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  1. #1
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    Is a CS degree worth it?

    An acquaintance of mine is finishing up a computer science degree at a local university. This got me wondering, is there ANY use for this degree in the US?

    Call me blind or cynical, but I see one of five paths, because to me, any "real" jobs are in India or China that deal with CS:

    Path #1: Stay in college, get a PhD, and go teach. This seems the only way to use the finer points of CS theory.
    Path #2: Use the CS degree as a base to get into law school, as its almost impossible for an attorney to ever get unemployed. No, employment with a big name law firm isn't guaranteed, but its impossible to not find work unless disbarred.
    Path #3: Go into IT and "enjoy" 60-120 hour weeks, zero job security, and the knowledge that you will be replaced the second the company finds someone cheaper. Of course, if anything goes wrong, be it a server glitch, an employee caught hacking, or something along these lines, the IT employee gets the blame for it because it happened on his/her watch.
    Path #4: Become a code monkey earning barely above minimum wage slinging out C++/Java/VB .NET code or designing dynamic web pages... until the job is moved offshore.
    Path #5: Go into tech support, earn barely above minimum wage doing hours on the phones, until the call center gets moved to India. Maybe if lucky, drive some company's Geo Metro around with a corporate logo to fix people's computers.

    I hope I'm not too cynical, but am I blind, or is CS a futureless degree?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilrim1980 View Post
    An acquaintance of mine is finishing up a computer science degree at a local university. This got me wondering, is there ANY use for this degree in the US?

    Call me blind or cynical, but I see one of five paths, because to me, any "real" jobs are in India or China that deal with CS:

    Path #1: Stay in college, get a PhD, and go teach. This seems the only way to use the finer points of CS theory.
    Path #2: Use the CS degree as a base to get into law school, as its almost impossible for an attorney to ever get unemployed. No, employment with a big name law firm isn't guaranteed, but its impossible to not find work unless disbarred.
    Path #3: Go into IT and "enjoy" 60-120 hour weeks, zero job security, and the knowledge that you will be replaced the second the company finds someone cheaper. Of course, if anything goes wrong, be it a server glitch, an employee caught hacking, or something along these lines, the IT employee gets the blame for it because it happened on his/her watch.
    Path #4: Become a code monkey earning barely above minimum wage slinging out C++/Java/VB .NET code or designing dynamic web pages... until the job is moved offshore.
    Path #5: Go into tech support, earn barely above minimum wage doing hours on the phones, until the call center gets moved to India. Maybe if lucky, drive some company's Geo Metro around with a corporate logo to fix people's computers.

    I hope I'm not too cynical, but am I blind, or is CS a futureless degree?
    Um no? I just finished up last year, and make decent bank at a code monkey job I really enjoy.

    Heres the secret, do well in school, network, and do well at your job. Out of my group of friends who graduated with CS or similar degrees, the ones who want to code and are good at it found decent jobs, 40k+, right out of college. The ones who weren't so good at it are now doing a mix of options 3/4/5.
    In the words of Einstein
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    You seem to confuse thing. Most people who have a degree in CS don't do tech support, if you call dell and get tech support from over seas, I really doubt those people have a degree. The job you seem to think of can be done by anybody, because they basically read off a queue card that has a default explanations to what could be the problem. I know people who haven't even finished their CS degree and took summer internships at big businesses and made 20-40,000$ in one summer. Computers are big business right now, and yes all the companies try and cut corners to save a buck, but there are still many jobs that must be done by some one that is very qualified. Also I know people that have a CS degree and work for the state or they manage the whole tech system in a school district.

  4. #4
    On my TARDIScycle! KingTermite's Avatar
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    The offshore job problem is not going to last. It is a big problem now, but those markets are already "enjoying" the supply and demand scenario and wages are rising CONSTANTLY. We've already had some work moved there that turned out to be more espensive.

    It's all part of the circle of life. It will be a great field again soon. Even now, jobs are harder to find, but they are there. Working in the "defense" industry as I do is hit less hard because much of our work can NOT go offshore.

    A CS degree is still worthwhile.
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    From what I know, the offshoring is definitely still an issue. Its a lot more cost effective for a company to outsource a project or a codebase to an offshore code farm, than deal with the HR costs of hiring and firing employees (not to mention the security needed). This applies in the short term, as a 1.0 rev of a product is being readied for release, as well as the long term as a code base is maintained, features added, and bugs squashed.

    I just don't see why people go to college and amass student loan debt to do a CS degree, only to do IT work or bang code out for $25k a year (if that). Yes, the US government has jobs, but those go mainly to those within select circles or have friends. (Its not what you know, or even who you know, its who knows you.) Of course, there is always enlisting with a CS based MOS, if someone is really wanting to work for the USG. The people who get decent jobs are not getting them because of the degree, but usually through friends or networking just like Diggidy stated.

    Why bother with B. S. in CS, when one can get a MCSE or other certifications for a lot cheaper, and get a job with the same pay?

    I'm sorry if I'm appearing snide or cynical. I just don't see what advantage a CS degree gives over having certifications.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nilrim1980 View Post
    I just don't see why people go to college and amass student loan debt to do a CS degree, only to do IT work or bang code out for $25k a year (if that).
    I'm sorry if I'm appearing snide or cynical. I just don't see what advantage a CS degree gives over having certifications.
    Maybe if you took the time to actually read our responses, you would know that if your only making 25k it's not because of outsourcing, it's because you suck at coding (and probably networking as well).

    Additionally, the advantage of the degree, is so when your applying for jobs, and they have that requirement on the application saying BS in CS or related field, you have that fulfilled. You should also be learning quite a bit, and it gives you a chance to begin your network, be it thru professors, or other students, or Co-Ops/internships, so that when you finish college, you have a job, or at least job prospects lined up for you.

    Best case scenario, is you get a CS degree and certifications, unless your some kind of programming wunderkind and have a large/impressive enough portfolio to get a job with out a proper education in the field.
    In the words of Einstein
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  7. #7
    Spelling Snob Hobartlemagne's Avatar
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    Maybe go into CS project management

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    The problem I see with a CS degree right now though is its popularity and how it seems a lot of people want to get into it because of how a select and VERY LUCKY people have made millions doing it. That job market is going to get flooded and then jobs are going to be impossible to find. It's kind of across the board though that there is a lot of competition for any job market. Myself am going to school for Micro Biology, and it's a pretty solid field to get into, but even there, there is competition for jobs. Also, the four year degree seems to be quickly losing its value, and it's becoming more of the norm to further your degree to get a better job by going to grad school.

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    Where I live, it seems that its sort of the opposite. The CS major enrollment at a couple local universities here seems to be at a low point, because people seem to think (like I do) that it appears to be a dead end major, and going into a "softer" major like general business which will give them 1-2 points on their GPA score when they graduate. (A number of companies don't care what the major someone did is, but care about the GPA score, so a CS degree can be a detriment compared to some major where a 4.0 just for enrolling is the name of the game.)

    The issue I mainly see in CS is that there are a lot of very intelligent people trying to compete in the job market for relatively low paying jobs compared to what is available to other majors (for example Micro Biology is sought after due to the healthcare industry). Its not unlike getting Tour de France quality racers together to run the course for a $5.00 prize. That all the energy, time, and student loan money that I see people put into this major can likely be spent elsewhere for a lot greater return.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilrim1980 View Post
    The issue I mainly see in CS is that there are a lot of very intelligent people trying to compete in the job market for relatively low paying jobs compared to what is available to other majors (for example Micro Biology is sought after due to the healthcare industry). Its not unlike getting Tour de France quality racers together to run the course for a $5.00 prize. That all the energy, time, and student loan money that I see people put into this major can likely be spent elsewhere for a lot greater return.
    Ah, now that is potentially true. I was split between majoring in History or CS, and my deciding factor was the limited jobs/pay of a History degree as compared to a CS degree. There are other options out there that can pay more than a CS degree, certain engineering degrees, as well as medical degrees, come to mind quickly. It really comes down to picking a career path that you think you will be happy with both monetarily and personally, and balancing those trade offs.
    In the words of Einstein
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    Computers aren't going anywhere anytime soon...

  12. #12
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    6). Be really good and get a job at Google to make a fazillion yen..

  13. #13
    Jewish Media Conspirator asherlighn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilrim1980 View Post
    From what I know, the offshoring is definitely still an issue. Its a lot more cost effective for a company to outsource a project or a codebase to an offshore code farm, than deal with the HR costs of hiring and firing employees (not to mention the security needed). This applies in the short term, as a 1.0 rev of a product is being readied for release, as well as the long term as a code base is maintained, features added, and bugs squashed.

    I just don't see why people go to college and amass student loan debt to do a CS degree, only to do IT work or bang code out for $25k a year (if that). Yes, the US government has jobs, but those go mainly to those within select circles or have friends. (Its not what you know, or even who you know, its who knows you.) Of course, there is always enlisting with a CS based MOS, if someone is really wanting to work for the USG. The people who get decent jobs are not getting them because of the degree, but usually through friends or networking just like Diggidy stated.

    Why bother with B. S. in CS, when one can get a MCSE or other certifications for a lot cheaper, and get a job with the same pay?

    I'm sorry if I'm appearing snide or cynical. I just don't see what advantage a CS degree gives over having certifications.
    None of my friends who graduated with CS degrees (or even Information Systems degrees) made less than $42k right out of the gate, and they all work in the private sector. If you dont want to do CS, then dont do CS, but it still is a pretty lucrative field. Having a degree will almost always be preferable to not having a degree (unless its like English or History or Music Theory). As long as you work hard you will probably be able to use it as leverage to land a well paying job.
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  14. #14
    Bring May Flowers aprilm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nilrim1980 View Post
    I just don't see why people go to college and amass student loan debt to do a CS degree, only to do IT work or bang code out for $25k a year (if that).
    You can say that for many degrees, not just computer science. Take the veterinary field... you spend at a minimum of $100k going to school (much more than that in many cases), and make a max of around $45k upon graduation. If you decide to work for another vet, you might make around $70k max after years and years of experience. Not much money once you consider how much it cost to get that education.

    Employers like to see the degree, and unfortunately, that's all that matters in most cases. A little experience and a degree goes a long way.

    I've seen people with business degrees making $25k, also. It all depends on how you market yourself.

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    Oops, just stumbled into this outsourcing article
    Indian call center lands in Ohio


    "More foreign companies are finding that hiring Americans offers distinct advantages, reports Fortune's Jia Lynn Yang."
    In the words of Einstein
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by squegeeboo View Post
    Oops, just stumbled into this outsourcing article
    Indian call center lands in Ohio


    "More foreign companies are finding that hiring Americans offers distinct advantages, reports Fortune's Jia Lynn Yang."
    I just can't resist!

    I tried, but I can't!

    So if the jobs there are good, does this make them Bodacious Tata's?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hobartlemagne View Post
    Maybe go into CS project management
    I'm sorry but I think there must be a much better option.
    At my company they are really cutting back on IT Resources so they are WAAAY overloaded.. They come up with new projects we have to manage with ZERO resources. The people your managing the project for have ZERO resources.. So it's you tearing yoru hair out to get everything done getting blamed for everything everyone else does wrong or doesn't have time to do.. 8 MONTHS after requirements were signed off of we got estimates back and met with VPs to get their OK. Price is spiralling out of control and whose fault? The project managers of course. Which maybe is true but not having any power over things, input into things and being responsible for all things sucks.

    If you do go into Project Management do it in a small company or for a company that is a vendor offering a product they seem to enjoy their jobs more. Maybe even explore being in a function like HR Compensation. Bosses love people who are tech savvy even in non technical jobs. They figure if you know all that complicated magic stuff they can give you training on compenstation, benefits and you'll excel and in turn make them look great.

  18. #18
    Senior Member kwrides's Avatar
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    Take your CS degree to get into the business and then learn data and learn about the business. A minor or double major in business doesn't hurt either.

    Offshore staff walk across the street and get a 10% raise. They have no desire to stay in a role long term and really learn about the business they serve.

    Data and business knowledge can't be offshored because the offshore vendors don't want to understand, they just want to follow clearly defined processes with the cheapest available resource. Being able to think is the true talent.

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    Like with most degrees, work hard in school, display your intellgence (if you have any) and network, and you should find a good job upon graduating.

    I know a few guys with CS degrees, some make a crappy low to average starting salary doing tech support/IT, some make double that doing work for military consultants.

    Some lawyers make ridiculous salaries, some, well, some are glorified legal secretaries.
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    The degree itself is not particularly valuable. But if you're a good computer scientist (not just a code monkey), opportunities abound. Same with most fields, I guess. I'm a chemist, but on the side, I work with a software company. Seven years later, I still can't believe how nice a side job it is.
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    Computer Science != Programmer

    CompSci is about algorithms (neural networks, fuzzy logic, compression/motion compensation) Usually it is a TON of math, and abstract thought. You do not need to be a good programmer to be good at CompSci, you do need to thoroughly understand your area of work however

    Programmer uses algorithms, optimizes them and implements them. Good programmers (efficient, well designed, portable) are a lot more valuble than many mediocre ones that got in during the boom and don't enjoy programming.

    Deside what you find enjoyable, and go into that stream.
    If you do decide to do CompSci, work on your math especially matrix algebra. (I have friends that are CompSci, I'm not)
    If you decide to be a programmer, start with learning ASM and basic EE such as how IC's are desiged, then move up to C and later higher level languages. If you start with Java/C#/.NET, you will not understand why some techniques are better than others, or how to debug many issues.
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  22. #22
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    I think a CS degree is worth it. I actually only obtained an associates and at some points I believe that a lack of a BS held me back from a few positions. I'm sure that there are HR people who auto-filter resumes and those without degrees go in the trash. I'm positive that if you've got a 4 year school with a strong CS program (MIT/RIT/CMU) you're going to get looked at. Not to say that without a degree you can't be successful. A lot of my friends have been doing well enough (Range of 50-100k salaries) working as programmers, Network Ops, support, IT, etc...

    In support the outsourcing thing is real but often I've found that it's for first level support jobs (i.e. "Have you tried turning it off and on?"). For programming gigs I've seen the outsourced guys used to get parts of projects done while being guided by a development team here in the US. So it's a threat if you're lower on the ladder, but if you're smart and hard working and keep moving up in the world you'll generally always have work. Granted the market is volatile at times, but you need to keep learning and keeping up with the technology.

    One thing about school though... if you have the chance to live on campus do it. You'll probably make some friends for life in the dorms and it's a hell of a good time.

  23. #23
    Erectible Member pedalMonger's Avatar
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    +1 on networking, assuming you mean social networking and not sys admin skills.

    Just being good at what you do isn't good enough anymore. "Antisocial" geeks are having a harder time earning 6 figures in the post dot com world. Hey, I'm not saying I like it, there is something romantic about the days of old, when a computer wiz could show up for work in a coffee-stained Pink Floyd T-shirt with his hair sticking out in every direction, and earn more then a neurosurgeon. But for somebody who doesn't mind shaving, and perhaps perusing material thats similar to this: http://www.nightingale.com/prod_deta...le_Skills.aspx , I imagine its still possible to earn a good living in the IT world.
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    i think CS is still worth it. but dotcom is over and the vast majority of tech jobs are corporate IT. don't want to get outsourced? learn the business.

    keep this in mind:
    1. in most companies IT is overhead. expensive overhead.
    2. there will always be someone smarter or more experienced willing to do your job for less money.
    3. 'the business' provides the budget for IT. if they respect you, they won't look at outsourcing you as an effective cost cutting method.

    in my experience, the ones in tech who get the most respect and are seen as "vital" are the people who know the business and the technology. if you can build business solutions that support the business and increase business revenues... the business won't decide to send your work overseas. if IT can't spur profit growth by providing innovative, business-driven solutions, then the business will cut costs by sending it's requirements to Mumbai.

    just my thoughts...

  25. #25
    Code Warrior mwrobe1's Avatar
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    OK...since you're still young, let me offer up this tidbit of advice. And for the record...its IMHO...

    Get the CS degree...with or without a couple certs...AND get a pharmacy degree (PharmD). The extra time in school will be worth it. Know your way around SQL Server 2005 (all aspects of it, Database, Reporting, Integration, OLAP, etc) and Visual Studio DotNet. Get the most out of your one year PharmD residency.

    You'll never be out of work and never be hurting for money.

    Its one of my only regrets in life, is, that I didn't stay in college long enough to get the PharmD. Having any kind of CS degree + a healthcare related degree is VERY marketable and leaves you with alot of options.

    I say all this, because if I could do it all again (college that is) its exactly what I'd do. YMMV.

    Good luck to you.
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