Will Financial Crisis Drive Students Back To CS?

from the but-does-CS-want-them? dept

There's some talk these days about how the financial crisis on Wall Street may be driving some students back to computer science. You may recall that during the dot com boom, enrollment in CS programs boomed, as it suddenly became a fast track to getting rich (or so some folks thought.) But, of course, the end result was that a lot of folks in CS weren't really that into actual computer science, but were just looking for the fastest ticket to getting rich. After the dot com bubble burst, many shifted their attention back to Wall Street, which had been the get rich quick path prior to the dot com boom. So, now that Wall Street seems to be imploding, there's talk again about students coming back to CS. While some see this as a good thing, you're again left with the same question: are these the types of folks who we really want in CS programs? If their sole determinant for area of study is what's likely to make them richest as fast as possible, they're not necessarily the folks who are really going to contribute very much to the space. There's nothing wrong with making labor decisions based on how much it may pay, but folks who focus on getting rich as fast as possible have a habit of screwing things up for everyone else pretty badly at times.


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  1.  
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    SteveD, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 2:38am

    CS? What about Engineering?

    It would be nice to get some government support for engineering back. After all, is an economy based on moving information around that much stronger then an economy based on moving money around?

    Or am I just being a traditionalist thinking that actually making stuff is where the profit should be...

     

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    Vivek Rughani, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:16am

    Ive just restarted my my CS degree and think that the market is swamped full of average students. I think that there is an element of truth that a lot of people think that CS is a degree to make you lots of money, but you have to work god damn hard and be really good at it.

     

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    SteveD, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:29am

    UK's culture secretary announces desire to "taste and decency" standards to online content

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7644849.stm

    Bill Thompson takes him down a peg, but it reminds me of an Adam Curtis interview from last year that outlined a serious lack in confidence in TV broadcasters on how to deal with the net age;

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/20/adam_curtis_interview/page5.html

     

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    SteveD, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:30am

    oops, wrong submission box. Please delete.

     

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    Michial, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:32am

    Industry will weed them out

    During Y2k I saw hundreds of Accountant types re-title themselves as Programmers and try to get the big bucks. Time weeded them out and left most of them in the unemployment line.

    IT has a way of weeding the week skilled people out, or at least pushing them into network administration or desktop support.

    IT is also not your typical field either, most great grunt IT people (Network Admin, Programmers etc) don't have the abilities or people skills to manage, so they tend to remain at the bottom of the food chain while the management levels are consumed by these people trying to get rich quick.

    The thing is I have made more as a Programmer than any manager I have had since the early 90's.

    But with the influx of "foreign" cheap labor on our soil I just thank God I am at the end of my career and am nearing retirement.

     

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    Dave A, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:47am

    We should be part of the solution because that's what coders love to do - solve problems

    I haven't been able to finish my degree yet, but was fortunate enough to land a great programming job. As a 'code junkie' I can say that there is a deplorable lack of passion among the students. There are those few who really shine... the obsessive coders who bleed in 1's and 0's... but instead of whining about how poorly the non-obsessives perform, why don't we help them with as mentors and show them just how fun coding can be. It has been my experience that most people want to be good at what they do - I intend to help them and hope that they share their ability with me.

     

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    Liquid, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 4:48am

    Re: Industry will weed them out

    @Michial

    I complete agree with this statement:

    "IT is also not your typical field either, most great grunt IT people (Network Admin, Programmers etc) don't have the abilities or people skills to manage, so they tend to remain at the bottom of the food chain while the management levels are consumed by these people trying to get rich quick"

    That is one of the few things that this industry needs to have happen or keep happening. You also don't want to see all the people flood colleges and go to school for 4 years to get a bachelors degree only to piss it away to be stuck in Helpdesk positions taking up jobs that more qualified IT Profesionals could have. Only then to realize that they didn't wont to spend the rest of their lives working on computers, networks, servers, etc... Then leaving the industry to go persue some other thing that could help them make a ton of money as quickly as possible.

    I my self have spent 4 years in school not to mention 6-7 years prior to that working on computers personally in my spare time as a hobby. Only to realize after high school that this is what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after I got a job at a factory working 12 hours a day 7 days a week. I would rather work on things that I am passionate about then working in a job field that I only have fraction of an intrest in.

     

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    Jake, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:03am

    The way the economy seems to be headed right now, the only fast ticket to riches will soon be armed robbery. I do however think that there's likely to be a fairly major shift away from financial services towards subjects that are less... abstract? I dare say there's a better word for it, but at any rate, it must be starting to occur to people that a company that actually generates revenue probably offers better job security than just shuffling it around and skimming off a percentage.

     

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    Truthbringer, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:20am

    You wanna get rich quick

    Go into entertainment or politics, everywhere else requires alot of work for alot less money (ever wonder why so many people in these fields are second, third, fourth generation - its easy money people, thats why).

     

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    TX CHL Instructor (profile), Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:23am

    If you don't believe in age discrimination...

    ...then you just haven't been around long enough. Programming's an ok living until you hit your 40's, then you will find out that somebody from India or China can do your job at half the salary.

    Also, note that companies like HP are actively recruiting H1-b's to replace US programmers, despite the fact there is NO PROGRAMMER SHORTAGE.

    Just remember that a programmer's job is always temporary, and that managers consider programmers to be fungible.
    --
    http://www.chl-tx.com Without the 2nd Amendment, the rest of the document is wishful thinking.

     

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    NullOp, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 5:30am

    CS for riches?

    After 25 years in the IT field I can tell you programming very focused, detailed work. So that eliminates the "get rich quick" types. Also remember that management is going to save all the "goodies" for themselves if at all possible! Like any job they are going to try to get the best work for the least amount. Programming, system design and all that goes with it is definately a field of enginering. It is difficult, frustrating and very rewarding at times. But get rich? Probably not.

     

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    TX CHL Student, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 6:39am

    slight correction

    Managers will find someone that will for for half or less than you can work and, since the managers can't tell the difference between incompetent and competent people, that's all that will matter.

    Also, I noticed age discrimination start in the 30s. Discrimination also starts whenever you, as an individual, decide it is not professional or desirable to be working 60 hours a week all the time and on call the rest of the time.

     

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    Overcast, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 6:46am

    Yeah, have to agree with Michial too.

    IT has a way of weeding the week skilled people out, or at least pushing them into network administration or desktop support.

    Yeah, like a dead server someone can't get back online or crappy code that's slow an ineffective.

    If you don't actually *like* IT, chances are, you won't do well in the field.

    I have no degree, but have trained people with degrees. I have a couple old certifications and again, have trained people will all the latest certs.

    Experience and a personal interest will net a much better skill set in IT than any training ever could (without an interest). It's like a car mechanic - the good ones are the ones who really enjoy what they are doing and likely do it as a hobby too.

    Last night, I spent most of the night fooling around with my PC, getting my Linux install tweaked more, and finally went ahead and installed Windows on another disk as well. That's why I 'know' the stuff well, it's my hobby too.

    IT is also not your typical field either, most great grunt IT people (Network Admin, Programmers etc) don't have the abilities or people skills to manage, so they tend to remain at the bottom of the food chain while the management levels are consumed by these people trying to get rich quick

    I am that person. You know - I can manage people, have done it in the past - but I outright HATE to manage people. Managing machines on the other hand - I LOVE that. Regardless of my position on the 'food chain', I guarantee I can get that server online faster than any of the management above my head - with one possible exception in the whole chain. But then, he's one of the 'geek' managers, who's REAL laid back. That's my problem with management - I'm too laid back to bark orders. That and I enjoy the tech portion too much to do 'management'.

     

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    Truthbringer, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 6:53am

    Mike has it wrong, largely

    Its not about get rich quick so much as where can one get employed quick. Students move towards demand as do the institutions that educate them. The truth for this generation is no different then any other, its very unlikely that anyone else is going to make you rich and its equally unlikely that you will get rich working in the field for which you were trianed. It just seldom happens that way (there is usualy a dash of fate, or luck with great monitary success stories).

     

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  15.  
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    Jiggily, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 7:10am

    Yep them video games are getting too expensive

    Yep them video games are getting too expensive... But, I'm not sure that people will just stay with Counter Strike.... There really are lots of other good "old" games out there....

     

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  16.  
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    Mike, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 7:13am

    Opposite track

    I'm actually on the opposite track. I got my software engineering job AFTER the bubble burst and recently finished my masters in information systems. It took that long to realize that I'm not as into computers as I thought. It turns out I'm actually more into finance and investing, so back to school for an MBA in finance I guess. Money doesn't have much to do with it. I'd gladly take a pay cut to do something I enjoy the rest of my life.

    So... Anyone in the northern Baltimore area need a programmer with a passion for finance/investing? :D

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 8:05am

    If its a good CS program, students that are just looking for a major that gets them rich quick won't make it through.

     

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    Superfli95, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 8:06am

    Re: CS? What about Engineering?

    There is no love out there for Engineers, I doubt there ever will be.

    Even though CS isn't Engineering.... :) It is still an in-depth technical field that requires hard hard work, dedication, and constant learning to do well. It is hardly a get-rich-quick scheme. Anything worthwhile is not get-rich-quick.

     

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  19.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 8:08am

    That was last week's headline

     

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    Robert, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 8:28am

    Here is the problem.

    Companies which hire foreign workers from India and 3rd world none-g8 countries in the end get their shit handed to them in a steaming bag. If you are not in control of your product directly, you have nothing but a liability which sucks up money. Anyways, what it comes down to is CS enrollment is down because our education system sucks in this country. Children don't learn in Grade school, junior high or high school because the hours they are forced to study every day is on par in my opinion of cram schools in Japan & Korea, the difference is Cram schools pay for nothing but the best professional teachers/professors money can buy. If we pay our teachers / professors at the k-12 institutions real salaries based on what they contribute to society, then we will inspire the best talent to teach, and the best talent will inspire the most open minded. Children seek the approval of those who they respect, and if we teach young people at young ages that academic in fields of engineering are fun and rewarding, then we will see more people head towards those careers.

    Unfortunately, I doubt any of this will happen. Big government is already captured by special interests, prison unions, prison corporations, pharmaceutical industry, military arms industry, banking industry, investment banking industry, Chemical Manufactures, Petroleum industry, and the list goes on. We have so many lobbyists taking the time and attention away from our people that the people no longer hold any significance in our society other than the worker ants which consume which that run it. Government now no longer considers ramifications—especially those in high places—to which what they do might harm and eventually destroy the very fabric which created this country. As the circle comes round, the issue leads back to money. People forget that history tells us that the real reason we broke off from Britain was usury, and the right to pursue happiness in whatever form it may be in. Big government with the help of industry puts a huge dampener and stifles our economy at large because it knows no morality.

    Anyways, just my 2 cents, and a babble at that.

     

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  21.  
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    Outsourcing, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 8:58am

    Your get what you pay for

    "But with the influx of "foreign" cheap labor on our soil I just thank God I am at the end of my career and am nearing retirement."
    and
    "Programming's an ok living until you hit your 40's, then you will find out that somebody from India or China can do your job at half the salary.
    "

    Good programmers/etc you have to pay for. If you think a VB program with an access back-end is enterprise ready, then I guess China/India is for you. I'm sure they have decent programmers there, but you have to pay a lot for them and then they move here.

    My company also out sources to India for some stuff, but nothing that we sell. We only out source a few internal tools and even then we get bugs that take them weeks to fix. Some of these bugs that keep coming back after weeks of 'programming', I was able to fix in under 30 minutes of opening up the files and using google; and even after sending them the code on how to fix it with detailed descriptions of eeach line of code, it took 2-3 revisions for them to implement it correctly.

     

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  22.  
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    Anon2, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 9:17am

    job market will be clogged sooner

    It's not just that CS programs at 4 year colleges and universities may find themselves clogged with people signing up for no reason other than a casino mentality -- the job markets for people with the right educational credentials will likely be clogged up very, very soon with many of the people fleeing the financial services industry. Remember, a lot of the people who positioned themselves to make hand-over-fist mountains of money in the past 10-12 years or so were not MBAs or economics majors, but were actually people with CS and/or math and/or physics creds.

    Indeed, there are entire departments at these huge IBanks, not to mention entire stand alone firms, consisting of pretty much nothing but CS, math and physics types. They're the ones who created all these incredibly esoteric financial instruments that were the financial WMDs (as Buffett famously said a few years go) at the heart of this sudden meltdown.

     

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  23.  
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    boost, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 9:29am

    Re: CS? What about Engineering?

    The government does support engineering. It's called tax benifits for people/companies that spend money on development.

     

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  24.  
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    Cdaragorn, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 9:54am

    This is about CS, not IT

    CS and IT are two very different fields, and need to be kept that way. With some of the outsourcing comments, you are right that programmers can be outsourced fairly easy, and that is a concern. It's a good thing that CS students aren't programmers, then, isn't it?

    Computer Science is not programming, there's a reason they're called software engineers, and anyone who thinks it's not an engineering field doesn't understand what software engineers are doing.

    In essence, software engineers are to programmers what architects are to construction workers.

     

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    Superfli95, Oct 1st, 2008 @ 3:55pm

    Re: This is about CS, not IT

    Cdaragorn: I agree CS is not IT. They are not the same by far. However, 'software engineers' is a misused term. People tag 'engineer' to the end of a lot of job descriptions just to make it sound cool. CS are not engineers. The curriculum and careers differ greatly. All engineers have way more of a background in math and physical sciences. Engineers take physical scientific laws and make something useful out of it. CS and Engineers work side by side in many cases, but, no, CS are not engineers. I am not saying one is better then the other, I am just saying they are not the same thing.

     

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  26.  
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