Are there jobs or aren’t there?

February 24, 2010 at 1:35 pm 7 comments

Network World News had an article that several people sent to me, about the enormous growth of jobs for graduates with CS degrees.

“I think the job market is what’s driving the growth,” says Professor Bruce Porter, Chair of the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, which has seen its enrollment increase more than 5% this year. “The government has made it clear that computer science is a growth field, and I think that message is getting back to students and their parents.”

Corporate recruitment of top computer science grads has remained steady throughout the economic downturn. Last spring, at the height of the recession, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing had the highest job placement rate of any major on campus and the highest starting salary.

via Want a job? Get a computer science degree.

This morning, my colleague Aaron Lanterman sent me a link to a blog he follows, by an engineer working for NASA, whose job it is to make sure that the fuel tank doesn’t blow up the shuttle when the tank drops away.  He’s about to lose his job, due to the end of the shuttle program, and he’s upset with the focus on engineer education.

Coming down from on high today, in a different but nonetheless highly-public venue/context, is the word from Corporate:

It’s terribly important that something be done about the dire state of engineering education. This country (and thus, by extension this engineering-heavy enormous American corporation) is suffering from a terrible engineering shortage.

Huh? Run that by me again, please? And this time try to spin it so it makes sense using Earth Logic(tm) rather than Corporate Logic?

Are there jobs out there, or aren’t there?  Or is it all a bit of spin?  Note that the Network World News article talks about enrollment being up.  It’s up for us, too — in comparison.  Today, we have 800-900 BS in CS majors (depending on how you count), and about 300 BS in CM majors, for a total of (at most) 1200.  In 2001, we had 1500 BS in CS majors.  We’re “up” in comparison with how “down” we were.  I believe that new graduates are getting jobs, and those jobs have good salaries.  All graduates?  And what happens after that?

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alfred Thompson  |  February 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    The word that there are more engineering jobs is coming from the department of labor statistics as well as individual companies. I know there is a backlash out there that says that companies are just looking to flood the market to reduce salaries but I don’t see it.

    I also know a number of highly experienced engineers who are having trouble getting new jobs after layoffs. I think the reasons for this are a lot more complicated then “there are not jobs” or even “no one wants to pay enough for experience.” Sometimes it has to do with the engineer themselves. Not keeping current perhaps or not having the right skill set for the particular job. I had one persona advise me once that “there are jobs out there but they may not be doing what you want to do and they may not be located where you want to live.” And that is often the case.

    of course one thing that experienced software engineering types often overlook but younger people and recent graduates don’t is that it has never been easier to start your own software or software dependent business. There are many problems that engineering, especially not not just software, can solve today and make a business from if people have the ideas, the training, and the will to make something happen.

  • 2. Bonnie MacKellar  |  February 25, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    There are jobs if you happen to have exactly 3 to 5 years of experience in version 3.0 of technology XYZ that the company needs right at that moment. Of course, you will then spend the next 5 years working on technology XYZv3.0, with no time for training in anything else, and once you get laid off again, the market will have moved on and you will now be unemployable. I have seen it happen over and over. The students understand this problem – that there is no long term career as a software engineer these days. If companies really needed people that badly, they would spend the money to keep their employees up to date. They would be willing to hire good, experienced developers who just happen to know slightly different technologies, and then train them in the needed technology. The job market has been very difficult for experienced software engineers since the dot-com bust, and I don’t see it improving.

    • 3. Alfred Thompson  |  February 25, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      I worked for a company where managers were evaluated in part of if the people who worked for them recieved at least two weeks of growth training a year. This was an incentive for managers to make sure their employees were trained. Like many companies that one (and my present employer) also pay for schooling taken outside of work hours. My previous employer paid for my master degree and even supplied meeting rooms (free) for some of the courses taught. So some companies to support continuing education. Not all employees are willing to take any training ourside of work hours. That’s a problem with continuing professional development of teachers as well BTW.
      I do agree that all too often companies don’t invent enough in training their employees but many large coompanies do work at it.
      But I also believe that an employee has a responsibility to themselves to make the time to learn new things. That was the big lesson for me when I was laid off 16 years ago. The product knowledge that got me my current job were almost all developed on my own time and on my own dime. It was an investment well worth making. I continue to work to learn new things in order to stay relevent to my employer and to other prospects should I need/desire them in the future.

    • 4. Erik Engbrecht  |  February 25, 2010 at 7:44 pm

      Have you seen blogs/articles like this:

      or perhaps more solidly grounded:

      Click to access NNPP_Article.pdf

      If you spend much time going through mailing lists, forums, etc I think you’ll find many, many discussions where people lament the “average programmer” and how he shouldn’t be allowed within 50 feet of a keyboard. In fact many believe that this not only applies to the “average programmer,” but to all but ~10%-20% of programmers.

      I hate to say it, but by and large I think employers are getting screwed by their programming staffs.

      Some react with stringent interview processes. Others are lazy and adopt the kind of inane job requirements you describe. Some probably even do both.

      So the search for good programmers is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, and employers lament that they keep on getting hay instead of needles. Meanwhile some needles lament that employers can’t find them in the see a hay…and a lot of hay laments the tough job market.

      Also, going along Alfred’s point in a little meaner line, if programmers are so desperate for jobs, why can’t they find time to keep their skills up? Why do they expect their employers to provide them with the time and resources?

  • 5. Erik Engbrecht  |  February 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    BTW – Congrats to GT on placing it’s CS graduates. I worked a bit with an intern from GT last summer, and I have to say I’m not in the least bit surprised that you’re successful. Keep up the good work!

  • […] this blog, not just because we’ve talked often here about the state of STEM hiring, and about the mixed messages that we get about whether or not there is a shortage of CS/IT jobs or not.  Read the comments after the article.  A great many of them are from CS graduate students or […]

  • […] 4, 2010 This report supports the hypothesis that I’ve heard from many people explaining the contradictory messages, from employers saying there aren’t enough candidates, to unemployed workers saying that they […]


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