How about off-northed? I'm a 22 year old Canadian working on my Business degree (switched from Computer Science, and find it incredibly more interesting and valuable), and I have been working for several development firms in NYC and surrounding for several years now. I have never travelled there for work, and the pay is great. So why is it that an American company seeking a developer would hire a young chap from Canada (for $50/hour) as opposed to someone from their own country? Surely my rates are on par with thousands of other folks, so I've been struggling to figure this one out. Is the quality of your education system lacking, or are job seekers simply expecting too much?

    The latter notion reminds me of the book Bait and Switch: (The Futile Pursuit of the American Dream) [amazon.com] by Barbara Ehrenreich. In it, she fluffs up her resume and goes searching for work that pays a minimum of $50,000 with benefits. She attends workshops, seminars, coaching clinics, and other things to improve her likelihood of finding work. Months later, she fails to reach this goal and in turns calls the American Dream a pointless pursuit. I realized this is not true, but that she was just too damn picky. Nobody can realistically expect a job paying $50,000 annually without qualified skills and plenty of experience.

    Is this a reality of American developers? Perhaps indicative of why fewer students graduate with CS because they are not as qualified as they could be if they graduated in other disciplines?

  • We deserve it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac&fastmail,fm> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:57AM (#15196713)
    I look at the garbage that passes for entertainment and I can't help but think how stupid we've become. I look at how everything in our lives gravitate around the pursuit of pleasure and think how lazy we've become. People can't even be bothered to use their turn signals anymore - why should we expect them to want to understand anything technical? I look at how people vote ("Bush says he's a christian - that's all I need to know when I go to the polls") and I wonder why we go out of our way not to have to think. I watch the news and the top story is continually about how much we're paying for gas and say "Damn straight!" and then piss and moan about how much it costs to drive our SUV's to work.

    If we can't be bothered to do difficult things then we deserve to lose the rewards that difficult things reap. Now watch as the "Move to France then!" rebuttals start pouring in - underscoring the whole point of my post.
  • Numbers from 2000 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ChrisWong ( 17493 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:40AM (#15197178) Homepage
    I wish people would stop using statistics exclusively from 2000, whether they be CS enrollments like here or related stats. In 2000, we were at the height of the tech bubble. Lots of people and money went into tech that should not have. In the case of people, that meant (among lots of other things ... don't want to oversimplify) lots of CS majors who had no aptitude for CS. It's not a realistic number.

    What I'd like to see are multi-year numbers that give us a better idea of the trend, both pre- and post-bubble. 2000 was an anomaly. 2000 was unsustainable. 2000 was when things went kablooey. We don't want to go there again in a hurry, so quit talking about it.
  • by ??? ( 35971 ) <k.kobly@com> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:57AM (#15197332)
    It seems that a lot of the comments here see a massive paradox in the (employer) stated lack of supply of CS practitioners, and the (employee/student) stated lack of demand.

    Having been through the job search process a few times (and having read the recent academic articles on the subject), it seems the problem is this. Employers in North America are no longer willing to help develop software professionals. In other professions, we see employers taking an active interest in professional development from the entry level up.

    Lawyers article for a year, and have a well understood progression from articling student to partner. Throughout the process, the contributions made are appropriate for their level of progression and an appreciated, relevant part of the practice's business. As a result, the legal field has a downstream supply of experienced lawyers, and even students and fresh grads can find work.

    By contrast, the tech industry seems to expect experienced developers to appear out of thin air. Industry participation in internship programs is down. Postings for entry-level and early-mid level positions are practically non-existent. Yet demand for 10+ yrs experienced developers is high. Well, guess what? Experienced developers don't just pop into existence. The industry recognizes that much of the innovative work (that they need experienced developers for) isn't amenable to offshoring. They need to recognize that by offshoring the entry-level grunt work, they are starving their future demand for experienced developers (and ultimately rendering future innovation far more difficult).
  • by wickedj ( 652189 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:10PM (#15197463) Homepage
    I'm sorry but the majority of U.S. are the laziest people in the world. There's a reason why all of our industries are getting trounced by other nations. 8 hour work days, 5 days a week and retirement at 65? (Yes, I know there are exceptions to that but that is the average worker) We're seriously overpayed for the amount of work we do. Our education system is going down the drain. Most countries that used to send students to us now have better schools anyways. Our auto-industry is being whalloped by Asian markets because they can produce something better for cheaper, even after import taxes. People also complain about Mexican immigrant workers but the fact is, they work 10 times harder for less money than most U.S. workers, and they do jobs that most U.S. would smirk at. Most U.S. workers are spoiled and it's going to catch up with us real soon. In fact, it's probably already here.
  • MSwE? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:16PM (#15197522)
    This is slightly offtopic, but I'm hoping some people will catch this question and give me their advice. Please resist the temptation to mod it down.

    I work full time as a software engineer (eg, I design and write software). I graduated with a degree in CS and Economics a year and a half ago from a well-ranked state school, but my GPA wasn't very good. Getting married, getting a job, and growing up a bit has changed me a lot, though, and I want to increase my education.

    I'm thinking of trying to get a Masters of Software Engineering (MSwE) from UMUC [umuc.edu]. I don't have the time or financial situation to go back to regular UMD [umd.edu] for a MS in CS full-time, much as I would like to, and I've heard anecdotes that the department doesn't like to waste time on part-time students. And, frankly, I don't really care for another two years of algorithms - that's not what I'm interested in as a professional (although, obviously, I try to keep on top of new developments).

    Is this worth my time? I don't want to spend 3 years on this, and then find out that employers see it as a joke degree, and actually have it _devalue_ me. But I would like to go back and get some graduate education, even if the school is less than stellar.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:18PM (#15198685) Homepage
    • Aeronautical engineering - the last civilian transport to be built in California, a Boeing 717, rolled out of the last factory last week. Of course there's NASA. Right.
    • Electrical engineering - all the volume manufacturing and most of the design is in China. Salaries are lower than 30 years ago, according to the IEEE.
    • Industrial engineering - as if manufacturing were a growth area in the US.
    • Mechanical engineering - in better shape than electrical.
    • Enviromental engineering - under the Bush Administration, who needs it?
    • Civil engineering - OK, if you like construction sites.
    • Petroleum engineering - all the work is in Outer Nowhere, or worse, a war zone.

    Of the two best young computer scientists I know, one is running a hedge fund and the other is working for a derivatives firm in New York. The young Stanford students I talk to are going into finance, law or bio.

  • by porky_pig_jr ( 129948 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:33PM (#15198814)
    My guess is less enrollment in CS programs is due to understanding that the job you are going to get is most likely has little to do with science. Like maintaining the code, or even developing your own. Nothing glamorous about it. It is should be properly called 'IT' - information technology. Note that more and more universities have programs in CS and programs in IT. May be IT enrollment goes up? At least if you're enrolled in IT, you know exactly what you are getting it and what kind of job you can expect.
  • by smagruder ( 207953 ) <stevem@webcommons.biz> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @02:38PM (#15198857) Homepage
    This is what has been pissing me off to no end... I'm at my best in terms of programming skill at 39yo, but companies expressly want college newbies they can exploit (read: harshly control and financially rape). Companies just don't want experience any more.

    Why would anyone who is sane go into a career that's all but guaranteed to be cut off at age 35??

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