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In UK, Computer Science Graduates the Least Employable 349

Rogerborg writes "The BBC reports that in the UK, computer science graduates are now the least employable of students leaving with a degree, 17% of them being unable to find a job within six months of graduation. Unsurprisingly, medics, educators and lawyers do better, but even much mocked communications and creative arts graduates are finding work more easily."
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In UK, Computer Science Graduates the Least Employable

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  • by owlstead ( 636356 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:49AM (#32770436)

    Well, congratulations of doing so well, but not everybody can be a high payed consultant, and if everyone was writing two books we'd be overrun by books and would have to hold book burning sessions. Be glad you've got a good set of brains and a good upbringing, but stop gloating.

  • Expectations (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Kryptikmo ( 1256514 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:55AM (#32770472)
    It may well be that CompSci grads have higher expectations and refuse to take the first thing offered to them. When you hear about the salaries talked about on /., HN and Reddit, who the hell wants to take a job for £15k working for Asda as a maintenance programmer?

    Another aspect is: how many CompSci grads will initially attempt to start their own consultancy or work freelance as opposed to Creative Arts grads? And what percentage of them will be successful? It's impossible to draw too much from these statistics, because they assume that all graduates are equally suited to traditional employment, and that traditional employment is what they seek. With CompSci, where you can make a living as a freelancer without needing too many contacts or a huge reputation, it ain't necessarily so...
  • by Burnhard ( 1031106 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @05:58AM (#32770480)
    This is the main issue I think. An experienced candidate is almost always preferred to an inexperienced one. During a recession this is particularly true because taking on a new member of staff is both a cost and a risk. Given the pool of experienced candidates has increased (due to immigration), I'm not surprised new UK graduates are finding it harder to find work.
  • Re:Stats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:04AM (#32770512) Journal

    So 83% are finding jobs within 6 months?

    No. If 17% is unable to, it may well mean that 51% never even tried.

  • by Leon Buijs ( 545859 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:04AM (#32770522) Homepage
    I'm not sure exactly what schools are meant by 'creative arts' but in the Netherlands - and I bet in most of the Western world - art school students with a degree are have a lot of trouble finding a job at all in arts. So 83% is a fantastic score, specially considering the economic being unstable etc.
  • furth news. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjwt ( 161428 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:06AM (#32770530)

    "but even much mocked communications and creative arts graduates are finding work more easily"

    In realted news, mcdonalds hasnt had trouble filling job vacancies

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:10AM (#32770554) Journal

    The fact that they only mention "jobs" without distinction for what job level or type, and can include arts and communication skills majors in the same statistics make me think it might be a more mundane aspect to it than "CS graduates are less employable."

    More likely, some 17% of CS graduates are holding out for some programming job or higher, whereas an arts or women's studies graduate quickly comes to terms with getting a job as a receptionist or even a McDonald's job. It's not hard to notice that there are very few jobs as, say, an anthropologist studying the natives on some fabulous vacation island, or as some deluxe lobbyist for women's equality in Washington. And even if one still clings to that delusion in the long run, it's pretty obvious that another source of income will be needed until such a job becomes available.

    Basically in fact a lot of the CS graduates are simply competing for a very specific slice of the employment market, with a much smaller pool of jobs. And most likely are actually _more_ employable on that slice, and no less employable than an arts or anthropology graduate in the kind of McDonald's jobs most of those will get.

    And that is also not taking into account that a lot of CS and EE graduates actually have an even narrower slice in mind. E.g., most want a job making computer games, and precious few want one of those boring jobs that involve databases and java and writing unit tests. Or the elder gods forbid, maintaining a cobol program on some mainframe. Not only that has driven down wages in the games industry, but there still simply aren't half as many jobs as people who want them. A lot will spend those 6 months or a large part thereof, still hoping that Blizzard or Epic or Id will hire them, and inflate that unemployment number.

    And then there are those who think they're so smart, that anything short of directly starting as senior architect and/or a 6 figure starting wage, is waay below them and in fact outright demeaning. 'Cause, you know, their mommy always told them they're so smart, and besides they wrote the most compact bubble-sort in college, _and_ had a submission to the obfuscated C contest too. So they know all about how your programs should be made, obviously. And they even used "emerge" to compile a Gentoo distro once, which makes them practically kernel hackers, right? Needless to say, some of those inflate the unemployment figure too.

  • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:18AM (#32770584)

    All the computer science uber-gods were mathematicians, physicists and engineers by training anyway.

    That kind of follows naturally from the fact that CS didn't exist before they got their degrees and invented it.

  • by Spad ( 470073 ) <slashdot AT spad DOT co DOT uk> on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:20AM (#32770594) Homepage

    I did a computer engineering degree (BEng) about 8 years ago and I was quite shocked in my first year at just how little some of my course mates knew about computing. In our mandatory (across campus) "learn how to use Office and browse the internet" lab session in the first semester there were a number of people who really struggled to get a passing grade (40%), let alone a decent one. When you add to that the fact that most of our programming labs were nothing more than an exercise in creative plagiarism and it's not surprising that graduates find it hard to get a job.

    You also have to remember that most CS and CE degrees are aimed at programming and hardware design (ASICs/FPGA etc), whereas a lot of those graduates go into support and administrator roles, with the belief that doing some support work for your friends on a peer to peer LAN is exactly the same as managing a multi-thousand seat domain infrastructure in a business environment.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:21AM (#32770602)
    Having a job builds character. If you had ever held a real job, you might have been inspired to post something interesting or helpful to new graduates instead of just arrogantly gloating about your minor successes and unknowingly making yourself look like an ass.
  • by IllusionalForce ( 1830532 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:23AM (#32770612)
    To be honest, a CS degree is nice and all, but personally I think, having proper, real life experience just also means more. CS needs to be rethought anyway.
  • by AlexiaDeath ( 1616055 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:25AM (#32770620)
    Today's IT don't need a bunch of uber-gods. It needs competent people building usable IT systems based on good practices of C.S. That's what C.S graduates should be. Some schools make a thinking pros, others produce trained monkeys. Both are needed in a sensible balance but what fails in employment process is distinguishing if a trained monkey or a thinker was needed and witch category does the person being considered belongs to.
  • It's all going IP (Score:3, Insightful)

    by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:44AM (#32770724) Homepage

    The final frontier of the wealthy is IP ownership. They only have to own something valuable and inexhaustible to become wealthy and stay that way. To ensure this, they only need some laws (got that) some world treaties (got that) and some soldiers to exert your will on the rest of the world (got that too!).

    Sure there will be some work in services of various types... medical, fast food, legal and what have you, but manufacturing and agriculture and even technical work are all send out of the country because local workers are too expensive. It harder to grow your wealth when you have to pay people enough not to starve...better to pay people who are already starving!

    This is the direction I see the world going anyway...

  • Re:the parents (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Facebeast ( 1689358 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @06:54AM (#32770780)
    No, the most competent people with the most relevant qualifications for the job should be hired first. People with useless degrees in made up nonsense subjects, like psychology or social science, should retrain or put up with a low paid menial job.
  • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:16AM (#32770940)

    But computer science graduates don't go into IT. Thats a blue collar profession now.

    Well, that depends what the survey means by "computer science".

    Here's [] the link to the report. Find the link "Table 3" within it for a PDF of the broken down results. Note that the only IT/Computing subject is Computer Science, and it has almost as many graduates as all of the physical sciences. I think it includes IT degrees too.

    In the UK I would expect that rail and sea transport would be more important too.

    Yes -- and I would think rail transport has even more CS areas than road transport. As well as usage/capacity measurement/predictions and logistics, there's complicated timetables, electronic signalling, electronic ticketing, service information (on platforms, on trains, online, by text, printed)... Recently some rail-related APIs have been opened up, leading to this live train map mashup [] (also the London Underground []). Someone from my class at university works for the company that makes the London Journey Planner [], which is excellent. Another works for Network Rail on signalling systems, another for rail freight logistics.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:25AM (#32771010) Homepage

    You may have gone to some piss pot ex-college bigging itself up by putting university in its title that only cared about the number of students on a course and not what they learned but I went to a proper Uni and we were *required* to learn formal proofs, predicate logic, set theory, database theory and microprocessor design amongst other things. If you failed those modules you were out. End of.

    "The only thing a degree measures is whether you can sit in a room for three-four years and learn what is told to you."

    So you think knowledge is a waste of time? An interesting point of view. What are you expecting , a degree that teaches you all the skills you require to go straight into a 6 figure salary? Get real. It gives you a grounding in various parts of CS, nothing more , and also a proof of ability to potential employers.

    "Try explaining what spanning-tree algorithms do and why they can be used to avoid network loops... most CS grads can't once they have left their graph theory courses"

    And I doubt you'd have much lucky explaining how gouraud shading works or how 3rd normal form differs from 2nd without looking it up first. So what? So you're clued up on one small part of CS because you work in that area. BFD. That doesn't make some sort of genius.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:25AM (#32771016) Journal

    Note: I'm not implying CSE is in some way inferior to CS – merely that if you want a vocational qualification, you should look at a vocational collage, as should employers.

    Good in theory, but the UK has spent a lot of time in recent decades dismantling the vocational qualifications. We've turned some first-rate vocational institutions (polytechnics) into third-rate universities. Before the government decided that everyone should go to university, people who weren't suited to an academic course would go to these, get a well-respected and valuable vocational qualification, and then use it. Now they go to a university and get a worthless degree.

    In the UK, there is a perception that vocational qualifications are inferior to academic ones, which is particularly depressing when you then hear so many people in industry complaining that the people that they hired with academic qualifications don't have the vocational skills required to be useful.

    I'd love to see university enrolment drop back to the levels where the only people going are people who actually want to be there and will gain some benefit from it, while people who are just putting in the time go on (potentially shorter) vocational courses that teach them things that they will find useful. Unfortunately, suggesting this in UK politics gets you branded an elitist. The result is that people get a third-rate computer science degree, rather than a first-rate software development vocational diploma.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:42AM (#32771142) Journal
    Ah; but that would ruin the university and/or lecturer's numbers. And, thanks to various naive, "Hey, let's run this school like a business, punish failures, rewards successes" schemes, you can look bad because you failed too many people, regardless of whether they deserved it or not. Nobody seems to have figured out a quality metric that manages to capture "your quality, as expressed by the delta between the performance of these students under your tutelage vs. their hypothetical performance under other conditions" rather than a basic "what grades did your students get?"(the latter, perversely, makes people who provide honest feedback about bad performance look like bad teachers, while rewarding those who provide dishonest feedback about bad performance. Clearly an excellent metric.)
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @07:53AM (#32771250) Journal

    If I had to guess how GP got into his current position (assuming he's not just making it up), I'd guess he got off his backside and did some work on his portfolio before he left uni, if you just assume good uni grades will land you a high paying job or freelancer contract, you're in for a shock.

    Pretty much. I was active in the university computer society, which has a lot of old members hanging around and providing advice, and I did a fair bit of hippyware stuff. I cofounded one project, and actively contribute to two others. The most productive in terms of finding work has been LLVM - now seems to be a very good time to have compiler experience, with things like GPGPU and ARM SoC support being needed in a lot of places. I've never (yet) actually been paid to work on one of the projects that I contribute to in my free time, but it's worked as good advertising.

    The best advice I can give anyone at university now is don't expect your degree to teach you everything that you need to know. Schools teach you things. Universities give you an opportunity to learn. If you don't make use of this opportunity, don't complain that you aren't being offered work later, or that your degree was a waste of time (it was, but that was your fault).

    I did some teaching for a bit after my PhD and one of my students posted something complaining 'I'm paying £3000 a year for this degree - I don't expect to be told to read something in a book!' With that kind of attitude, I wouldn't be at all surprised if he is now unemployed. When I said 'this isn't going to be on the exam' and half the students started packing up to go, you could tell the ones who were there because they were interested in the subject, and the ones who were not. Anyone in the latter category is wasting their own time being on the course. If you get a degree you're interested in, you are much more likely to be employable than if you get a degree hoping to get a job as a result.

  • by sirwired ( 27582 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:11AM (#32771418)

    Software Engineering can be just as rigorous and academic as any other Engineering discipline. Yes, there are some Software Engr. courses that would be better shuttled off to vo-tech, but the same could be said for Intro to CS courses.

    Software Engineering is indeed less heavy on abstract theory vs. CS, but as an Engineering field, that makes sense and is perfectly proper. There are lots of problems worthy of intense study, PhDs, and professorships that simply aren't designed to be tackled by your average CS egghead. Engineers have to actually get stuff built, not just admire the elegance of some framework that hasn't seen a single major project. Software Engr. has plenty of rigorous things to study like system architecture, project management, documentation practices (trading-off time vs. usefulness), scheduling, reliability, interface design, testing methods, etc.

    To say that Software Engineering should be shuffled off to vo-tech because they take some courses in coding is like saying Mechanical Engineers should do the same because most of them learn to operate machine tools. We don't propose Civil Engineers get shuffled off to vo-tech because they merely make use of physics and chemistry.


  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:11AM (#32771428)

    A matter of context. I think I get what the OP is trying to say; Most other professions lead on to the salaryman mentality, and you end up working as a salaried employee (always with a job).
    I worked contracting through my second degree (Computing for Real Time Systems), so by the time I graduated, I'd got a fair reputation, and some regular clients.
    This had me bouncing on and off into the 'currently employed' segment, as a fair part of the time I spent delving into books, building systems and breaking them, learning more that could be used commercially in upcoming contracts and so on.. But for that 'interim time', I wasn't classed as employed by anyone.
    When I landed the contracts, they were usually short, but very highly paid (enough that I could afford a fair bit of time 'not working', if research is counted as not working). It worked nicely for me, but I'd guess really played havoc with employment statistics.. I wonder if they've checked this in their analysis as a confounding factor..

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:18AM (#32771506) Journal

    More likely, some 17% of CS graduates are holding out for some programming job or higher,

    Plus, this survey is for "now".

    If you try to plan your college major for what you think is going to give you the best shot at a job, you will fail. Take what you're interested in and forget about the job. The job market is guaranteed to look different when you graduate, anyway. We're in a weird economy ATM. Next decade could have a huge jump in CS jobs and it might get a lot worse (and not just for CS majors).

  • by zhrike ( 448699 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @08:29AM (#32771586)

    Not sure how long it would take me to get bored of that!

    Not long (IMO). I had a bunch of manual labor jobs before (finally) going into IT: Tree work, construction, furniture repair and delivery, etc. There are some of those romantic notions about those jobs, and some of them were a blast, but that stuff takes its toll on your body, you do NOT get paid well, and the benefits usually pale in comparison. I also got wore down by the treatment you receive from others ... the assumptions made about intellect, etc. It was nice being outside and in the sun for a bit, but the joy of that was fleeting. Of course, IT bennies can blow too, but as much as I get bored from time to time, and get annoyed by the political jockeying and the decisions that are made based on personal relationships and nepotism, I count myself fortunate to be in this position (higher ed IT).

  • by teh kurisu ( 701097 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:16AM (#32772818) Homepage

    I was about to add that Isaac Newton was an alchemist who started playing with mathematics and physics because they were fun...

    ...but I think I've already been trumped by the "Jesus was Jewish" comment.

  • by tehcyder ( 746570 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:24AM (#32772926) Journal

    Not sure why I'd want a job

    For most of us, it sort of helps to pay the mortgage and feed our kids, you insufferably smug git.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:30AM (#32773014) Journal
    Even there, unless you want "teacher/institution quality" metrics to just be a referendum on unemployment rates and consumer confidence indices at 5 years after graduation(consider, for instance, the .com bubble. It made a lot of CS grads very happy indeed, and its bursting made a lot of CS grads very unhappy; but, if anything, the happier the CS grads in the "real world" were, the shittier the CS programs were becoming, because they were filling with people who figured that a CS degree was a ticket to easy street.), you would really need to build a metric that compares relative to peers at other institutions, ideally peers who are intellectually as similar as possible.
  • by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @10:32AM (#32773056) Homepage

    All the computer science uber-gods were mathematicians, physicists and engineers by training anyway.

    From personal experience (FYI I'm one of those CS guys) I can tell you that those are the worst programmers you can find. They do know their stuff and are able to implement it so that it runs, but the code is absolutely unmaintainable.

    I just inherited a 1661 line C file written by a mathematician implementing a very sophisticated calculation. It doesn't use any proper indentation and variable names that are character combinations that only make sense to the author (like "trsAcc", "wtrPOI" and "fmew"). It works fine, but he asked me to throw it all away, rewrite it from scratch with a proper API and readable code. Well, that's what I'm here for. It took me a while to salvage the algorithm from the old file though (had to translate it line by line to proper mathematical formulas).

  • by bmacs27 ( 1314285 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:09AM (#32773608)
    I think you've missed a crucial point here. Those creative arts people are the ones getting the game jobs. At siggraph, 90% of the advertised jobs are for artists, not developers. These people aren't working at McDonald's. They are the ones that actually have the fun jobs. Software Architects take orders from creative directors, not the other way around.
  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Friday July 02, 2010 @11:58AM (#32774418) Homepage

    I'm not very surprised, personally I could quite easily answer for bit, byte, (u)char, (u)int, long, long long and the (u)int(8|16|32|64) variety, but WORD and DWORD I don't think I've seen since the Win32 API. To me that's somewhere in obscurity between an octet and a nibble, I guess it depends exactly what the job was about but I wouldn't expect every developer to know that. And while I generally stay out IT formally, I've been running circles around a few IT departments...

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle