6 March 2004

The number of students majoring in computer science is falling

Why is this surprising?

As a professional programmer, I've been replaced three times now by cheaper programmers in India (and Mexico) or from H1-B imported labor. But I'm blessed as I've latched onto a service partner gig that has me traveling across the country but at least I'm "economically viable" for the present time. Unlike many of my friends and ex-colleagues who've been forced to pursue alternate career paths. Or the few that have managed to hang on and are hoping to last a few years until retirement. In the service of some of the biggest corporations, I've had executive management tell me to my face that "programmers were a dime-a-dozen" and they desired nothing more than to send all technical positions to "offshore vendors". When I asked one VP if there was any future for someone technically inclined, he replied that I should pursue opportunites with one of the approved "offshore vendors". Another IT VP at another company said flat-out he'd outsource his mother if he could. Even Gates and Microsoft have undertaken a big campaign to outsource to India.

At my current consulting site, hundreds of Indians on visas have been brought in. Many are making the same wages as we used to pay college interns in the 80s. Why would any young person, unless they were super passionate about the profession and tossed caution to the wind, choose to enter a career path that is unsecure, requires long hours and with pay dipping down into the range where retail service jobs are. The assault on future youth prospects started in the 90s with the large scale importation of H1-Bs. Training programs for entry level programmers were shelved. The late 90s saw established programmers sacrificed at the altar of cheaper labor. Parents like me steer their children away from computer science study, instead recommending another discipline and study in computers to augment that field. Or they witness first hand what is going on.

In addition, most studies have revealed that college age youth are the most money conscious and focused in history. This should not shock anyone either, given the fall in standard of living for those with high school educations or college degrees that don't provide big bucks. In two generations, the U.S. has economically receded - my father, approaching 70 now, grew up in an age where someone who didn't even have a high school diploma, could get a manufacturing job and provide for his family as a single breadwinner.


Because we can do most of our work online and on the phone, we're thinking about "outsourcing" ourselves to someplace like Costa Rica where the cost of living is much lower.