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There has been a lot of media attention paid in recent months and years to the increase in CS majors and the possibility of a second tech bubble. Some news reports have suggested that as more people enter CS, the market could be flooded with CS professionals and jobs could be increasingly difficult to find.

Is this a bad time to be majoring in computer science?

Edit: I'm a non-trad student who allready has a Bachelor's degree in economics and will be pursuing a CS degree starting this upcoming summer semester at the Univ of Kansas. I've been programming for about two/three years and just need a more formal education to fill the holes in my head. I have an interest in CS, it's just that I am worries about the prospects for the future.

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Jobs are only difficult to find if you're not any good. Talented and passionate people will always be in demand. –  Steve Evers Apr 1 '11 at 17:30
Even if you are good, it can come down to more of a question of "who do you know?" rather than "what do you know?" depending entirely on the company, or the state of the economy locally or at large. –  scriptocalypse Apr 1 '11 at 19:19
Computer science is a smart pick if you want a job. But listen to Joel- dude's smart. –  Adel Jul 17 '11 at 4:03

11 Answers 11

up vote 54 down vote accepted

If your motivation for getting a computer science degree is what you read in the media and maybe it'll lead to a good job, then yes. It's a bad time to get a computer science degree. Tomorrow doesn't look good either.

If your motivation for getting a computer science degree is that you have a passion or affinity for algorithms, math, logic, puzzle solving, computing, engineering, etc. Then, no, it's a perfect time to get a computer science degree.

Your degree choice should be made based on what interests and motivates you. Too many people think of colleges as some sort of after market vocational school. If that's your approach, then head to ITT Tech or DeVry. If you truly want to learn about computing, then do it and do it with gusto. Be true to yourself, not to some media-manufactured version of what some suit thinks you should be.

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Also there is a Pork cycle: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pork_cycle The situation might look much better when you'll graduate. That has happened to me. –  LennyProgrammers Mar 1 '11 at 17:01
@Lenny222 - I'd be more concerned about spending 4 years and $20,000 on a degree that gets someone a job they hate. Those tend to be the ones that find themselves on the wrong end of a layoff. –  Joel Etherton Mar 1 '11 at 17:38
Perhaps my original question was a little vague. I ENJOY PROGRAMMING and have been doing it for about two to three years. I'm working as an analyst and use quite a bit of Python, Perl, MySql, and R. I wouldn't have bothered to learn these if I didn't enjoy programming. –  ATMathew Mar 1 '11 at 18:18
@ATMathew - Having read your edit, I understand completely. The cool thing is you already have a degree, so the focus on meeting a "job requirement" is gone. You can now earn a CS degree and focus completely on receiving the information that is important to you. This information will translate into a great many other fields, so even if you can't find a job as a programmer when you're done (unlikely), the degree itself will transfer easily into a wide variety of other technical disciplines. –  Joel Etherton Mar 1 '11 at 18:21
I also have long held the bias that cross disciplinary people will be in high demand. Programmers are a dime a dozen. So are economists. But, those who have mastered both skills, will be priceless for that corporation that needs both capabilities in the same person. –  Omega Centauri Mar 1 '11 at 18:46


People talked in the past about how it was a bad idea to go into the tech field however where we stand today there are lots of opportunities and a bright future. I don't know of any decent tech field workers that are unable to find employment.

Don't let people/studies guide what you do. Do what you want and that will be what you find the most success in!

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I agree. Based on all the unsolicited offers I keep getting there are a good deal of unfilled jobs out there. Appears that there just not enough CS people around to fill them all. –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 1 '11 at 19:05

I dont think it's a bad time, last time I checked there weren't enough CS majors....because the truth of the matter is something like 60% don't even finish, or stop halfway through.

There may be a flood of "IT" people.....but CS != IT, although you can do IT. I think it may be more of a problem in big cities where offshoring is a problem, however I just recently graduated with a degree in CS and had alot of job offers and got my job in mere weeks, the same goes for my fellow classmates. Although I live in a modest sized city.

Either way though I dont think it's a bad time. Plus with CS you can do ALOT of different jobs. Anything from IT to Programming to Testing etc....

CS is still one of the top 5 highest payed Engineering degrees too!

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CS != Engineering, either –  Travis Christian Mar 1 '11 at 16:44
Of course if CS is the best degree to do to become a programmer is a whole other question ;-) –  Martin Beckett Mar 1 '11 at 16:59
@Travis....most CS degrees are Engineering degrees? Or at least they will graduate from The College of Engineering, and it's in the school of engineering.....I guess it depends on the school. –  Mercfh Mar 3 '11 at 15:40
Yep, depends on the school. My CS degree came out of the school of Business Administration... –  Brian Knoblauch Apr 1 '11 at 19:06

There is a tech bubble at the moment. Facebook, Twitter, Google are all companies with a large but non-paying user base which shareholders, advertisers and investors mistakingly see as turning into a revenue stream some day.

Will this affect you as somebody who is about to study computer science? Probably not. Compared to the whole software industry, Facebook, Twitter and Google are not so large at all. There will always be plenty of solid companies around like Oracle, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, etc, etc.

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With world population crossing 8 billion mark, markets will continue to be flooded with all sorts of people all the time. Have confidence. If you can afford it, get a degree. Part time is fine too. Learning about computers is a ticket to almost always having a safe, simple, low-profile job for a lifetime.

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This may be a bad time to be graduating with a CS degree. That says nothing about whether it's a bad time to be starting college with a CS major. Frequently, majoring in a subject because it's hot means graduating when there's a glut of people in that subject.

If you want to pick a major in order to make money with it, look at the long-term prospects, not what's going on right now. More and more people are getting access to more and more computers, and the demand for computer professionals is only going to increase over time. It's a growth field, and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future (which is all we can ask out of any predictions).

Above all, pick a major that you're personally comfortable with. If you don't like a subject, you won't do as well in it, so on graduation you'll be competing with people who are better and more enthusiastic than you for a job you don't really want.

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If you already have a job in the tech field AND you have a BS in anything, I'm not sure if there's ever a good time to get a CS degree.

Posts above mentioned 4 years and $20k. I have a CS degree and it was more than $20k each year (10 years ago) and I can tell you that as far as coding is concerned (or techniques/practices that you could use as an application developer), CS degree teaches you very, very little. I've seen people graduate with having written almost no code.

I've worked full time since 2nd year of college till I graduated and work experience (along with really good mentor) taught me 1000 times more than the degree. I went for the degree because those two letters "B.S." on your resume let you get past the "HR filter" in many companies.

If you are looking for a job or work in academia where actually knowing/using CS theory is important, than by all means, go get a degree. But I've been doing commercial applications development for 12 years now and I can count on my figures the things I've learned in school that I didn't know already and was able to apply to my job (and I wouldn't even need to use the second hand to do it).

Also it depends on your study skills/habits. Some people prefer formal lectures and they don't have motivation to learn and study if there's no exams. Whereas even in school I always preferred to read/study on my own because information sinks in better. So if it wasn't for standard HR hiring practices, I personally don't put much value on my CS degree.

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It will be several years until you graduate so who knows what the market will do in that time. And a Degree is something for life, not for the first 6 months, so the stuff you learn will be useful for many years after you get the degree.

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Since you have an undergraduate degree in another field, but are interested in programming, I think it would be a great idea for you to pursue a CS degree. Having two degrees (either two bachelors, or a bachelor's and an master's) in two different fields will give you an edge over someone with "just" a CS degree no matter what the job market looks like. (I have a BSEE and an MSCS and have never regretted the time it took.)

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I would recommend Engineering instead of CS. That's what I'm going to be doing. In certain fields of engineering there is a lot of programming involved as well, and if someone is already fully familiar with programming, it could be better to learn something domain specific e.g with engineering.

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Considering how common it is for people to have a long worthwhile career outside of their major, there is no reason to view it as a bad thing even if you don't want to work as a programmer or admin. CS degrees should be at least as prestigious as any other technical degree.

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