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Will IT Jobs Still Be There?

By arsixsixwy in Internet
Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 06:57:54 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)

Ten years ago, if you asked someone "What is the Internet?", you'd probably get an answer regarding the basics of tennis or basketball. Such is not the case today. You will still, probably, get an inaccurate answer, but the fact remains that almost everyone in the world (or, at least, the USA) knows about the Internet. This is where my fear comes from.

I am a 16-year-old boy (almost 17!) and I'll be a junior in high school next month. I have an interest in going into the IT field, perhaps majoring in Computer Science or Web Development. However, it seems that because of the fairly recent explosion of Internet users, a lot of the jobs that I may be qualified for in 6 years, after college, will be taken up by others, and these jobs simply will not be in demand. There may, perhaps, be some sort of abnormal imbalance in the work force today thus making for poor job availability in the future.

Logic can only suggest that if the Internet only appealed to, say, 2 percent of the world population, then less than 2 percent would be holding some job concerning the Internet; obviously, not everyone would be working. But the Internet appeals to more than 60 percent of the world population. If there are 6 billion people in the world, 60 percent of that is 3.6 billion people. That's way more than enough need to fill all the Internet-related jobs ever offered. So, my first question is: Why are there as many IT jobs open as there are?

But, as a pseudo-answer to that question, we have to look into the "Internet generation" of students. If the Internet was first becoming publicly popularized 10 years ago (or so), then let's assume that the last 4 years (1997-2001) have seen the greatest numbers of Internet-related college majors. We've also got to visualize that not all of these people are genuinely interested in the Internet. These people might've heard that there's good money in IT and so they're making a career of it. This is also a root of my concern, that people that are perhaps switching their career plans 2 years into college (say maybe from music to computer science). There's nothing wrong with this, of course, but it does have an adverse effect on the IT job force. My second question is: Is there an imbalance in the work force today?

Lastly, considering everything I've mentioned before, what will become of these jobs in the next 5 or 6 years (when I'm about to graduate from college)? What about the next 10 years?.. or 15? Will a C++ programmer be favored over a web developer or a techie? Will any of them have a job at all, or will they all be filled?

Perhaps I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. But I think this could be a very legitimate problem. Understandably, no one can predict the future (save for Miss Cleo), but I'd still like some input on this problem.


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Will IT Jobs Still Be There? | 37 comments (37 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Relax. Prepare. Confidently apply yourself. (4.14 / 7) (#1)
by Speare on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 01:35:12 PM EST

Unless the entire world decides that the Internet is completely useless and must be dismantled, there will be jobs in information technology.

The buzzwords will change. The jobs will shift focus to newer tools and techniques. CGI may be relegated and JSP/ASP/Servlets/PHP take over for it, and something else will supplant them. This is natural and you can benefit from learning the dinosaurs-to-be right now. Knowing and watching the history of the technology will just put you in a better place against those who learn only the newest thing without any historical context.

As with any trade, the best things to do while anticipating a career choice are to Relax, Prepare, and Apply yourself with confidence. Excel on the curriculum, but that's not enough. Learn all you can and practice those skills on your own, outside the classroom. And when someone asks you something you don't know, fess up and say that you're not sure, followed by how you'll approach the problem of finding out. Being resourceful is "sexy" to a prospective manager.

[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]
Why there's so much work to do... (3.00 / 4) (#2)
by Speare on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 01:45:07 PM EST

Why are there as many IT jobs open as there are?

First, as you pointed out, not all of the people who are interested in the Internet work in IT. Even those working in computer-related fields aren't all working in IT. Now take out all the homemakers, salesfolk, dentists, lawyers and surgeons who are interested and dependent on the internet, but who aren't doing the IT necessary to support it.
[ e d @ h a l l e y . c c ]

Competence (4.37 / 8) (#3)
by ttfkam on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 01:47:59 PM EST

You should be fine as long as you actually learn your trade. There may have been a bunch of people in the industry, but competent people are much fewer and further between.

The love of money does not equate to a love of one's job. Usually what makes a great IT professional is the love of what they do. But then again, this is true of every industry, computer-related or not.

Regarding C++ programmers stealing all of the jobs, remember that just because someone knows C++ (or any other popular language) does not immediately make them qualified for a particular job. If a site needs a lot of scripting, database interaction, etc., then the C++ may get preference over an HTML author with a little bit of JavaScript under their belt. On the other hand, web design jobs usually do not go to programmers as their collective sense of aesthetics is usually seriously lacking; you end up with visually displeasing sites and a lack of usability.

Then again, if you're planning on getting a CS degree, I should hope that you can do more than web development. ;)


My advice to you is to keep your options open. You are still very young and it is too early (in my opinion) for you to be specializing. Learn many different, unrelated things. Be sure to take classes on (or otherwise take up as a hobby) music, literature, martial arts, biology, astronomy, history, politics, engineering, etc. Computers may be your focus, but studying other fields not only makes you a better, more well-rounded person, it makes you more marketable, and whatever field/career/job in which you end up will be more likely to be the one you enjoy doing.

Try not to think of high school and college as the places to learn about doing a job and then just doing that job when you get out. You must keep learning well after, especially in computer-related fields. Learn to keep learning.

If I'm made in God's image then God needs to lay off the corn chips and onion dip. Get some exercise, God! - Tatarigami
6 years? long time.. (3.50 / 6) (#4)
by rebelcool on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 02:03:14 PM EST

6 years ago the internet was just starting to come into the households of the 'power user'. I think its safe to say that any of the current languages in use for various things ranging from general programming (C++) to server backend (java, asp, php, perl etc) will change considerably in that amount of time.

Go with the flow. And dont worry about it too much, you've got a long ways to go.

As for which languages to learn, dont learn languages. Learn computer science, which is language-independent. Once you learn that you can pick up any language with a few weeks of work.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

So old, it should be on a tagline (3.60 / 5) (#5)
by slaytanic killer on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 02:38:51 PM EST

This question is a hard one, since we're judging against that insane boom where anyone could get a job. I once met someone who tried recruiting me when I left a bookstore, just because he saw me in the computer section. (Fun job though, hacking into clients' computers.)

As always, centuries old advice: Do what inspires you. Perhaps go into a situation where everything is stacked against you and people depend on you. FUCKING LIVE!!!

At some point, your mistakes will eventually only be subtle and easily corrected, you will know how much you don't know, and you will be competent. From an external view, all you have to do is be able to say true things that are nonobvious to most people. From your internal view, the world just has to be more interesting than that external one.

whatever you do...(rant) (3.14 / 7) (#6)
by buridan on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 03:07:10 PM EST

whatever you decide to do work will always exist, always, my opinion is fuck it/IT. If you have your head up your ass and are worried about getting an IT job at 17, you deserve to have one now, so don't go to college, go get your high-paying, exciting as watching paint dry, IT job, well go get one.

I have seen quite a few people come and go in IT at university, some had b.a.'s in an applicable discipline, most did not. Software development does not really require a degree, just the ability to understand, and model. So far, I have taught fairly successfully people who have math degrees, philosophy degrees, a liberal arts major, and myself the philosophy major how to design, and code scripting languages. Yhe only one that had any real difficulty was the math major who had an outstanding ability to write redundant code even after several explanations. I suspect he lacked the good hacker ethic of never repeating work. As for C++, and higher level languages, mastery of them is also merely a matter of practice.

Hardware design, such as processors, memory, etc. that requires a degree, but it could be just as well be a physics or chemistry degree if you have the right specializations, or egads a philosophy degree if you are working on the designs.

Ok, now for your questions:
will the jobs exist?
the economic projections say yes, that growth will outstrip demand. The real questions might be whether the jobs be in the United States. If I had a choice between paying a U.S. fresh out of school engineering student $50grand or an Indian gentleman with significant experience $50grand, I know what I would choose, plain as day it is to me.

I say it might be a better time overall if you spent your time pursuing a degree in Mandarin and Spanish with probably a minor in some technical area. If I'm IBM, I know that I can teach a linguist to program, but I can't teach a programmer to speak languages.

This is the old joke among philosophy students who end up as programmers of course, you can teach a philosophy student to program, but you can't teach a programmer to think.

You do learn something in Collage you know (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by delmoi on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 06:04:53 PM EST

There really is more to Computer Sciance then being able to hack in a scripting language. Things like algorithems, and advanced theories that simply wouldn't be obvious to someone who isn't getting a real education.
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
yes (3.00 / 1) (#19)
by buridan on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 09:55:41 AM EST

but you may have heard of a technology that people use called a book, most algorithms can be found in said technology. As for advanced theories, most of the theories that I've seen in computer science have not been that advanced that someone with the ability to reason could not come to grips with them in due time. This is as compared to some theories in philosophy where one needs to have intelligence comparable to the author to fully comprehend.

The main thing that I think C.S. does teach and teaches quite well is the concept of the project, the deadline, and how to work under pressure. These are all mighty fine qualities to have, but one doesn't need a degree for them.

However, i did say my previous note was a rant.

[ Parent ]
Your perspective is tainted by Youth. (2.33 / 6) (#7)
by ti dave on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 03:17:49 PM EST

Your recollection of the history of the internet is biased due to your young age.

I imagine it would be somewhat difficult for a 6 or 7 year old boy to have a comprehensive understanding of the entirety of the Internet.

Because I'm feeling lazy on a Sunday morning, and I just read this comment that summarizes my feelings about the perception of tech advances over time.

I'll leave it at that.


ti dave

"If you dial," Iran said, eyes open and watching, "for greater venom, then I'll dial the same."

Develop real skills... (4.45 / 11) (#8)
by SvnLyrBrto on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 04:41:46 PM EST

>perhaps majoring in Computer Science or Web

Get the CS degree. Real programmers can do anything. You can even, if you are so inclined, artisticly talented, and demand comes back, do web development. Or you can be a sysadmin... or a researcher... or a kernel monkey...

The people who can not find new jobs after the "dot-com crash" are not people who can write code. The people being hurt by the crash are the people who spooge out html, and call slapping up a web page "programming".

>Will a C++ programmer be favored over a web
>developer or a techie?

It sounds like a cliche, but don't concentrate on the language. A real programmer can write code in any language.

The REAL skill employers want when they ask for C++ is OOD/OOP. If you have a good grasp of THAT, you can do it in C++, Java, Objective C, even smalltalk. They just ask for C++, because it's the buzzword. HR drones and PHBs haven't heard of OOD/OOP, they HAVE heard C++.

Learn concepts and algorithims. don't muddle yourself down in the details of the syntax of individual languages. Once you're a kickass programmer, you should be able to take those skills to a new language and be competent in it in only a few weeks (tho mastery IS a different matter).

Above all, remember... six years is an ETERNITY. Real skills will still be relevant. But todays buzzwords will be in the dustbin of history by then. Relax, and have fun in college.


Imagine all the people...

Real programmers can do anything? (4.00 / 1) (#32)
by flameboy on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:47:37 PM EST

Hmm real programmers can do anything aye? How come 90% of the CS graduates I know can't install Windows or their own development environment? I only know one CS graduate who can fix or build a computer from parts. Sure they are good programmers, but not gods of everything computer related. Conversely I can assemble a computer in 15 minutes, have installed and used a large proportion of the OS'es out there and can make some decent scripts. But I can't program anything much more than a 'hello world' in c. I don't need to and CS grads don't need to be able to do IS.

[ Parent ]
It's too early to decide. (4.25 / 8) (#9)
by danceswithcrows on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 04:42:23 PM EST

When you're 16 or 17, you don't know what you really want to do. You think you do, but 90% of the time, you'll change your mind in 6 months. I thought I knew what I wanted to do at that age, and paid dearly for refusing to change my mind later on.

Whatever the field, there are generally openings for people who are talented and have some love for the work. There are currently a fair number of people in IT who don't have that love for the work, and a manager with a brain should fire those people first.

If you do really have an interest in IT, it's something you can work on in your spare time at this point in your life. (assuming you have spare time, that is.) Cobble together a 486 from parts, put FreeBSD on it, and read the man pages. Grab a good "intro to C" book and see if you can put together a program that plays 5-card-draw poker against a human. Study the code of various open games (like Zangband) and see how the semi-pros structure their code/ideas.

If you're into the creative/web design thing, use GIMP (or Photoshop, assuming you have access to it) to draw cool stuff. Set up Apache and play with mod_perl or mod_php. Learn to test your pages in many different browsers, including at least one non-graphical one. Learn to use the W3C's HTML validator.

Whatever you do, keep it within reason. In 10 years, you'll most likely wish you'd spent more time in high school getting drunk, getting laid, and screwing around than worrying about your future job.

Matt G (aka Dances With Crows) There is no Darkness in Eternity/But only Light too dim for us to see

It's a molehill. (4.22 / 9) (#10)
by garbanzo on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 04:57:02 PM EST

This one makes me think of all those "are you ready?" ads that Cisco systems was running about 6 months ago. The ones featuring ethnic youngsters in exotic locales spieling largely meaningless statistics in accented English. They forgot this one:"By the 4th quarter of 2000 there will be a massive oversupply of communications infrastructure and a good many of the people you loaned money to will be out of business and you will compete against your own hardware in the marketplace, being resold at pennies on the dollar. Are you ready?"

Which just goes to show that perceptions and reality don't always mesh. A year ago, IT looked bulletproof, a lead-pipe cinch. Then the new economy wasn't. And right now, the IT business looks soft. It will not always be so. Thank goodness. Perhaps some people who thought geekery was a quick ticket to staggering wealth will go somewhere else, maybe to the real-estate with no money down schemes.

If you like IT, go for it. There are jobs for smart people who like what they do. There are even jobs for dull people who figure, what the hell, it's a living.

I say "If you like IT" because not everyone who likes computers likes the business side of computing. I currently do the job you describe (work in an IT department as a web developer). It is not like what I pictured, but I manage to enjoy it nonetheless. If you go that way, I strongly recommend that you intern--find a corporate IT department that will let you work for the summer. See what IT is really like. For many, it is more like being a plumber than an architect. I code on my job, but I'm one of maybe three or four people in our whole company that does so (our core business is not software). Most are administrators--pointing and clicking. Others are "project managers" who select IT consulting shops (aka "body shops") and then read progress reports on the status of their "implementations"--in other words, they don't build the thing or operate it, they buy it and make sure the company gets what it paid for, on time if possible.

It also takes a lot of time, apparently, to decide what needs to be done. You may get to participate in an exhaustive study of alternatives. You may have to talk to "experts" in the field who seem to be in bed with the software vendors and have their heads up their collective asses. A colleague of mine once described this as: "we will do an exhaustive study of all of the alternatives before selecting the Microsoft solution."

Most people in my IT department could not code if you held a gun to their heads. Most of them don't want to. Obviously, there are jobs where development is a big part of the work--doing "implementations" for project managers and such. My experience of these people is that although they do a lot of coding, the ones I've worked with (or cleaned up after) have been lackluster programmers. Probably, the good programmers in their shops get to spend a lot of time cleaning up their messes too.

On the whole, there will probably be a lot more meetings than you think are, strictly speaking, necessary. Sadly, this last is true outside of IT as well.

If you can think creatively and listen to users and solve their problems and understand information plumbing and write code halfway decently, the IT world will beg you to work for them. If you don't like doing those things, better to find out as an intern, when there's still time to study something more interesting.

But don't worry about that shit now. Honest, if you can afford the 4 year vacation known as University, take it. Study interesting stuff--this includes things other than computers. Even if you love computers more than mere humans, look around the horizon. That will only get harder to do when you enter the working world.

sure, it's all fun and games--until someone puts an eye out

voted -1 for Odd Reasons.... (3.00 / 8) (#11)
by yicky yacky on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 05:06:48 PM EST

I know that I'll probably be deep in the minority here but I had to -1 this (not for any *real* problem with the article itself though.)

Firstly, as the ANALysists will no doubt agree, this really is DIARY fodder and as such has been posted to the wrong section therefore requiring a repost.

Secondly, whilst this is potentially an interesting topic which leads logically to the topic of 'the future of IT', I fear it will not be responded to as such. It will be replied to and commented on by a plethora of very boring know-it-all characters, who will start by:
    (a.) patronising the contributor for his age.

    (b.) using the topic as a broad base to bore the piss out of us with predictable stories of their experiences and observations which will finally lead to: -

    (c.) a tangential diversion during which the reader will surmise that this person has used the topic as a springboard to talk about themselves in a very self-absorbed manner (which also should be DIARY fodder).

Whilst there was nothing inherently wrong with the post (apologies to 'arsixsixwy'), I feel I have to at least attempt to save K5 by trying to prevent this potential menace.


yicky yacky
'The actual reasonable Britons are correct, you're being a cock.' - Hide The Hamster.
Stay technical and you'll be OK (4.00 / 7) (#13)
by baptiste on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 09:10:28 PM EST

The jobs will be there. They may not be 'Internet' related - but then again you never know. Computer science is a good start. While the web may not be hot when you graduate - some other type of programming field may very well be. You may also consider computer engineering which combines Comp Sci with Electrical Engineering with a digital tilt. This gives you the flexibility of doing just about any type of development including hardware design or embedded software design.

Your college degree is a starting point and won't necessarily tie you to a specific discipline - I was a Comp Systems Engineer and fully expected to design embedded system - I ended up getting involved in IT and the web when it first hit the scene in '94, then in '99 I switched back to embedded design. GO figure.

You can't predict the future. Just go with what feels right for you, select electives that support your major and also give you a wider range of skills that give you flexibility down the road.

As for jobs all being filled - I doubt it. The labor pool is in constant flux with newbies getting experieinced, and more experieince and promoted or shifting fields. So theres always a need for new talent. Granted kids graduating this year have pretty much been shafted - I job hunted in 1992 and it was bad - but nothing like it is today. But economic downturns aside - the jobs will be there. So concentrate on giving yourself a flexible education that will appeal to a wide range of employers. Once you get to your Junior year, you'll have a better feel for the market and can try to design a course schedule that fits the needs of the market place.

Lastly - good luck!
Top Substitutions For 'Under God' In The Pledge Of Allegiance

Learn the concepts and don't be afraid to check th (4.72 / 11) (#14)
by adamsc on Sun Jul 29, 2001 at 09:26:51 PM EST

First, the tech industry created something like 3 million jobs in the last 5 years, so layoffs on the order of a hundred thousand still hard qualify it as a dying industry.

It's important to remember that most dot-commers were ludicrously overpaid. With very few exceptions, most had very weak technical skills [1] or business experience. Unsurprisingly, the combination of a weak business plan and a herd of overpaid, arrogant [2] opportunists does not a viable business make.

The wrong lesson to get from this is that IT jobs are disappearing. What's happening is that the drought of easy money is forcing out people who never belonged in the industry to begin with. The people who Get It(tm) can still find jobs, albeit after a bit more waiting at the moment (this shouldn't last too much longer - after a couple months of nothing, I received 3 job offers in the same week).

The reason for this is simple - a surprisingly low number of people really understand what they do. For every good admin there are a dozen people who used a MSCE cram book or concluded that being able to install RedHat made you a Unix sysadmin. In programming it's even worse - I'm starting to wonder if the average CS program features a couple Programmers and a crowd of people who managed to bumble and plaigarize their way through graduation [3].

The biggest thing you won't find often are people who understand the concepts behind what they're doing and who, far from being scared of change, embrace it. This is fine if you're always doing exactly the same thing, which is true for some of the work you'll get. It's that other 70% which highlights the difference between someone who knows to click buttons in the right sequence and someone who understands what those buttons do. The people who become obsolete are the ones who don't handle change well - if you actually enjoy change (it's not always progress), this is a great opportunity...

The other big lesson to get from the dot-com crater is that everyone needs to understand business. This doesn't mean you need a business degree - a basic understanding of a capitalist economy and the ability to do simple arithmetic will set you ahead of the average venture capitalist or dot-communist. For a technical person there are two skills to develop - assessing the financial state of a company [4] and determining the market value of something you're considering building. In particular, there were quite a few dot-coms which would still be in business had they chosen to be small companies with the few (usually under 10) people needed to build and run the business instead of attempting to build a much larger empire.

[1] For example, I once spent 3 days getting ~5 people at a former pet supply dot-com to add an image link to a page. The alleged technical types didn't understand anything beyond basic HTML...

[2] Anyone else remember interviewing some of these people who didn't get the idea that pay and perks have to be balanced by ability? ("If all you can do is HTML, you're a secretary and will be paid accordingly")

[3] Here I have in mind people like the purported senior web programmer I interviewed who didn't know more than basic SQL and didn't really understand transactions (It wasn't even worth asking him to explain ACID - he probably would have thought I wanted to know if he used LSD). Other gems included the comment that using SSL took traffic off the internet onto a private network and a remarkably wrong explanation for DNS...

[4]In the last 2 years, I turned down offers for as much as $120K from startups in Southern California which fell into the "should be 2 guys and a copy of Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP" category. Unsurprisingly, these companies are now defunct, along with the rest of the "New Economy" manure.)

planning your life through college... (4.66 / 6) (#15)
by f00b4r on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 12:45:54 AM EST

Let me start off by saying that 'real' Universities dont offer degrees in web development... and if they do you should say no thanks. The reason for going to college is to learn theory and to develop your mind. If you wish to learn something specific such as web development save 2 years and goto a trade school. A computer science degree gives you a little programming background, but its main emphasis is on the theory behind programming (hence the name computer SCIENCE =) ). For instance, sure there are classes that teach you C++, but it is called DATA TYPES. Sure there is a class that you learn assembly in, but it is called Computer Archetecture. You get the idea =) For the most part you will not learn a thing about currently 'in' technologies like web development... and you shouldn't. That is the type of thing that you should learn outside of school. Its not to hard to learn on your own.

I am a senior in college, about to graduate with a CS degree. Looking back on my time in college I wish that I had choosen another major instead of CS. When I gruaduate I plan on taking some kind of programming position, and I feel that doing contract work and other programming related activities has prepared me more for my upcomming job than college. So if I could go back and start all over again, I would have choosen a degree in another area that I enjoy, such as math, while still learning technical skills away from school.

So that is something to consider. Just because you want to do something in the IT industry, you dont need a CS degree, just make sure to keep up with your skillset...

Choice of school is just as important (4.00 / 1) (#28)
by Secret Coward on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 07:07:21 AM EST

Let me start off by saying that 'real' Universities dont offer degrees in web development... and if they do you should say no thanks. The reason for going to college is to learn theory and to develop your mind.

Right after high school, I went to a small private college where I studied the science in Computer Science. Foolish, foolish me, then transfered to a state university where they offered classes in C++, COBOL, Assembly, and Visual Basic.

The state university also offered the core theory-based classes, but many of them were awful! The professors focused on technical details anyway. Slashdot is currently holding a discussion on CS books for libraries. Of the most recommended books, I have three. When it comes to the ever-so-crucial theoretical works, I am empty handed.

I know someone who went to a private school and minored in CS (the school did not offer a CS major). He is more capable than many of my colleagues who have CS degrees from the state school.

Moral of the story: where you go to school is just as important, if not more important, than what you major in.

P.S. The state school (I really regret transferring there) had a library filled with tons of journals. Unfortunately, they never had the journals I needed. Most of the professors went home at 4:30 in the afternoon. There wasn't a single good place to study. The administrators treated students like they were trying to swindle the school. And finally, many of the students were just plain dumb (most of the students knew the school had a few problems. Few of them realized just how bad they were being ripped off).

In contrast, the private school almost always had the journals I needed. They obviously put forth great effort to provide more quality study locations than the students would ever use. Most of the professors stuck around into the evening (some of them stuck around all night). The students were far more serious about their education. And the administrators were generally quite helpful.

[ Parent ]

go to college. (4.57 / 7) (#16)
by rebelcool on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 01:55:58 AM EST

The internet aint gonna be around forever you know. At least not in its current form. In 30 years, the web will have been replaced with whatever is in use in 30 years. The whole infrastructure will be (or at least I hope so...)

So dont simply learn the little utilities and what not that float on todays internet. Learn whats beneath them - beneath computing as a whole.

To do that, you'll need a good college education. Despite what a few have said about not needing an education... let me put it this way: If it was me hiring programmers, i would want educated ones. Experience is a plus, but that is something gained with time. A good education is something you can gain only through educating.

Theres alot of underlying theory and nuances that you're simply not going to learn by reading a couple books and hacking out programs. You do learn ALOT that way, but you need college to fill in the gaps that you missed. Plus to meet women and social experience. ;)

Much of computer science is based on math and philosophy, and you're not likely to pick up on those without a college education.

Anyway, the whole point of this is: if you understand the fundamentals, your skills will never be obsolete. If you only learn how to write a webpage or style sheets, you are worthless when those things are replaced. You will have to be constantly relearning, and retraining. It's alot easier to learn new tools when you know the fundamentals of them (or are designing them yourself).

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

On computer science majors - (4.80 / 5) (#17)
by ninjaz on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 05:46:44 AM EST

This is also a root of my concern, that people that are perhaps switching their career plans 2 years into college (say maybe from music to computer science).

Actually, empirical evidence (around Arizona, anyway) suggests that lots of people start out as computer science majors, then switch to other majors, because computer science is *hard*.

Possibly some have switched from unrelated fields to CIS, which is more about how to use MS Office and Powerpoint (i.e., how to be a manager or other non-technical person), but that doesn't have any bearing on people who are going into computer science. The difference is tantamount to "How to build airplanes" vs "How to be a passenger on a commercial airline".

CS *hard*? (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by phliar on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:00:17 AM EST

computer science is *hard*. ... tantamount ...
Wait a minute!!! You use words like "tantamount" and you're saying CS is hard?

Nonsense! CS is fun!!!

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

CS is hard (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by Cijpher on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 05:29:50 AM EST

I must agree that CS can be hard (for people that don't rock math). I myself am an above average in math and like (yes like) CS so I don't have that much trouble with the classes. However at our university we have a 60% fallout among first year CS students, most of them quit because it just TOO hard.

Secondly CS can be cool and fun.

[ Parent ]

Do you mean Computer Science, or the Internet? (4.71 / 7) (#18)
by jesterzog on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 08:33:43 AM EST

Something to seriously ask yourself is: Are you interested in computer science, or are you interested in the web? The difference is that most of the web-related jobs are very commercial, even if they involve some computer related skills.

Computer Science, depending on the topics you go into, is reasonably mathematical compared with just programming. There's lots of theory. There's also lots about computers, including networks and protocols and different methods of programming and formal proofs and so on. You'll get into the low level theory about how they work instead of simply how to call an api or someone else's code. You might end up writing your own low-level drivers for no useful reason but to learn.

There's not much web design, though. I'm currently in my 5th year and haven't yet had the option within my degree of taking anything like a web design course. The irony however, is that even if I hadn't put my own time into learning about web design and building websites, I'd be able to pick it up really quickly - and do much better than a lot of web designers already out there - on technical grounds, anyway.

The reason is that I've had lots of training in the theory behind information markup and spotting the types of patterns that are important in web design types of things. What I'm definitely not good at is sacrificing good theory for commercially practical and ugly kludges. (For example, using font tags instead of style sheets to be backwardly compatible to netscape 3.)

Computer Science can be summarised as a bunch of academic people saying:

"Let's test the limits to see what we can to, and what cool ideas we can come up with."

The ecommerce (note: it's the word "commerce" with an 'e' in front of it) and IT people are more along the lines of:

"Let's see how we can take the cool ideas they came up with and make lots of money out of them."

The frustrating thing about electronic commerce for me, as a programmer, is that making money usually means tearing all the cool and beautiful theory apart to create a big ugly monster that makes money in the short term. It means ignoring all the fun and interesting and long-term useful things for the sake of a commercial deadline, or dropping functionality so that customers can understand it, or (most annoyingly for me) having to avoid writing theoretically "good" code so that other less-qualified programmers can understand what I'm doing.

I don't really care if businesses choose to do that, I just don't like being a part of it.

So if you only want to get into something like commercial web design, (ie. if you want money from electronic commerce), take a marketing, management or information systems degree instead. Then learn the computer things you need to know on the side if you don't have them already.

Lots of people in commercial IT jobs are people who know how to write SQL or code in VBScript or Perl or HTML/Javascript, or alternatively administrate a system. The key point with this is that it's about using high level applications that have already been designed by someone else. Having this sort of job doesn't mean you have to know how to write a transaction-supporting database engine, or design and implement a synchronised log-based filesystem... which is the sort of thing you might end up learning about with a computer science degree.

If, on the other hand, you want to get into real computer science, then don't take any notice of all the people in commerce-related jobs. Getting a good computer science degree is much less common than getting a commerce degree. Computer Science is a completely different area of the job market from web-based commerce.

jesterzog Fight the light

Wanna learn a secret? (2.33 / 3) (#20)
by Desterado on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 12:26:24 PM EST

Your almost 17 right? Get A+ certification and find a job at a PC shop. Work at places like that. I know people who haven't gone to college yet, who are Sys Analyst. In the IT field experience and knowledge is much more useful than a piece of paper that says you passed a bunch of tests.

You've got the flag, I've got your back.
Nope (3.50 / 2) (#33)
by coryking on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:26:39 AM EST

A+ certification may be valuable now, but face it, anybody can do most network administration. And it's only going to get easier with out-of-the-box stuff (firewalls, routers, etc, all with cute little point-and-click wizards). The only thing you will gain from a certification like that is how to use the latest fad. When the next fad hits, you're screwed. A proper college education teaches you how to learn, and in the case of CS, the theory of programming.

Trust me. The company I work for is hiring, looking for developers. We got over 75 responses for one position! Looking over the resumes we got, I feel really sorry for all those laid off dot-commers who did exactly what you suggest. You're worthless, and any time the market makes a downturn (like now), it's you who gets laid off, and it's you who's resume winds up in the trash; passed up by college grads.

PS: Isn't your A+ cert nothing more then a peice of paper that said you passed a bunch of tests?

[ Parent ]

IT job market (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by Orion Blastar on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 01:04:26 PM EST

First get some experience. I started out as a student worker in a college computer lab and did everything they wanted me to. Train other students, unjam printers, troubleshoot hardware problems, write programs for student uses, debug programs, train other student workers. Etc.

This helped me later to get a job with a corp, then learn more things and gain more experience. Then when they downsized (its a corp trend that happens when Management messes up but they cannot lay off managers so they lay off the peons instead) me, I got hired by another corp and learned more stuff and got more experience. Repeat cycle, wash, rise, repeat.

The trick is to keep learning new stuff, stay current with the state of the art technology. Some companies use the old tech, but others keep upgrading to the new stuff.
*** Anonymized by intolerant editors at K5 and also IWETHEY who are biased against the mentally ill ***

Get the degree (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by marto425 on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 04:33:03 PM EST

Do not forget that n years from now you may want to change careers. You may get tired of hacking and want to get into something else.

Maybe go to law school or business school.

Completing a graduate program while working and taking care of a family will be daunting enuff w/o having to complete a 4 year degree first.

When you are young it is hard to imagine that you will want to make a career change. I am doing that and I am damn glad I completed my 4 year engineering degree back in the day. I have a friend who quit school to goto work programming now he wants to get out of hacking -- but he has 2 years of undergrad to get finished before he can go to graduate school. yikes.

Popularity != Job Market Flood; CS is transferable (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by kojo on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 08:18:55 PM EST

Is it just me, or was the first part of the question ignored by most people? The concern about 60% of the world being interested in the Internet could lead to too many people pursuing computer-related jobs?

I wouldn't worry about that. Just because people use [popular thing], that doesn't mean they plan to become [popular thing] professionals, especially if [popular thing] is difficult. Everyone on Earth likes to eat (or at least 'uses' food), but despite the 'popularity' of food, most people aren't farmers or chefs. Here in the US, running water, electricity and automobiles are terribly popular. The enrollment in Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering programs does not reflect that popluarity. I'm not trying to be a smart-@$$, I just wanted to use very heavy-handed examples to say: I wouldn't worry about it.

As for your career plans, I'd echo the sentiments of the others and say that you should pursue that which will allow you to do the widest number of things.
Short Illustrative Story: I recently left a PhD program in Accounting to pursue a BS in Comp. Sci. See my web page for more details. People thought I was nuts not to get an MBA in MIS, as that's where all the hot jobs are (now). I chose CS because it's got a greater degree of transferability.

With a CS degree (or more specifically, the education it provides) I can do almost all things someone with an MIS degree can do(I may not learn how to use specific apps that they learn), and a lot more. The reverse is not true. If you become a good programmer and gain a strong understanding of the theoretical underpinnings relating to CS, you can do anything. (At least, I hope so...I'll have to let you know for sure in a couple of years...:-).

Many of the jobs that exist now didn't exist 5 years ago, and may not exist in their current form 5 years from now. A strong foundation of skills will allow you to adapt to any changes the future has, either in the general economy or in your personal interests.
Short Illustrative Story 2: This guy, Philip Greenspun, got a PhD in CS from MIT. What does he do now? He makes web sites! The difference being, he uses his programming skills to put programs and databases behind the web pages/sites, so that they have all sorts of functionality. If he'd just focused on "The Internet", he'd have far fewer options.

I hope this little rant of mine helps. I've recently had to re-consider what I wanted to do career-wise myself, as I chose to change careers in the last 6 months(and I'll be 31 Thursday!). I know how you feel.

math math and more math (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by discovercomics on Mon Jul 30, 2001 at 10:55:57 PM EST

Study math. The more math the better. In fact if I had to do it all over again I would dual major in math and CS. Don't major in web development. Find a job, part time or full it really doesn't matter, working with computers. Don't get all amped up about the pay, you just want practical everyday experience. Your young, so get as much school as you can right now. I waited till I was in my late 30's to go back and I got a CS degree at 39.

Why math? (3.00 / 1) (#29)
by gbvb on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 01:23:09 PM EST

How many of the CS people who actually work in the industry other than the ones that do numericals or graphics actually use Math that much in their day to day work? .. Dont get me wrong. I love math and it is something you need to get a very good hold of but I dont think it is that essential for a CS programmer.. BTW: Before someone trashes me, I have been working as a developer for the past 9 years and with the exception of one job, I have not found a serious need for math.. As long you get pointers (*p), you probably will do fine.
But I would like to see why so many people from CS seem to think that math is very important.

[ Parent ]
Re: Why Math? (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by andrewhy on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 03:23:05 AM EST

As someone who likes programming but has never been good at math (i'm lousy with numbers), I'm wondering exactly why there is such an emphasis on the more advanced forms of math?

Right now I'm attending a local community college and after having struggled through some intermediate college algebra (i got a B, but it was hard work) I'm now taking a "computer" math class which focuses more on discrete math and stuff like modular arithmetic, set theory and boolean logic. Frankly I've found this knowledge to be far more useful and applicable to programming than anything I've learned in algebra (aside from a working knowledge of basic algebraic principles, which i find essential).

Now i'm familiar with the argument that math helps build logical thinking skills, but aside from the math knowledge that applies directly to computing, what is the use of higher maths like algebra, trig and calculus? (which by the way i haven't taken, so i'm not speaking from experience here)

I could understand if one was doing engineering or any other discipline that uses math on a regular basis. But for regular everyday programming, why would it be necessary?

If "Noise" means uncomfortable sound, then pop music is noise to me -- Masami Akita, aka "Merzbow"
[ Parent ]

Cause it's useful (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by Secret Coward on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 06:13:53 AM EST

As you said, a working knowledge of basic algebraic principles is essential.

Discrete math applies particularily well to computer science. It can cover everything from boolean operations, to recursion, to measuring the size of a problem.

I really don't see much value in Calculus for pure CS. However, many real world applications use Calc, thus if you ever work on those real world applications, Calc would serve you well.

Linear Algebra is useful in graphics, efficient problem solving, as well as many real world applications.

Abstract Algebra will help you create your own branch of math to solve problems. It was a really cool class. I wish I had done my homework :^0

Something you did not mention, is statistics. Everyone should take a statistics class! Try this: Go to the library. Grab a random journal off the shelf and open it up. Chances are, you will find statistics within a few pages of where you opened the journal. Statistics are used in every science and virtually all scientific research. Statistics will be useful later in life, no matter what your major.

With that said, few aspects of applied computer science actually use statistics. However, research to support CS theories certainly do.

[ Parent ]

IT? What the hell is IT? (4.80 / 5) (#25)
by phliar on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 03:54:06 AM EST

Seems to me (been writing code for a living for 15 years) IT is the profession of overpaid incompetent morons.

Ok, now that I've got your attention...

Computer Science is not IT.

The IT people are the ones who take care of the network and the machines so that CS people can play with them. So what do you want to do, take care of machines (and networks) or play with them? If the latter: take lots of math. Take courses that will give you a solid foundation in critical thinking and abstract reasoning. Study lots of different kinds of programming languages - Icon, Lisp, Haskell, Eiffel. If you're smart, you'll be making $120K in no time, while your "IT" (or web developer) friends are making $60K. But that's not the real reason to go into CS: the real reason is: it's so much fun!!!

Web developer and IT jobs go up and down with the economy. But if you're a hacker, you'll never lack for a job.

Will a C++ programmer be favored over a web developer or a techie?
If you're a hacker, the programming language has nothing to do with your jobs prospects (or how much fun you have). I've been doing C++ for 10 years; I recently switched to a Java job. And five years from now, whatever the new cool language is, I'm sure I'll have no trouble switching. Just like the other hackers I work with. Why? Because with CS backgrounds, we have not knowledge of one programming language, but an understanding of the concepts and techniques behind all programming.

There will always be jobs for people like that.

(In spite of everything you hear about the soft tech economy etc.... I'm still desperately trying to hire people.)

Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

Yes! This is exactly why I'm going back to school (3.00 / 1) (#30)
by un_eternal on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 04:12:08 PM EST

I work in the IT field now, making horrible money, because of the area I live in. Moving to were the money is is much harder than it used to be now that I have a wife with her own career goals as well.
Luckly she is wonderful enought to have said that if she gets the new job she is up for, I can quite mine and finish my CS. whoohooo.
Then again I'm a fan of network admins going getting thier CS anyway.

-Ahh...A nice legally binding electronic signature
[ Parent ]
choosing a school (4.66 / 3) (#31)
by f00b4r on Tue Jul 31, 2001 at 06:34:55 PM EST

One thing that I think would be helpful to know is that choice of school is very important. There was a time when I thought that any college is fine for CS as long as they had ethernet in the dorms... lol, but that was before I went to college. The quality of the professors (and by extension the curriculum and program structure) has a very strong effect on what kind of education you receive.

A lot of people will not even consider state schools, but often they can give you a decent education for a reasonable price. Graduating school with an insanely large debt is not cool. I mean, consider paying 250$ a month towards school loans... it's like having another car payment. Sure you will be making good money when you get out of school, but you can't always count on it. Check out US News for cs program rankings and go to a school in the top 20.

Some things to look for that are good hints the CS program is shitty:
- classes are named after a language rather than a concept (ie class is called Java and not OO programming)
- a *required* CS course teaches HTML
- Computer Introduction 101 counts towards your CS requirement
- a class that puts emphasis on learning logical thinking is missing from the required courses (ie some kind of circuit design class, math classes such as discrete math, or similar..).
- The program requires a lot of liberal arts classes (rather than giving you an option to take either technical or liberal arts classes). Don't get me wrong it is important to take some literature, history, government, psychology... but don't go overboard. You're getting a CS degree to learn the theory behind computer science, not how to write great term papers (although enrolling in a technical documentation writing class is a good thing 8:-) )

Good luck... college is hard, but not too hard heh.

Internet Appeals To 60% Of World Population? (none / 0) (#34)
by concept on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 01:42:06 AM EST

Err, I hope you'll explain where this was pulled from? For I have heard (more believable) statistics that ~70% of people in the world has never even used a telephone, let alone SEEN a computer, had ACCESS to one long enough to LEARN how to use it, had NET ACCESS long enough to get something from it in THEIR LANGUAGE. I mean, get real. The 'net is a global upper-class technology, and although the capitalist 'trickle-down' is occurring, it sure as hell aint very fast. Even here in Sydney, Australia, cable or DSL broadband is pretty much unavailable to most people. (Most == upwards of 80%). Internet is often touted as a great equaliser, but unfortunately, it's not nearly as widely available or powerful as many people believe.

IT is for people with delusions of adequacy (none / 0) (#37)
by jglassco on Wed Aug 01, 2001 at 10:49:50 PM EST

First of all, I thought I smelled a troll in arsixsixwy's post. The spelling and grammar are too correct and the subject is rather passé. However, in reviewing his résumé, it seems he might be an earnest young lad worthy of the collective tidbits of our experience, and, with hope, wisdom.

IT is like being a grease monkey (as opposed to a real automechanic who understands the engineering behind the components in a car, thus able to inductively reason what the trouble is). Read the BOFH files on The Register for a great chuckle that is often closer to the truth than it seems at face value.

I echo the advice regarding taking lots of math and logical thinking courses, but wish to emphasize that liberal arts courses are absolutely essential. You might be trained to reason well, but the liberal arts courses will give you a strong background in order to think about something useful, to care about the future for all, and to have lasting and abiding passions.

The hardest part of CS classes for most people is to come up with an idea of WHAT to program, rather than how to program. Another key asset of a well-rounded liberal arts education is in considering GUIs. You must consider how usrs think and interact with an interface and make it intuitive.

Save the world, kill Microsoft!
Will IT Jobs Still Be There? | 37 comments (37 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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