Thursday, March 20, 2008

Outsourcing is your friend

Enrollment rates in computer science dropped over 60% from 1999 to 2005. There are lots of theories attempting to explain why students are not choosing computer science, but one that has popped up assumes that students don’t want to enter a field which they perceive as being outsourced. That is to say, students believe that a degree in computer science will only prepare them to do coding jobs that have been shipped outside of the US in the past few years. Fortunately, this idea is easy to disprove.

First, it’s important to note that the idea that computer science graduates are only prepared to sling code is absolutely false (or, at least, should be). Universities strive to produce well-rounded students who can not only implement projects in code, but think about long-term sustainability of the systems they design and create elegant, algorithmic solutions to a problem. The jobs which require these skills are not being shipped across the ocean. The jobs that are leaving the US are typically pure implementation jobs which require less immediate oversight and are thus good candidates for remote work. The jobs which require close interaction with users, such as system design, or require higher levels of interaction with an organization’s management team are less likely to leave the US. These are the jobs for which CS graduates should be prepared. Therefore, US college graduates should not be competing with overseas workers for jobs that may leave the US.

The idea that jobs in IT are scarce is another falsehood. By most accounts, the jobs available for IT workers are only increasing, and are increasing at such a rate that the current supply of US workers can’t meet the need. Hence, companies are fighting over the ability to bring in foreign workers to fill their backlog of IT positions. Hence the problem the past two years with the shortage of H-1B work visas. For a qualified graduate student, there is no scarcity of jobs in IT.

The amount of jobs existing in the US and the type of jobs leaving should give CS graduates something to be excited about. As the lowest level of IT positions leave, and more interesting positions open up, students have more opportunity available to them than almost any other field.

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