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The Major Wars

May 3, 2012

If you’ve read more than a few posts on here you know one of my favorite topics is to discuss the various college majors and their effects on the kids who are choosing them and going off into the world. I also talked about software “engineering” in particular. Mostly that there are two to four times the number of open software jobs versus any other discipline. Unfortunately, this message hasn’t hit the college advisers yet. Engineers are still pretty evenly spread in college majors despite the huge demand for software developers.

So knowing all this, and knowing that if the STEM job market is supposedly so great, Bloomberg is publishing a pretty counter intuitive article; Software Engineers Will Work One Day For English Majors. The article admits that as far as college majors go software developing is extremely lucrative.

The article then complains that by age 40 most software engineers are out of work. Employers don’t like hiring “older” developers. I also agree that as the article states H-1B Visas become a problem as well. These workers tend to be temporary and so are younger than many Americans looking for jobs. By the 50s as the article states you can move into management but the jobs are fewer and fewer.

The author, Norman Matloff, a professor of computer science, writes a very smart article with a lot of good points. A lot of issues that I have lamented: the ceiling on engineering salaries, the preponderance of H-1B Visas, and the difficulty in engineers transitioning into management and the lack of senior level technical positions available for engineers. But Bloomberg was wrong to title the article that software engineers will one day work for English majors. On the contrary, software engineers and English majors will keep working for engineers. Engineers with higher salaries will always have an advantage over staying in the middle class and paying off their student loans over their liberal arts counterparts. There are definitely a lot of problems in engineering and in software engineering and how it’s respected (or rather, not respected) in the workplace. But for many, it might still be a better choice than encouraging more people into majors that don’t necessarily have jobs. (Photo from jot.punkt)

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 21, 2012 4:10 am

    I would like to see data that shows engineering majors or software engineers are in trouble later in their careers – I don’t believe it. There are lots of engineers (in every discipline) that actually don’t work as engineers (they are more entrepreneurial than average, they often get promoted to jobs as supervisors and managers…). I believe (but don’t have data) that the over 40 stuff is overblown. The culture of the USA in general loves the young, the new… Yes often the extreme dedication possible at 25 is less at 45. But there is quite a bit of wisdom that lets the 50 year old developer (if they have the same love of software) to be very productive. On average they are probably less likely to have the crazy success but they are also less likely to go down in flames with crazy ideas.

    All the data I remember (though going from memory isn’t the greatest idea) shows engineers are making lots later in life. I do think the $ advantages they have right out of college decrease (so they are not as far ahead at 50 as at 25 (again, from memory).

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