Is computer science dead?

Is computer science dead?

Without intending to do so, I appear to have launched a series of posts on the topic of Computer Science enrollments. I guess it’s been getting quite a bit of press attention lately, and we’ve certainly had our fair share of discussions on the subject in the CS department at BYU.

With respect to the title of this article, it’s one thing to note that there are upturns and downturns in any industry, particularly in one as volatile as ours. But it’s the “X is dead” alarmists (or the more subtle “Is X dead?” alarmists) whose arrival officially announces the popularity of issue X, whatever it happens to be. So here we are.

The author of this article leads by citing the article by Neil McBride, whom we already discussed in a previous post.

After some gloom and doom reporting of dropped enrollments, and a moving story about a young woman whose family insisted she would never get a job (but who did — wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles), the author settles into some decent analysis, culminating in some potentially encouraging (or at least pleasantly neutral) news.

“Some of the newer aspects of IT are more prescriptive; they require less innovation. Computer science is more cutting edge,” Professor Looi says.

The university offers a general IT overview in the first year of its technology degree, branching into business analysis, software development, system administration and computer science. There are 40 students in computer science, down from 200 15 years ago.

But Professor Looi still believes there is a market for purists. “There will always be a need for computer scientists or technology will stop advancing,” he says.

“It will only advance on what has already been invented. We still need people to create, but possibly not as many as we needed before.”

Or possibly more than we needed before…

Or possibly a greater diversity of professional destinations for technical people than before…

Or possibly…

At this point I’m just not buying the demise reporting. I think two issues have contributed to decreased enrollments: 1) the implosion and 2) the threat of outsourcing. I’ll hit those in greater detail in a later post.

Meanwhile it seems to me that the market is once again heating up, and employers in the Utah software industry can’t fill spots because demand is so far outstripping supply at this point. Salaries are going up to where they were 6 or 7 years ago during the paper-thin over-heated boom.

I’m going on record right now and predict that enrollments in Computer Science worldwide will begin rising no later than Fall 2008 (although my heart is screaming “2007!”). I further predict that Computer Science enrollments will exceed 2001 enrollment levels by 2015. Yes, I know about outsourcing. I’m including that reality in my prediction. I’ll try and write a bit more about that China and India and what outsourcing implies as soon as I can get to it.

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