Is a career in computer science promising?

This is a discussion on Is a career in computer science promising? within the A Brief History of Cprogramming.com forums, part of the Community Boards category; I've been playing with computers since I can remember. I absolutely love them, I learned logowriter when I was 10, ...

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    Is a career in computer science promising?

    I've been playing with computers since I can remember. I absolutely love them, I learned logowriter when I was 10, installed my first linux distro at 11. I always saw myself going into the computer field. Now that I'm older I have other things to consider other than my interest in computers. Taking care of my family, having a life outside of work and learning, etc...

    Looking around I'm getting mixed signals. Only a couple months ago I was seeing job ads for junior level programmers starting at $80,000, part time positions at $40,000. Not so much anymore. There is alot of talk about outsourcing as well. What's going on here? Is above median pay in computer science a thing of the past? Am I going to be underpayed and overworked? Is the IT landscape a fundamentally difference one from the one 5 years ago?

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yougene View Post
    Is above median pay in computer science a thing of the past? Am I going to be underpayed and overworked? Is the IT landscape a fundamentally difference one from the one 5 years ago?
    In general terms, I'd say yes to all your questions.

    There is really no more room for the mediocrity that has plagued the job market for a long time. As more and more graduates come out to find a job, the stiffer the competition and the lower the wages. It's economy 101. The really good jobs are left for those that excel. Mediocre programmers get the scraps.

    Things are shaping up to their normal. I was always an average programmer, mediocre even at times. I'm proud of a few achievements and I never failed a deadline (really!) or lost a job due to incompetence, However I only did my job, nothing more. I wasn't ever inventive or surpassed the expectations people put on me. I struggled to acquired certain skills, other workmates would find easy. I was an average joe, really. And yet, my friend, I made more money back then, then you probably can hope from now on. My career payed my bookstore business.

    That was simply a reflection of an unbalanced market where programmers were few and demand was high. Now programming is becoming like most any other profession; under payed, under valued, highly competitive.

    You should see the amount of graduates here who can't find a job and are gaining some bucks in a call center somewhere.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    I would wager that the ability to travel is becoming more important to the whole industry as well. The structure of this job market seems to be changing as contract work and what I guess I would call "lending labor" becomes more important. What I've been told, (since I expressed interest in this field for a long time) was that companies like to send their work around to other locations that need them. People at the bottom of the totem pole probably worship frequent flyer miles.

    But you know, my dad spent thirty years in the business. We were happy, and he loved his work. It's always nice when you can find your cubicle in life. Even though the only thing I ever really felt about the reality of working on a computer all day more soul draining. I'm gonna try learning something else before I get too far in it. Maybe that would be good for you too, but that's my suggestion when you get to college. And stuff. Don't do things for the money.
    Last edited by whiteflags; 03-06-2008 at 08:42 PM.

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    l'Anziano DavidP's Avatar
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    Although I agree with some of the things that Mario F. said, I will have to respectfully disagree to some of his points.

    I agree that you won't get paid as much as an entry level programmer as you used to, but I highly disagree that the job market is in a slump. As time continues to go on, computers become only more and more essential to companies, and they need people to do computer stuff - which means programmers. Programmers are in high demand, and there are plenty of jobs out there. Seriously.

    Another thing you have to take into account is the fact that enrollment in Computer Science programs has only decreased this entire decade. Why? Well, it mainly started with the dot-com bust. People got scared, and so the amount of people majoring in computer science and universities went way down. This did not, however, change the fact that companies are in need of more and more programmers. With CS enrollment at an all-time low in USA universities right now, and demand for programmers very high, jobs are easy to find.

    I would like to note, however, that CS majors are on the rebound as of this year.

    Does this mean you will be making loads of cash in an entry level programmer position? No. That day is past. Will you be paid well? Chances are - yes. You will still be paid well. A programming job is definitely not a bad paying job, and there are chances of promotion.
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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    I would wager that the ability to travel is becoming more important to the whole industry as well. The structure of this job market seems to be changing as contract work and what I guess I would call "lending labor" becomes more important. What I've been told, (since I expressed interest in this field for a long time) was that companies like to send their work around to other locations that need them. People at the bottom of the totem pole probably worship frequent flyer miles.
    Is telecommuting catching on at all? Computing has been cited as an example where telecommuting could work well since one can measure productivity by how much of the specification was completed instead of how many hours were spent at the office. Plus everybody and their dogs use instant messaging these days (yes, my sister took a photo of the dog "using" the computer).
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    Quote Originally Posted by laserlight View Post
    Is telecommuting catching on at all? Computing has been cited as an example where telecommuting could work well since one can measure productivity by how much of the specification was completed instead of how many hours were spent at the office. Plus everybody and their dogs use instant messaging these days (yes, my sister took a photo of the dog "using" the computer).
    A lot of the Linux community do "remote working" - I know RedHat has many of it's staff spread around the world, using IRC to communicate.

    The company I work for has a large office in London where a large portion of staff is, but expansion is bigger in India and China [and that's probably what's pushing down the entry and mid-level salaries in other places].

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidP View Post
    Another thing you have to take into account is the fact that enrollment in Computer Science programs has only decreased this entire decade. Why? Well, it mainly started with the dot-com bust. People got scared, and so the amount of people majoring in computer science and universities went way down.
    The main reason actually, as seen by many analysts has been exactly the loss of appeal on behalf of the job market. I personally find the idea of the .com bust to be a little far fetched, especially when it is estimated that up to 50&#37; of the dot-coms survived the crash. It had a profound impact on how companies looked at their business, yes. But if you listen carefully, you will see that the "IT Bubble" is commented by about everyone (except previous share holders) in a romanticized way and with a gleam in their eyes. It didn't scare anyone of the job market really. It has become part of the IT myth instead.

    In Europe you have mixed signals and they all point to exactly... job expectations. On countries investing heavily on modernization and IT, grads rise to the highest peaks, while on the others the numbers level out or fall.

    I however agree that there are highs and lows. I honestly think we are coming to a low (at least here in Europe). That people graduating today will have an hard time in this industry for the upcoming years unless they choose to proceed their studies further. When things level out again and Job Demand is forced to shift a couple more gears, then we will witness another short and blissful period for anyone out looking for work.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by laserlight View Post
    Is telecommuting catching on at all? Computing has been cited as an example where telecommuting could work well since one can measure productivity by how much of the specification was completed instead of how many hours were spent at the office. Plus everybody and their dogs use instant messaging these days (yes, my sister took a photo of the dog "using" the computer).
    Based on what I've heard, there's an argument going on between the IT security departments and everybody else. I think a lot of companies would like remote working, or at least want to introduce some instant messaging on company computers and things. Security departments have difficulty managing the problems this type of software creates though. Hopefully that will be rectified as VMware is more thoroughly adopted, and I don't think we're too far off from that accross the board. I can see how something like that would save Joe Blow from taking his company laptop home and destroying it inadvertantly.

    There's a whole other productivity argument CEOs might be worried about, but I'll never be one of them.

    All of this is word-of-mouth by the way; if you want to think I'm totally wrong, go ahead.
    Last edited by whiteflags; 03-07-2008 at 04:08 AM.

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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    I think a lot of companies would like remote working, or at least want to introduce some instant messaging on company computers and things. Security departments have difficulty managing the problems this type of software creates though.
    It seems to me that an option these days is to run a company wide IM network with say, Openfire, then enforce encryption for remote users. Of course, it will not stop people from leaking secret company documents if they wanted to, and it would be harder to catch them since their home network is not being monitored by the company.
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    It does seem like the market is saturated with the current technology. I've always percieved the computer technology moving in cycles. As soon as the latest and greatest comes out, a new niche in the market is created and there is more pie for everyone. I'm not so sure if my idea of how the business moves is correct though. Can we expect to see competent corporations like Google taking on these niches before the little guy can? Are we more likely to see more incremental changes to what is already established rather than leaps in the technology? Even with a growing pie through innovation, is it big enough for a market saturated with computer scientists( assuming it is 5-10 years from now )?

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yougene View Post
    Can we expect to see competent corporations like Google taking on these niches before the little guy can?
    Traditionally is has been the little guy who has innovated and opened new grounds. When it is perceived, it either quickly becomes a big guy (amazon, google, etc), or sells itself to the big guys (can't remember an example of the top of my head).

    Quote Originally Posted by yougene View Post
    Are we more likely to see more incremental changes to what is already established rather than leaps in the technology?
    There is so much grounds for exploration! IT-wise we are still babies. We touch and tap and experiment. Sometimes we find it to be good. Others we find it to be bad. There's grounds for both new discoveries and making old ones better.

    Quote Originally Posted by yougene View Post
    Even with a growing pie through innovation, is it big enough for a market saturated with computer scientists( assuming it is 5-10 years from now )?
    Someone addressed it briefly already on this thread. The numbers will tend to increase as new users are added to the world computer pool, more complex problems which involve more people are thought of, more companies adopt computers in their business (you'd be surprised), and more things are made to work with the help of computers.

    Quote Originally Posted by laserlight
    Of course, it will not stop people from leaking secret company documents if they wanted to, and it would be harder to catch them since their home network is not being monitored by the company.
    Things are not so bleak. Whole departments are ran from a distance. Take many call and contact centers, for instance. Security is not a big issue either. Many companies with branches and offices around the world use tunneling for their communications from board meetings to financial reports and project management.

    The problem is that most companies are:

    a) Not knowledgeable enough to see the advantages of this model
    b) Resilient to change which is a bummer when you need to completely alter the traditional cubicle "warehouses"
    c) Not capable of handling the high initial costs
    Last edited by Mario F.; 03-07-2008 at 09:56 AM.
    The programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.”
    The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.


    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Crazy Fool Perspective's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by yougene View Post
    Even with a growing pie through innovation, is it big enough for a market saturated with computer scientists( assuming it is 5-10 years from now )?
    5-10 years from now there will be a shortage, not a saturation. Enrollment is down in CS, as is the number of students seeing a CS degree through to completion. Many companies are highering like crazy right now, trying to build up enough talented workers to handle the comming decline. Skilled programmers in my area have no problem getting 80k / year jobs right now, and things look like they're only going to get better in the next 5 or so years (for the individual that is, companies that can't find enough skilled workers will see this from a slightly different perspective )

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    Malum in se abachler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by laserlight View Post
    It seems to me that an option these days is to run a company wide IM network with say, Openfire, then enforce encryption for remote users. Of course, it will not stop people from leaking secret company documents if they wanted to, and it would be harder to catch them since their home network is not being monitored by the company.
    Its really not difficult to leak information from the company system. Ultimately thats why you need trustworthy people. If your documents and source code are that sensitive, only give people with current or former security clearances access. Of course that adds about 50% to the cost of labor. Ultimately nothing can be kept secret forever, you can only raise the expense involved in finding useful information. If you want the higher productivity from stay at home employees, then you have to either give up some security, or invest in real, not off the shelf' encryption gear. Its very easy for a company to get military grade encryption from the NSA if they can justify its use and accept the added expenses. Sorry, but a video game company probably isnt going to qualify, but if you can bill your product as part of the 'infrastructure' then I don't think there would be much of a problem.
    Until you can build a working general purpose reprogrammable computer out of basic components from radio shack, you are not fit to call yourself a programmer in my presence. This is cwhizard, signing off.

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    Registered User whiteflags's Avatar
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    Mario was trying to think of an example for big companies aquiring small ones. One example is Audible, who was recently aquired by (but still operates independently from) Amazon. Apparently, the idea is that they want to sell every book in print and digitally, and have it be available on Amazon's Kindle book reader. That's an example of companies buying up other companies to shore up their own investments.

    About the encryption thing, well, it's always against contract for employees to dump proprietary code into the public domain (by posting it on a message board or whatever). The internet has typically been a thorn in the side of copyright law, and I really don't see how encryption solves the problem. AES encrypted or not, you should give your employees a key so they can work from home and it's always possible to be irresponsible. I side with laserlight that it's still an issue, but I think Mario has the real solution, at least from the sound of his claims.

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    C++ Witch laserlight's Avatar
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    About the encryption thing, well, it's always against contract for employees to dump proprietary code into the public domain (by posting it on a message board or whatever). The internet has typically been a thorn in the side of copyright law, and I really don't see how encryption solves the problem.
    No, encryption would not deter employees, but outsiders, e.g., disgruntled former employees.
    Last edited by laserlight; 03-07-2008 at 06:01 PM. Reason: stop -> deter
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