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British CS Majors Doing Badly In the Jobs Market

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the no-work-for-you dept.

Education 349

An anonymous reader writes "British CS majors do badly in the job market — with, four years after graduation, a higher than average (for college graduates) unemployment rate and fewer returning to higher education. Brit CS majors also do badly immediately after graduation. No similar U.S. figures exist reports the Computing Education Blog."

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Definitely not the case in the US (1)

redemtionboy (890616) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336640)

I get job offers weekly that offer to pay me ~$60/hr throughout the U.S.. Seriously, I can throw a dart at the map and find a job. I am a recent graduate of 2010. I had a job 2 weeks before graduating, and I was by no means an outperforming student. 2.7 GPA.

The difference between US and UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336658)

In US, the school allows the students to compete.

In UK school, competition is bad, because the kind folks who are in charge of education British kids decide that no children must be left behind so they stop letting students to compete against one another.

Re:The difference between US and UK (2)

myurr (468709) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336730)

They also insist on 'teaching' students outdated technologies based on theoretical knowledge rather than any practical understanding of what is required for a job in the real world. I've recently interviewed several graduates who have top notch degrees in CS and who claim to have passed programming courses but don't know the first thing about how to actually solve a programming problem - in pseudo code or one of the languages they proclaim to know.

The main problem they all shared was that not one of them had any interest in programming outside of their course so had not given themselves any practical experience. They turned up for their classes, studied the poor quality material they were spoon fed, got their grades, but then wondered why they didn't just walk straight in to a top flight job. A good programmer is primarily a problem solver as they will adapt to whatever language is required. This is not something that is taught or encouraged in our Universities.

Re:The difference between US and UK (3, Insightful)

msclrhd (1211086) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337162)

After graduating, it took me a year to get a job. This wasn't due to a lack of technical expertise, or interest in programming as a hobby.

One part of the problem was where 95% of the jobs were wanting 1+ years experience. What they didn't say is that they wanted commercial experience. With the remaining jobs, specialist fields were out (games, finance, etc.) as a result of lack of skills in that area.

With the remaining jobs, it was a matter of sending the CV out to those jobs. I found early on that I needed to chase them, as they wouldn't respond if the application was rejected. It was then getting feedback, and honing and improving the CV.

During that time, I participated in, learning about source control and implemented a simple application in my placement.

Universities should have source code control and bug/defect trackers as part of their requirement. This will help students when they get a job.

Also, Universities should help the students either get job placements during the summer holidays or to get them involved in Open Source projects. This would go a long way to showing experience and expertise. Also, the students should look at helping out answering questions on stackoverflow and the like. Then companies should be more receptive of this experience when considering applicants (especially since they can see the student's contributions).

Re:The difference between US and UK (-1, Flamebait)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336732)

I never competed against students, infact that is a stupid fucking idea, students are mostly desk droolers destined for mcdonalds, why should an honer student even waste their time competing with johnny stoner? what do they have issues for not polishing off a bag of cheese puffs and beting gears of war on hard?

Re:The difference between US and UK (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336844)

Ironic that while you were ranting about your intellectual and academic superiority, you managed to spell "honer" incorrectly.

Re:The difference between US and UK (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336892)

I was never ranting about my superiority, and if you think I am dumb cause autocomplete fucked up at fucking 2 am then I suggest you talk to some students at your local school, those dipshits couldn't even flip a burger without training

Re:The difference between US and UK (2)

Calydor (739835) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336912)

That attitude is sure to get you hired somewhere respectable.

Here are some more fixes for the first post:

Johnny Stoner
Gears of War

Not to mention that your last sentence is just an incoherent mess.

And the second one:

2 AM

Ending a sentence with a full stop is proper grammar.

Re:The difference between US and UK (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336936)

well I have a good job so thanks, hows that 20 grand a year English teaching job treating you? you know your flunkie burger flippers make more a year ...

Re:The difference between US and UK (1)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336982)

And there I was thinking precision typing was a useful skill for a programmer. I don't think I'd trust any major code syntax to someone who can't remember that capital letters go at the beginning, full stops go on the end...

Re:The difference between US and UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337178)

...why should an honer student even waste their time competing with johnny stoner?...

Possibly, so he wouldn't have subject-pronoun disagreements. Just a thought.

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (5, Informative)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336686)

> I get job offers weekly that offer to pay me ~$60/hr throughout the U.S

No you don't. What you get is calls from headhunters, like everybody in IT. These are not "job offers" but merely opportunities for you to submit your resume. And the 60$/hr is the going rate for those opportunities, not what you personnally are being offered.

It's an old scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336722)

They get your resume, they do three things with it:

1. Contact your employer and suggest they need new staff which they'll provide as their existing staff are likely to move on soon.
2. Look at who you've worked for and pitch people with your skill set to your former employers
3. Send you CV around to these companies saying "this person is really keen to work for you", and I've even had my CV sent to *former* employers that I would never work for again ever, saying "this guy really wants to come back and work for you", that former employer has then access to my current employer whom he promptly sh1t stirs up to try to get me fired out of bitterness.

So no, you don't.

Re:It's an old scam (1)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336750)

The saddest thing is that they don't mess with your career because they are evil, they just don't care. I received so many calls for opportunities at the company I was already working, it convinced me to get out of the resume websites and apply on gigs only via my existing network. Which anyways usually is enough after a few years in IT.

Re:It's an old scam (3, Funny)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336800)

lol at my last job I got a phone call to schedule an interview with myself from a company I submitted a resume to 3 years prior

Re:It's an old scam (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336906)

So what is evil then if not the lack of care?

Re:It's an old scam (1)

Hooya (518216) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336816)

I have been on the hiring end of it. I was disgusted and subsequently quit working with a big name 'Technology Consulting' firm - who shall remain anonymous - after their rep repeatedly referred to recruitment "sessions" (where they have a bunch of applicants come to their office and have me interview them) as "cattle call". Really?!! That told me a lot about how much value they placed on PEOPLE that they were working with.

How do you know? (1)

jopsen (885607) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336836)

As someone who'll be looking for a job in about 2 years, I have to ask, how do you know?

If anybody started sending my resume around with the line "this person is really keen to work for you" (without m explicit consent), I'm sure my union would help me sue the hell out of them... (Well, granted that they're within reach of the law, e.g. residents in EU).
But how do I know if someone asking for my resume is sincere? If he works for company X, can I safely assume he's not going to pitch people for current and former employees?

Re:How do you know? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336972)

I presumed this conversation was about technology/knowledge workers - not professions with unions (auto workers, teachers, etc).

Re:How do you know? (2)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337026)

For one, they're talking about the US jobs market- we here in the EU have it far better, with far stricter labour practices.

My advice is to only submit your CV to companies you actually want to work for; give any "recruiting" firms a wide berth (unless you really don't have anything to lose, i.e. you're desperate for your first job). And as a rough rule of thumb, companies don't contact you; real employers are more than inundated with high quality applications to muck around cold calling coding grunts. Unless you're respected and at the top of your field, the only people who will cold call you for a CV will be recruiting agencies.

Re:It's an old scam (1)

LordNacho (1909280) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337308)

A favorite tactic is also to suggest that someone you are working with is about to leave, and has suggested you as a prospect. Normally I turn to the 3 other guys I work with (all partners) and ask which of them is leaving. The recruitment guy normally hangs up at this point.

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336970)

And the will give you a nice test as part of your interview that contains questions you'll never get right regardless how smart you are.
They will mention that the position you applied for is just a level too high but they are very impressed about your skills and would like
you to join the company and work your way to the desired position. At $25/hr that is.

Or my personal favorite one :
You're invited by a Google headhunter and get all kinds of silly novice questions wondering what where all the bright people from Google are...

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337204)

60/hr is a measely 115k a year, assuming 48 40 hour workweeks.

This is the low end of what you should be getting offers for if you are halfway competent.

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336690)

Wow. I guess many of us have been looking in the wrong places.

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336694)

lol yea sure you do

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (4, Funny)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336774)

I know this girl, Melody, she makes 4x that amount per hour, however she only works 10-15 minutes stints, about 8-10 times a day. She also could just throw a dart on the map and find a job in her area of expertise there (unless it's in San Francisco or in Utah, but for different reasons).

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (1)

johnsnails (1715452) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336814)

I'm not from the US (from oz in fact), but u just gave me some stereotypes I will likely never forget!

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (3, Funny)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336822)

yea I can make 4x that much no problem anywhere in the country, problem is I cant do that 8 hours a day 5 days a week

240 bucks a week if I bust ass is nothing to brag about ... its just a little extra cash for savings

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336826)

oh I just got the joke (wooosh)

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337106)

Which made the "if I bust ass" line even funnier.

Re:Definitely not the case in the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336854)

Being a recent graduate of 2010 you obviously don't realize these are not job offers. They are consultants and headhunters sending out the same email to thousands of others just like yourself. Thats like saying every job on that fits your skillset is a job offer.

Jobs market? (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336646)

So only a few of them are becoming Apple CEOs?

It's not just British CS... (2)

mybeat (1516477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336648)

here in eastern Europe, somewhat 70% of graduates in IT (don't think it's called CS here) don't even know what DNS is.This number is not something that I made up. Part of my job is to review candidates for a job.Personally, I would take a dropout any day if he knows his stuff.

Re:It's not just British CS... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336682)

here in eastern Europe, 70% of graduates in IT (don't think it's called CS here)

IT isn't called CS anywhere. They're two different things.

Re:It's not just British CS... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336716)

If you don't have a passing interest in IT then doing a pure CS degree may lead you to unemployment. A great deal of the people I know working in IT have degrees in Engineering/Physics/Maths. They are doing complex work, they have an interest in IT, it still pays a lot of people a decent amount.

Re:It's not just British CS... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336748)

here in eastern Europe, 70% of graduates in IT (don't think it's called CS here)

IT isn't called CS anywhere. They're two different things.

Echo this far and wide, please. I'm tired of so many people equating computer science with information technology.

Computer science is the often-abstract study of computation.

Information technology is the practice of making computers work.

Good techie-types will know both, but don't ask for one and expect the other.

Re:It's not just British CS... (3, Informative)

Rakshasa-sensei (533725) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336860)

No, computer science is as stupid a name as social science.

It's called 'informatics' in Europe (not IT), and that reflects it being to information what mathematics is to math. It's such a simple and fitting word, it makes me sad that 'computer science' gets used so much and basically degrades the whole field down to the level of the social 'sciences'.

Re:It's not just British CS... (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336954)

The thing is they probably use different terminology. In Hungary you can become
1, programmer mathematician (literal translation) ( mostly CS, 4 semester calculus and at the end some UML and softwere engineering classes; they don't write programs in the first year altogether (at least that how it was in the old 5 year training; now we're doing Bsc/Msc as well )
2, technical informatician (literal translation) / computer engineer (officially used English translation) ( depends on the university; in the Technical University of Budapest it's a mix of Electrical Engineering , CS and software engineering )
However at the University of Miskolc it had a 4 semester physics, numerical methods, technical drawing, and mechanical engineering related specialisations and one for web developement

Re:It's not just British CS... (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336762)

I think he meant that 'CS' is called 'IT', not the other way around, but far be it from me to put words into his mouth.

While (IMO) what you say is certainly accurate, there *is* a difference in what "IT" is considered to be in different places. In some places (eg US, from my experience), it just means the people (and their skills) who operate the networks and services that are used throughout the company; while in other places, it encompases a significant part of computer science too, though mostly with a more practical focus (IMO). ...but that is just my experience.
PS. Why does this stupid /. thing ignore line breaks before '...'??

Re:It's not just British CS... (5, Interesting)

lucm (889690) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336742)

> 70% of graduates in IT (don't think it's called CS here) don't even know what DNS is

Might be a different problem but what I often see is a CS graduate who does not know what DNS is but that will talk for hours on end about the theory of distributed systems.

> Personally, I would take a dropout any day if he knows his stuff.

My former employer was always trying to hire people with masters or phds, and those would not only suck at the technical interview (all they knew was Prolog), they would also want to design operating systems or create search algorithms while what we needed was testers or ajax web developers. So for a while I proposed to bring in dropouts, but it did not turned out much better; a lot of them were basement-know-it-all with a lot of personal issues.

We ended up hiring a lot from technical schools, those public or private schools were older people go to get a new career after being laid off in their previous 10- or 20-year jobs. Not all people from those schools are stars, but the programs are usually okay and the best students are pretty good.

Re:It's not just British CS... (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336958)

but what I often see is a CS graduate who does not know what DNS is but that will talk for hours on end about the theory of distributed systems

I know that a lot of people who graduated in my class with CS degrees have no idea what DNS is. At least at my school, networking courses were in the Computer Engineering major. I took them because I thought they were interesting, but I didn't have to, and neither did anyone else. Then again the majors there are really strange and backwards so I don't know if it's this way at other schools.

Minimum experience required... (4, Interesting)

Manip (656104) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336718)

As a UK CS grad, let me say that there are far too many unemployed I.T. people at the moment, many of which have a decade of experience. You want someone who knows your system already rather than someone you need to train up to that standard.

The UK is broadly speaking a service industry country which means we can support lot's of I.T. people in good-times, but also means we have a lot of excess employees when the economy goes tits up.

Re:Minimum experience required... (2)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337046)

It doesn't help that most of the supposed IT people that I interview are woefully inept when it comes to anything above desktop support work. Even the staple (Windows) exam questions like "What are the 5 FSMO roles" or "How would you recover a failed domain controller" or even "What are the stages of name resolution" usually result in blank stares. Once you start getting into more complex questions such as the pros and cons of running different systems in virtual environments they mostly just give up entirely.

A lot of these people are contractors that are sent by reputable agencies as "the best they have to offer" and are asking £300-£350/day or more. Frankly I'm amazed that the unemployment rate for them isn't much higher, I can only assume that most of the time they either don't have to interview or get interviewed by someone just a little worse than they are.

Re:Minimum experience required... (3, Interesting)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337048)

I had that problem too but managed to build up a body of example code I could show to potential employers. It was all open source or personal projects, but it demonstrated that I knew what I was doing. Employers love that because usually they have to take a chance based on interview questions alone.

Not a jobs issue (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337312)

Whilst what you say may be true about IT support where the market was flooded long before the unemployment rate started to rise in the recession, what you say absolutely isn't true of software development. I find IT support recruitment to be rather sporadic though, there's so many good people out there who can't get jobs, and so many bad people that have jobs. I find companies desperately struggle when it comes to recruiting good IT staff- it's a blaggers industry, and those who are best at blagging get the jobs over those who are simply best at the job. The head of IT support at my current employer has the knowledge of an £18k a year helpdesk employee, and the management competence of a 3 yr old, and doesn't believe the company needs a meaningful security policy and so forth, yet he's paid around £40k a year. I know a number of vastly more skilled people who actually know about DNS, DHCP, TCP/IP, and know that there are better ways of setting up laptops than manually installing every piece of software each time (i.e. using images), who know about talking to people and don't run off to a satellite office where no one works when something goes wrong because he's too socially inept to face an angry upper management, and who can actually talk to people without jumping into a paranoid defensive mindset. Yet, they keep him, because he's all they've ever known for the last 10 years having moved him into the role from an engineering position when they decided they needed an IT department, and they think because I'm their lead developer I don't know about IT support, which is amusing, because I have more IT support experience before moving into software development than he does, but oh well, it was another reason for me to move on!

There's far more software development jobs in the UK right now than there are suitable candidates.

As such I'd wager this issue isn't so much about lack of jobs, but quality of graduates. If the graduates were of high enough quality we wouldn't have so many software development jobs that go unfilled month after month.

I've recently been job hunting myself for a better role, and had no problem at all- I had the pick of the market with a number of offers which I could confidently turn down without fear of not finding a job until I found one that was willing to offer precisely what I was asking (decent amount of leave, pension, ~38% pay rise over my old job, more senior role, enjoyable selection of technologies to work with). There's certainly a lot of companies on the market that are time wasters right now (i.e. they don't actually know what they want) but there are plenty more willing to make genuine offers to the right people. I spoke to over 50 recruitment agencies in the last few months who contacted me (which in itself shows how agencies are desperately fighting to represent candidates) and those I formed a decent relationship with and got chatting too more confirmed this is just the general way of the market right now, there just aren't software developers out there with a decent level of competence.

I think a lot of the issues stem from the attitude of many younger people today- A-Levels and GCSEs have been handed down to them on a plate due to the dumbing down of them and so they have this mindset that they don't have to work that hard to achieve anything. They get through uni (well, some of them do) and reach the work place and can't understand this concept of having to actually spend hours studying the technologies and concepts that make them relevant to the business world. But this in itself is an issue- those who really, really love computing would be studying these technologies in their own time, degree or not, so at this point graduate or not becomes irrelevant- it's really just about those who aren't willing to put in the time to study technologies to make themselves relevant and those who are - and it's the latter that are in very short supply, and it's the latter than industry desperately needs.

I don't think a degree helps you (0)

Fordiman (689627) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336720)

Seriously. I've no degree, programming for a living at six figs, and when I finally got fed up with the mess the last job's management had unleashed upon us, it took me under a month to start a suitable replacement job at half-again my salary. I don't know how that rates for CS grads; they tend to be kinda useless theoretical asshats until you've broken 'em in a bit. But whatever.

Re:I don't think a degree helps you (1)

dwater (72834) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336778)

Degrees *can* make a difference, especially if they are recent and cover recent techn{ologi,iqu}es. They are also *required* in some industries (nuclear, iinm).
Howver, the value in a degree varies widely throughout the world, irrespective of where the degree was obtained. In China, for example, degrees are very important.

Anyway, if you can up your salary by 50% each time you change, I can't help but wonder why you don't change more regularly...

Re:I don't think a degree helps you (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336830)

the joke is CS is never up to date cause the guy teaching it has been stuck behind the same unix terminal for the last 30 years and has no effin clue what is out there while dismissing it as "consumer"

Re:I don't think a degree helps you (3, Informative)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336888)

Meh, the joke's on you really.

C/C++ and Java still pretty much rule the roost in terms of jobs, with the MS .Net technologies bringing up the rear. Of these only the MS stuff is within the last decade.

Software tech does not move anywhere nearly as fast as a lot of folks like to believe.

Re:I don't think a degree helps you (1)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336964)

It's easy to get another job when you already have one. The hard part is finding one while being unemployed. You would think with today's economy employers would understand companies are going belly up all the time good workers are getting laid off but they'll just throw out your resume if you aren't currently employed.

Re:I don't think a degree helps you (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337054)

Ha, been there, done that.

At one job, I was the only one without any sort of degree, let alone anything CS related..whilst this was no skin off my nose and the code didn't really care about my obvious lack of paper qualifications and, fuck me, actually let me type it in then ran plus did what was expected of it, there was a fair amount of 'snobbery politics' involved revolving around why is obviously unqualified oik getting paid more than us?.

These prats *thought* that because of the bit of paper they held, that somehow made them better programmers than me, (scratch that: they thought that as they had bits of paper that they were 'better' than me. period.), this attitude is quite common amongst graduates, but is particularly common amongst CS/IT wonks. They eventually learn, though, usually.

I know of someone holding several CS related degrees who I would regard as a major menace/danger near any computer/network/project. The CV of this person has an impressive number of 'previous positions' on it, at face value, you might take it as lots of short term contracts, but I know for a fact that a couple of them were about the month mark as they were found incapable of doing the job. Their final year thesis for the last degree they took is possibly the most 'thin' (on content) piece of writing I've ever seen on any technical subject for over 20 years, and was the sort of thing I'd have expected to be submitted as a Secondary school report.

This is the problem, a lot of institutions here in the UK are churning these worthless characters out, replete with their bits of paper, companies hire them on the perceived 'worth' of said paperwork, find they're useless, and consequently won't even look at anyone else holding similar 'qualifications' from the same place. (In extremis, in one case , to the point of blacklisting anyone holding *any* sort of qualifications from a certain former polytechnic). Once bitten, and all that, which is really a pity, as there are some clever people out there amongst the dreck - they'll eventually get into the system, but I'm afraid they'll find it harder if their bit of paper isn't from the right place.

I'm afraid in the UK at present, people with almost any IT related qualifications are the new art students, almost universally detested and unemployable in any job.
Amusingly, with art students, the perception used to be Art Student == Lazy bugger, it's a bit more complicated when it comes to someone with paper CS/IT qualifications, when they apply for a non-IT job, apparently one of the first thoughts that runs through a lot of managers minds is
'why are they applying for this job as they're overqualified?... OMG hackerz!, they're after our sekretz...' - I've heard this from a couple of personnel managers, they regard anyone with higher IT qualifications as 'security risks' if they apply for non IT jobs

Btw, best programmer I know in the UK does it more as a hobby than anything else, is a mechanic to trade (read: apprenticeship etc, etc - which means he's also 'old' - in his 50's now - and is therefore useless as the market should see it), and also has an Electronic Engineering degree.
Give him reams of code, he'll point out most of the problems in it after just glancing at it (15 seconds to find a bollixed bit of java which had four of us scratching our heads for the better part of a day.

Best programmer I know anywhere, you present him the problem, you won't see him for a couple of months, then he'll show up with the code+documentation, properly debugged, tested etc etc, and he's an Electronics Engineer/Mathematician (mind you, he *is* a lot happier if you can express your programming requirements as some sort of mathematical formula..)

I am currently watching, with some amusement, the boss of a company slowly losing his temper with one of the IT 'teams', and they've just had an influx of 'recent graduates', things are not going well, projects are overrunning. Being selfish, I'm keeping out of it at this point, I'll profit from the mopping up exercise..this may be 'bad news' for CS/IT grads, but not for some of us.

Schadenfreude?, never heard of it..

my first guess why (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336760)

It's probably the teeth.

It's not the major. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336768)

There are 2 types of people who go for CS degrees. One is the type who is pasionate about CS/IT/Programming/whatever. The type of person who would be doing work in their field for fun, personal projects and really enjoy IT. It's their life. Then there are the people who were told IT was a great source of income with a huge job market and easy to get work in. These were the people who wanted to go to school for 4 years, get a 9 - 5 job and never have to learn anything about computers again.

The later are the ones finding it difficult to get work. Counselors have been pushing non IT people towards CS because of the money that can be made. But they then realize you can't get a job simply because you know computer fundamentals or general overviews of how computers/it/networking/programming work.

Re:It's not the major. (1)

mybeat (1516477) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337236)

Mod this up, one of our newest tech support guy has this motto: "Why should I learn anything if, I already have a degree in `whatever IT related`."

Self Employed Computer Scientist below Poverty 8yr (2)

militiaMan (672558) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336776)

I could not get a real software development job in the U.S. over the last 10 years. I have a BSCS from a large University and a 3.5 for my major. I scored in the top .001 percent of the math portion of the SATs. I have 140+ IQ. Over the last 10 years I wrote more than 1,200,000 lines of code yet I have had only 2 job offers and both of them did not really want a full time software developer. I worked hard yet I have been below the Federal Poverty Line for 8 of 10 years. So, for some BSCS people jobs are hard to come by. If you must pay for FMLA, Child Tax Credit, House Mortgage Deductions, SS, and other Nazi ponzi schemes for the rich then your even worse off. So don't give me this shit that good CS jobs are common and easily available in the U.S. For years cheap currency markets gobbled up all the jobs, and the Nazi regime pretends otherwise.

Re:Self Employed Computer Scientist below Poverty (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337008)

Do you think that maybe, just maybe, its your attitude that is holding you back? Most companies dont need insanely brilliant pyschopaths, they need people who can get shit done. If you go in to an interview like you should be running the place, they will have no qualms about throwing your smart ass on the street.

Re:Self Employed Computer Scientist below Poverty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337108)

I could not get a real software development job in the U.S. over the last 10 years. I have a BSCS from a large University and a 3.5 for my major. I scored in the top .001 percent of the math portion of the SATs. I have 140+ IQ.

May be that you'd be missing some other type of "intelligence"? Like "social skills"? You know, programming in a team is not only writing lines of code.

Nothing changes... (1)

Retron (577778) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336788)

I graduated in 2001 (with a CS degree). Couldn't get an IT-related job in my area as the employers kept saying they wanted experience. For some reason, the fact I'd built PCs for myself and family for the past 7 years didn't count. Nor did the fact I'd written several Symbian games and had them published, which was how I paid my way through Uni. It wasn't as though I was after high-powered jobs, just typical helpdesk type roles or an entry-level programming position.

The problem as I saw it back then was that there were loads of not-really-interested-in-IT people floating around as a result of the Y2K problem - people went on training courses just to make some cash from it, then once Y2K was over they had the much-coveted experience that employers were calling for. New graduates didn't get a look in.

There's a general perception in the IT industry in the UK that degrees are worthless and only vocational qualifications count. Being a member of the BCS doesn't count for anything. It's quite maddening (yes, MCSEs and the like are handy but hardly the be all and end all - a degree shows the ability to learn, an MCSE shows the ability to learn a more specific set of skills) but there's nothing much that can be done.

After working as a temp in a variety of offices for seven years, I finally landed a job in a school on the IT helpdesk there. I'm now involved in the maintainence of their Active Directory domain, as well as keeping our various VMs ticking over and dealing with software rollouts and so on. All for less than half a teacher's salary!

My advice would be not to bother going to Uni in the UK, employers really don't value it in the IT sector. It's a sad state of affairs IMO.

It looks backward to me (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337202)

You have a CS degree and cannot get an IT related job? I am an engineer who has designed, built and deployed high voltage and high current systems, and represented the UK on technical committees. I have retrained as a systems designer and I now run the design and development of a commercial software suite. But I can't practise as an electrician and I know nothing about IT infrastructure. I have people who do that.

:A computer scientist should not be maintaining AD or playing with VMs for a day job. Building PCs does not qualify you for IT work any more than replacing the water pump on a car qualifies you as a fleet manager. Writing programs in Symbian is not evidence that you could work in a development environment. I think you may have gone about things the wrong way.

I am currently looking for HTML5 programmers - not web front end designers - people who can work with my specifications and POC and turn out working applications. I have recently had to replace a support person (who we trained from scratch) with ECDL 3 with a graduate; the support person is already working in a new job at a major software house. There are plenty of vacancies out there but (a) you have to seek them out - agencies are good at placing people who really don't need agencies, and that's about it - and (b) you need to demonstrate relevant skills. If you want a job with a web design firm, design something that works, deploy it on a cheap server and send them a link.

Flipping jobs (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336792)

Hmm, as usual, CS jobs are mainly burger flipping.

All CS majors should learn how to say: "Ya want fries wizzat???" with the correct intonation.

I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (1)

pcardno (450934) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336820)

We don't recruit many people here, maybe 5-6 grads a year into an IT department of 80, but find ourselves wading through hundreds of applicants, most of whom can't score above high-school level in the numerical and verbal reasoning SHL tests that we ask them to do. Personally, I think we're doing something wrong in our recruitment, but after a 6 month recruitment programme we only ended up with 3 out of 6 grad positions unfilled this year. That's for a £25,500 a year job in Berkshire.

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336862)

are you hiring computer nerds or english majors

cause computer nerds tend to be pretty shitty at expressing themselves, and they use that computer for the numerical bullshit

and wow 25 grand thats just slightly above a high school flunky box monkey wage (and personally that is a hell of a lot more fun) dont be too gracious there

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336974)

The ability to write/speak properly is important no matter what line of work you go into. Regardless of your job, you'll be interacting with people, and some of them won't understand the terse techno babble that most geeks tend to talk in when they're talking about technology. You don't need to be able to write novels, but you do need to be able to communicate on a professional level. Sadly, this is not something generally taught in universities.

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337176)

Have you actually done a verbal reasoning test? Most go absolutely nowhere to testing the kind of skill you indicate may be useful.

If you want to see whether someone can communicate effectively, read their work and get people including yourself to speak to them over time. One interview session is unlikely to be sufficient.

Recall, finally, that not all roles require an excellent communicator. Since computing has become cool, there are more cool people interested in computing: their ability to present themselves well (and unintimidatingly - it's easy for an interviewer to think he has an extrovert all figured out) may not make them the best for the job.

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337164)

25 grand? that's a good starting wage for a UK grad in IT outside of london. I started on £18k in 2001. If you aren't from the UK, don't try a straight currency conversion. It's rarely that straightforward.

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337230)

Inflation puts your £18k at ~£22.5k. East Berkshire is fairly close to London. £25k will put off the best candidates interested in money, and the stupid reasoning tests will put off those interested in the work for its own sake.

Why are people even hiring graduates when there are many skilled people with years of experience now out of work? Your graduate is not some perfect blank slate to be decorated precisely in your image - he's merely someone with less experience and less proven ability.

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337166)

The problem may be that you give people numerical and verbal reasoning tests. You are employing a human for a set of complex tasks, not measuring a robot to see if its arms fit a slot. The tests confirm nothing more than an interest in primitive puzzles and/or having practiced stupid recruitment tests, whittling out the most creative or intelligent who are either unable or unwilling to jump a few meaningless hoops.

Since my 18th year I have given myself a rule to not consider any position which requires a generic cognitive ability and/or personality test. Meaningless metrics are the bane of modern English work culture, from "performance targets" which encourage little more than gaming the system to "aptitude tests" which test little more than the willingness of an employer to pay for another con-man's puzzle book.

(Prior to my 18th year, I did many of these tests. One was part of the scholarship which allowed me entrance to a nice school. They are not hard. They are just pointless at best and harmful at worse.)

Re:I wish we could *find* grads for my work.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337340)

Numerical and verbal reasoning - like very basic skills anyone should have? He isn't talking about personality tests.

Wait a minute (5, Informative)

Sits (117492) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336866)

The article says that CS unemployment is (5.1% unemployed) is worse than unemployment for all courses (3.8%) for grads from 06/07 four years later. However a larger precentage of the CS cohort (81.5%) were in full time employment compared to all grads (73.2%).

So things are tough for all grads and many are not going into full time employment in any subject...

Re:Wait a minute (1)

m50d (797211) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337184)

Perhaps the big take-home is that it's harder to get into further education (PhD etc.) with a CS degree?

Most IT jobs dont't need a degree. (2, Interesting)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336874)

The reason is probably because having a CS Major over qualifies you for most jobs in IT. CS is great if you are going to be designing and building systems, but most jobs in IT are maintenance. The problem is modern governments who think that they need to push more people to get degrees to have highly skilled high tech workers. That makes as much sense as requiring electricians to get degrees in electrical engineering.

Bad data (1)

sm284614 (946088) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336880)

I'm not sure of the definition of doing 'badly' here when the average unemployment rate was 3.8% and the CS unemployment rate was 5.1%. Is just over one percent more graduates not having a job 'performing badly?'

If you actually check the data that the article references, you'll also find that the figures included a very broad range of CS degrees, including any joint degree that includes CS. Also from the article:

It’s not all bad news, 81.5% of computer science graduates were in full time employment four years on from their degree, compared to just 73.2% of all graduates. For maths graduates the figure is 73.1% and for physical science graduates it is just 66.0% – though a whopping 19.8% of them are in full-time education.

As somebody who's currently teaming Computing/Computer Science in the UK to 11-18 year-olds this type of scaremongering is not helpful.

Re:Bad data (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336996)

I was wondering if someone else was going to point that out. 5.1 - 3.8 = 1.3% gap. That's not an incredibly distinctive gap. It looks like two percent at first glance (5-3) but even that's not really that much of a difference.

Though, going by a popular stereotype, maybe the difference is due to CS majors who move into their parent's basements after graduation...

Re:Bad data (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337314)

Welcome to the world of statistics abuse, counseling is recommended. Now to most people the 1.3% would just be noise, something surveys like this are quite prone to(and to be fair I doubt the survey data collectors themselves said this, but the media has to spin it somehow). I guess you could be thankful though, they didnt spin it is "CS graduates are over 30% more likely to be unemployed than general population", which even if the data were 100% accurate still would not be all that helpful.....

CS degrees in the UK don't prepare you for work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336886)

I am a Java developer with about 8 years commercial experience. I really struggled to get my first development job because every employer was looking for someone with at least one year's experience - even for junior positions! When I eventually found someone willing to take a punt on a fresh graduate, I was shocked at how little I actually knew about real-world development. Sure, I knew Java, the language, fairly well, but I'd never even heard of frameworks like Struts & Hibernate, I'd never done unit testing and I'd always struggled to understand other people's code. It was a humbling experience.

Fast forward 8 years. The technology has moved on significantly - most places are doing Agile now. It's taken for granted that everyone knows Spring inside and out and test-driven development is pretty much ubiquitous. I would be terrified if I was a computer science graduate looking for my first job today.

Interestingly enough only about half of my colleagues have computer science degrees, the rest come from maths/science backgrounds. I think that says a lot about the standard of CS education in this country.

Companies bring in foreign secondees (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336910)

is the problem... some tosser in Parliament got it so that companies could get around our foreign labour restrictions by allowing companies to set up offices in places like India and then bring in Indian staff on secondment for a year before rotating them out for other secondees...

Why don't they move to a real country? (-1, Troll)

jmcbain (1233044) | more than 3 years ago | (#37336932)

The UK is basically an amusement park for American tourists to visit. "Look, mommy, more funny teeth!" If you have a CS degree there, why don't you move to a real country?

BIg Book of British Smiles (1)

trinity93 (215227) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337000)

IN STORES NOW!!!.... The BIG Book of British Smiles

Now you don't even have to get on a plane. less snakes that way!

Offer void where prohibited. not available in real countries and the state of NY.

Re:BIg Book of British Smiles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337352)

I wholeheartedly agree, fine chap. I propose that we'll all go and enjoy some warm tea and crackers.

Re:Why don't they move to a real country? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337034)

That is the most hysterical load of nonsense. A real country? Funny teeth? And I suppose we have smog in London and everyone talks "loik wat I doz Mary Poppins" - you really do believe your half-wit cinema? Maybe if you lived a country where news programmes left the state, you'd know more about other countries. What a hick.

Re:Why don't they move to a real country? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337148)

Yeah, the UK is getting pretty bad with all these damned USA tourists. They should absolutely move somewhere tourists from the US avoid.

Good idea (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337268)

I am interested in your suggestion. Unfortunately, the only parts of the United States that I consider remotely civilised are New England and the Bay Area, and the standard of living there is approximately the same as I have here. Plus, here I have a trustworthy dentist with reasonable rates, a working and free health service, and a redneck-free environment.

Please, if by mistake you ever visit our country, don't go anywhere with a BA postcode as I wouldn't want our average IQ reduced.

Reminds me of Australia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37336986)

No graduate positions except in software development or pre-arranged graduate programs with universities.

Not suprising when we offshore everything (2)

Ice Tiger (10883) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337006)

I work in a senior IT position for a large UK company and we basically don't hire UK IT people for development, everything gets offshored to India.

Don't agree with offshoring as it leads to delays and higher costs but am not surprised by this study as high level management in the UK tend to see developers as bottom rung and equivalent exchangeable units so a guy in India has a lower unit cost per hour than a guy in the UK.

Re:Not suprising when we offshore everything (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337052)

Not sure if the culture is similar in the UK, but in the US managers really couldnt give a fuck whether the long term costs are higher or lower, whether the product ships on time etc. They arent paid to care, their objective is solely to make themselves look good for as long as it takes to get a huge undeserved bonus then jump ship before it sinks.

That's not my observation (1)

unts (754160) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337066)

Perhaps across the board things aren't so good, but at the institution I graduated from (University of Bristol), most everyone from CS I've seen since I graduated 2 years ago has a decent job, or is now studying for a PhD.

social engineering (3, Interesting)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337086)

50% of jobs in the UK are obtained through networking. The proportion gets higher the higher you go. (I get the impression that this is certainly true at the higher levels in the US but there is much more "competition on merit" in the job market or whatever you like to call it there - or at least competition based on the interviewer liking the interviewee on paper and at interview rather than having known him for a few years prior.)

Computer science types are not very social.

The economy is shit.

"People can design a programming language and operating system but don't know the idiosyncracies of the Java API!!!" has nothing to do with it. An intelligent man can learn any imperative language quickly and program well, being much more cost-effective in the long run. It is a mark of a mediocre firm to have an insecure interviewer who cannot handle that the person he may be taking on might have better cognitive abilities, so he dismisses him because he can't roll off an optimally compact/write-only Perl script from the top of his head. The better firms will challenge you with theory (not "write a quicksort" but "let's explore this paper") and ideas ("how can we improve...?").

That is all.

Re:social engineering (1)

tehlinux (896034) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337220)

>50% of jobs in the UK are obtained through networking.

That's pretty standard.

Maybe deserved? (1)

shish (588640) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337122)

I graduated a couple of years ago, and of the class of ~300 there were only ~10 who really seemed to know what they were doing -- people were reaching the final year of the Java-based course without knowing the difference between classes and objects, for example; and the university was dropping the "hard" modules like "how compilers / interpreters work" in favour of more "hello world in PHP" :-(

I'm *really* glad that I got lazy with the course, and spent my time writing my own code -- having a portfolio with a wide variety of open source projects has done more for my employability than anything else

Portfolios (2)

wrook (134116) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337256)

having a portfolio with a wide variety of open source projects has done more for my employability than anything else

I'm out of IT now (teaching instead :-) ), but when I was a programmer my portfolio was gold. It needn't take all that long to do. Work on a project in your spare time for a while, take pieces of code out of it and document why you did what you did. Because I was an XP coach for several years, on my own open source projects I did a kind of mini planning game complete with iteration plans, velocity, etc, etc. I included some of these in my portfolio as well. I got more feedback about that than anything else, which surprised me somewhat. One manager even told me that he hired me specifically due to the planning artifacts (which made him comfortable that I knew how to work in a controlled manner).

A lot of time people put in insane hours at work but leave nothing for themselves. It can really, really helps you professionally to take a few hours a week out for yourself so that you can make a portfolio. If you aren't working 40-hour-weeks, it pays to tell the boss that you need to take some of those overtime hours back to practice programming techniques. They get a better programmer and you get a portfolio (and new skills). It's a good trade-off.

My two cents/pence (1)

HopefulIntern (1759406) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337160)

I graduated this summer with a BSc (Hons) in Computing. It was just by a hair, as I was a bit of an idiot with my project work and my documentation was terrible. Regardless of that, before I even had my results in I had been offered two different jobs, one for a Web/ecommerce shop and one from a digital media agency. I took the one at the ecommerce place, but the company went near bankrupt after two months (didnt see that coming...they hired another guy same time as me, saying they were doing really well..) and after a week of "unemployment" I landed another job as a developer for a FTSE100 company. Again, they were not interested in university results so much as just what I knew and what I had done commercially (I did a placement year at another FTSE100 company, which greatly helped both my experience my CV). I am now happily at work here. The people I still keep in touch with from university all also went straight into employment. I should add also that the university I went to was not at all prestigious, more like (almost) the equivalent of american community college. Honestly from my experience I do not see a shortage of CS-related jobs at all, certainly not here in the South West.

Perspectives from a British CS graduate (2)

Sosigenes (950988) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337222)

I've just graduated from Computer Science from a good British university. It was a good university in the rankings and is well known and I worked very hard and achieved a good degree. As a result, I've had a lot of job offers with very good salaries for a fresh graduate position (£30k to £45k) and had to turn down quite a few and pick the one which was most interesting and enjoyable to me. Finding a job hasn't been hard at all. The same applies for the rest of my year and my friends, all had good jobs to go to straight after university.

I did a really interesting course, with a great balance between theory and practice. We have some of the best lecturers in the country and had opportunities to work with a lot of cutting edge research and technologies. You don't have teachers, but researchers and lecturers working on really exciting things and up to date knowledge sharing it with their students. It was very useful and valuable, and quite different from what a CS Major is in the US. We actually study just CS (A-levels and GCSEs cover what Americans generally also cover alongside their Major, which are done at school). What I learnt and did on my course has been invaluable in my job, so it was definitely worthwhile (not to mention really interesting!)

Companies want *good* graduates, not just graduates. As I've ended up doing some recruitment myself in my current position, that comes from experience as well! If you are a good graduate who has worked hard, has a passion and an interest, did a good course and is ready and willing to learn and give their best, you can't find enough of them and they will get good jobs, and indeed they do!

I don't know how much people know about the UK university system, but there a good universities and bad universities. Good universities are top in the rankings, have a good reputation, and are about learning and gaining new knowledge. Bad universities are basically a result of the government pushing everyone into higher education. To go to a good university, you need to work hard at school, get good A-levels and work hard through your course and get an accredited meaningful degree from a university people will know exist. All the rest go to the bad universities (which are more like colleges - polytechnics which werent even previously called universities), require nothing to get in, party and have a good time and get a fairly meaningless degree at the end of it and very little knowledge. There's a big difference here.

Furthermore, CS in the article is grouped as containing all the other related-but-not-really degrees. From experience again, people with IT degrees (completely different to CS - CS is technical, IT is "business thinking") find it hard to find jobs. They can't really become managers as they don't understand what they are trying to manage. They can't go into technical positions as they haven't done it. On the other hand, as a good CS graduate, you have a lot of opportunities in a lot of different areas.

In conclusion, a good graduate from a good university will have no problem at all getting a job. Students from bad universities (ones which recruit, rather than select students) and who do strange courses (e.g. Things like Computer Games offered at some not-so-great universities) or things like IT degrees generally find it a lot harder. Theres some big distinctions here, which the article doesn't fairly represent.

Re:Perspectives from a British CS graduate (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337270)

tl;dr Oxford or Cambridge?

Re:Perspectives from a British CS graduate (1)

Spad (470073) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337304)

There are plenty of *other* good universities in the UK, depending on your field; Southampton is good for Engineering, LSE for Law, Edinburgh for Medicine, UCL for English, etc.

From the other side (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#37337272)

Speaking as a London-based developer who's currently hiring, we have huge problems finding people (Brits or otherwise).

We've seen a lot of great CVs and great talkers who turn out to be shite at the practice. These days we spend 20m talking, and 40m getting people to write a small piece of code. Nothing complex, the sort of thing we got in 2nd year CompSci. We don't even ask for a working solution, just enough to get an idea of how they'd approach the problem and implement the solution. And at least half of them can't do it.

Languages etc. can be trained, and a good candidate in other areas is well worth the time spent training. But someone who can't solve (simple) problems in the abstract is useless to us.

Re:From the other side (1)

jameslore (219771) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337282)

Whoops, wasn't logged in. Abuse to this username, please.

Re:From the other side (1)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337288)

People like to speak in vagaries to hide any error on their part.

Why don't you post the actual problem you give to interviewees so other readers might offer an idea of why so many "can't do it"? :-)

The problem for UK IT graduates (2)

abigsmurf (919188) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337334)

After being unemployed for 9 months as a Comp Science grad, here's my experience of a typical job ad:

Junior Web admin - £18,000

Required Skills:
HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, AJAX, Java, Apache, SQL, C,, ASP, Active Directory, Microsoft Small Business Server, our obscure CMS, Photoshop, Flash.

2 years experience a must!

If the impossibly long list of skills doesn't put off the graduate (some of which are impossible to learn on your own due to the setup they need), the experience they require will do (should be illegal to advertise a junior position as requiring professional experience). Companies are completely unwilling to take on staff and help them gain the skills they need. They way all those skills, which only an experienced dev will have, then they want to pretend it's an entry level position so they can pay a highly skilled job the same as they pay people who answer telephones and type data into spreadsheets.

There are companies which do offer genuine on the job training and proper graduate jobs, mostly large tech companies, but these literally get hundreds of applicants ( show application stats which is especially soul destroying). Meanwhile all the other companies which make no effort on this front moan to the government that there's a skills shortage (which they're one of the causes of) and try to get them to attract some Eastern European developers and the problem gets worse.

But then, I'm a bit bitter as I've ended up as the sole web developer in my company (who's earning £16,000 a year after 3 years) and is currently on the verge of losing my job as it's going to be outsourced to Bulgaria. Of course they haven't told me this yet but I've overheard phonecalls they didn't want me to hear, I've been pulled off of active development work and have been doing heavy documentation work and reports on improvements needed. Guess they think I'm stupid and haven't noticed. Perhaps I am stupid for not leaving, just worried that I'll spend another 6 months on the dole which would bankrupt me this time.

... Wow, this turned into a really long post...

Computer scienceS - NB last character (1)

martin (1336) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337342)

From what I can see this data include Computer Studies and Computer Science, These are diff degrees in the UK. You can quite easily get a Comp Studies (esp from a ex-poly) without touching a line of code and just know how to drive Photoshop. dreamweaver etc.

The data needs more detail to split out a proper Comp Sci degree from the Studies degrees

Well (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#37337346)

As someone who graduated from a UK university (Maths primarily, CS second, part of the University of London) and works in education, I'll tell you why.

- The people who enter CS degrees have zero CS experience or knowledge when they join. Blame the A-Level's and/or CS being "playing with computers" in their eyes. On my courses, I didn't meet a single person who'd programmed for themselves (i.e. something other than a fill-in-the-blanks coursework) before they started university. I was sitting there spotting flaws in MSc project's code as a first year and being consulted by them about problems they were having, it was that bad.

- The people who do have A-levels have nothing useful in terms of actual computer science as opposed to "computing" (i.e. using the device). If you're REALLY lucky they may have done a year or two of some programming language (which could be anything from BASIC to Java). Blame GCSE's.

- The people who took GCSE Computer Science learned about the difference between batch processing and real-time processing (not what you think - basically a one-line answer that's hardly relevant any more) and how to draw pretty flow diagrams but no ACTUAL Computer Science and anything more modern than the 60's is generally something like "What program would you use to browse the Internet on?" (seriously, without distinctions between "Internet" and "WWW" and everything), or "What is antivirus for?". If you're really lucky, they'll have done some 1990's HTML to knock up the most awful web pages you've ever seen.

- The people who totally 100% ignore the curriculum, have an interest in the subject beforehand, do their own thing, get all the relevant qualifications, get into university and start their CS course have absolutely ZERO idea why they are doing it or what it's about. In most of my university courses, people joined courses because of the title (e.g. Compilers & Interpreters, Introduction to Logic, etc.) rather than what they knew, did best at, or would help them later on. The number of first-lecture-leavers for courses was unbelievable.

- CS people have ZERO knowledge of mathematics, usually, except for the handful that did Maths primarily. This severely cripples them unless they've bothered to learn binary arithmetic, logical thinking, etc. alongside their computing. Professors used to get really frustrated because they would have to spend hours going through binary addition. Hell, most students couldn't even work out Big-O notation without a TON of lectures on it. How on earth do you work out the efficiency of an algorithm, or how a hashtable works, without basic knowledge of maths?

- The universities can't keep up with the cutting-edge AND bring up to standard the crap that they suck in from the schools. Graduating back in 2000, in uni I was taught Java on Windows only - literally from scratch in the first two years of lectures - you could pass the BSc having never touched a programming language in your life because you had two years to learn one (it wasn't used until the third year) and you were spoon-fed it if required. MSc did the same, but in groups. Only PhD's touched other languages / techniques.

It was an old version of Java, an old version of Windows and you did nothing that pushed boundaries - I watched an MSc student applying minimax to a chess game in Java as a final-year course for his study group (for MSc you had to work together, for BSc, you did the entire course on your own). I kid you not. Hell, I debugged the damn thing for them.

Admittedly they had dual-boot Linux/Windows setups on every machine but they were NEVER mentioned except by the IT service guys. I was the only student I ever saw use the Linux tools, even among the MSc's (I assume the PhD's would have used them but they had a separate lab). Because of this, most people's work wouldn't run when it got to their course supervisor's marking stages - they had no idea how to program platform-independently (in Java, fffs!) and so lost marks because the program just didn't work on the Linux setup that the course supervisors used.

Basically, the UK university system is being handed a load of shite, students who have no interest in the subject, no understanding of what it involves, no experience in it, and the bare basics of memorised "facts" that are 30 years out of date and zero practical experience of applying it. They are then quite happy to take maximum fees from that student, push them through 3 years of babysitting, hand them a degree and then actually concentrate on the PhD's (which are almost exclusively foreign students in almost any subject you can name).

Even my Maths courses started with one professor giving out Baby Maths sheets every week for the first year (with the subtext "if you don't understand how to solve every single one of these, either learn it NOW or leave"). The first question was, literally, 2+2, and the last sheet contained some very simple calculus. Everybody complained because it was too hard and he was being unreasonable and condescending. The fact that none of them could do them after the first 4 weeks had nothing to do with it...

Almost my entire time at uni that was spent on CS was sitting in lectures (usually not listening because how long do you need to explain what a for-loop is?) then doing the coursework on the evening with zero reference to the lecture because it wasn't required if you actually KNEW the subject before you started. I was literally emailing my coursework from the lecture hall to the professor who was standing in front of me giving out the coursework sheet that I was answering. Sometimes I didn't even bother to compile it, it was that simple.

You couldn't do that with the maths courses, and you certainly couldn't have done that 10-20 years ago. God knows what the system is like now but, working in education, I very much doubt it's any better.

I ran my own business in IT and have worked in IT ever since. Nothing "fabulous" because you aren't going to get research jobs or work for CERN with only a BSc, but I never had a problem finding work. The alumni newsletter never has a single name that I recognise from my course, and if it does they work in a non-IT field. Seriously, if you "know" computers (not even computer-science), how hard is it to get some sort of work in IT? Not at all difficult. I've never had a day unemployed in my life and find jobs the second I start looking for one. The problem is that CS courses are useless, and the people who join them have no interest in anything at all (it's "computers", right, so it's easy and fun and you play games all day?).

I've worked in primary, secondary, college, etc. and I've been to university and the attitude is the same from the kids throughout. The uni's are focused on money, foreign expertise and pushing the UK kids (literally) through the exams to make them look good, and the schools are focused on the National Curriculum which does NOTHING for CS. The kids all want to write the next Facebook but most of them would try to do it in BASIC and get bored after the first hour.

I've never been embarrassed about my country's education system (despite it sucking), except for the CS courses. The fact is that any subject teaching stinks compared to other countries and most universities rely on foreign talent for research while CS knowledge just sits back in the 1960's with 2000's-style dumbing-down and marking.

Even back in the 1990's (when I was at school), the entire CS programming / hardware I was (officially) exposed to before uni was:

2 years of BBC BASIC (up until age 18!) - on Amstrad PCW's and Windows 3.1 BBC emulators.

That was everything required to get me through to actually joining a university CS course. For A-level (preparation for university), one of my classmates submitted a noughts-and-crosses (tic-tac-toe) application written in text-mode BBC BASIC that was nothing but IF statements that hard-coded the best move for every possibility. I kid you not.

This "news" isn't a shock. CS is the "easy" choice for someone who's failed everything but can use Facebook. Their parents will tell you that they are "good with computers" because they can setup a smartphone. I still have people say things like that to me now - as justification for sending them to uni to do a CS course - and then they try to tell me that the kid can do my job.

Hell, I spent two weeks with a work-experience (16+) student, who CHOSE to work in my IT department, who was amazed that there was something that let you control how the computer reacted to your commands (i.e. a simple programming language) and that it was free. He'd never used a command-line in his life. When I took the school filter off for him to go browsing about it, he Tweeted to his friends that he'd "hacked the network". This was a top-class, privately-educated kid.

I'm not at all surprised. And if what I see everyday is any indication, the next 10 years will be no different without a radical overhaul (i.e. if you don't hear about it on the news in the US, it wasn't radical enough of a overhaul to do anything).

Don't be fooled - the UK does not lead any sort of brain-driven league table. We import students in order to do that (my friend's experience in Biology PhD's is the same), pretend we're the best in the world (hell, we're British!) and other countries employ our students on the basis of that reputation - suckers! Why do you think we don't employ them? Because they're fecking useless.

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