What goes up must come down – where have all the computer science majors gone?

The number of degrees in computer science has fallen for several years in a row now.    In fact, after 25 years of steady growth the number of degreed in CS and MIS  has dropped over ten percent from 2003 to 2008.  The percentage of incoming students that indicated they are going to study Computer Science has declined 70% from 2000 to 2008.

While the number of students getting Bachelor degrees has actually fallen the number  of PhDs granted is increasing.   This is due to the increasing number of international students getting PhDs in Computer Science.     The percentage of non residents (international  students) getting PhD’s in Computer Science rose from 20% in 1985  to 70%  in 2007.

The logical question has to be if enrollment in Bachelor degrees is falling, then what are all these PhDs going to do?  They go back to their home countries and teach!  They return to India, China and Eastern Europe and teach Computer Science.   Keep in mind the far majority of these students were funded by US tax dollars.  They were given stipends and other grants while in graduate school.

The answer to my initial question is all the Computer Science majors no longer live in the USA!  They live in China, India and Eastern Europe.

The following charts is the number of Bachelor degrees in Computer Science (red) and MIS (green) in the USA.

Bachelor Degrees
Read more at the free online book Reboot!  Rethinking and Restarting Software Development.  (www.RebootRethink.Com)
Digest of Education Statistics – various years

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. David,

    The reason for the decline in US Bachelors degrees in CS, CIS and MIS is because the “money” is gone. This is due to the fall out of the DOT.COM implosion and the offshoring of the jobs. Countries such as India, China, Phillipines, and Eastern Europe have the lower cost structures you talk about in other posts. Thus the business/management people (who hold BA’s & MBA’s) have driven down the needed/demand for domestic resources and thus kids who are coming through college in the last 8 years are not seeing a future/career.

    Now I blame the DOT Bomb on alot of us in the US, it was a feeding frenzy for people wanting to get rich quick for little effort. Both the CS and Biz people fed the monster on this, and it was unsustainable. The expansion was extreme and the contraction was just as extreme. But once the contraction was done there wasn’t a lot of re-expansion to a sustainable level because the amount of Offshoring picked up. The business people saw vast amounts of resources for substantial cost savings. And that was one of the sole driving reasons for all the offshoring. But again, that had its “hidden” costs and now some people are realizing that.

    I don’t blame the Offshoring companies, they did a great job of marketing. And they played the game of US capitalism well, and continue to do so. It has helped raise the standard of living for many in their countries, but it has stiffled ours here in the US.

    I’m not going to whine anymore, but just say that the people coming out of school over the last number of years have seen the writing on the wall and it hasn’t been good. So they are looking elsewhere in order to find a career and a means to make a living. Twenty years ago none of us ever thought our IT/Tech/Software jobs could be outsourced & offshored like other industries (Textiles, Automotive, Manufacturing, Steel). But we found out the hard way like other people have.

    I’ll continue to do Software Testing work, it still has some demand. And I know who my competition is, and how to position and market myself better than most. Time will tell though.


    • Jim,

      Thanks for your comments and I concur. It is interesting how markets work and how students saw the writing on the wall. It still surprises me that there are so many PhD candidates in CS that US tax payers are paying for. There seems to be some growth in students getting bachelor degrees in human factor design. They specialize in designing and also specialize along a specific discipline like biology, chemistry, accounting, or some other discipline. I think this could be the future of “computer science.” I hope you had a chance to check out my online book Reboot!. http://www.rebootrethink.com.

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