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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Is studying comp sci still the golden ticket to wealth?

Amy Miao
More and more jobs will now be taken over by automation, making Computer Science less appealing as a major.

In January alone, more than 20,000 U.S. employees from Apple, META and Facebook were laid off, a fresh setback for computer science graduates hoping to succeed in the industry. 

The layoffs suggest an alarming new reality for CS job-seekers: With the further advancement of AI technology and cheaper sources of labor abroad, the job market for CS majors is not only volatile but also oversaturated.

Computer science has been regarded as the most lucrative undergraduate major since the ‘90s, with over 30% of all undergraduate students in the U.S. selecting it. However, despite its three-decade reign as both the most sought after and competitive major, CS is no longer the road to riches that it used to be. 

In the past, the main appeal of pursuing a CS major is the wide variety of high-paying entry-level job opportunities available upon graduation. The average salary for an individual with a bachelor’s degree in computer science is a staggering $121,000 a year, far above the national average of $59,000. Thus, it is unsurprising that millions of young people all across the world are studying hard to get into prestigious universities with top-tier computer science programs. 

However, the computer science job market is shrinking as tech giants reduce costs in two ways: outsourcing work overseas and using AI to do work once done by people. 

Let’s start by looking at why they’re outsourcing their work to small firms overseas in China and India. Simply put, it is because the price of labor is vastly cheaper in those countries than here. Why would a tech company pay workers $200,000 a year plus benefits to do work someone overseas can do for $20,000? 

As layoffs have occurred, big tech companies have seen positive results in their stock prices. The tech-heavy S&P 500, a compilation of the 500 largest companies, has hit all-time highs multiple times so far in 2024, with the top companies like Alphabet, Microsoft and Meta leading the way. Smaller companies have been jumping on this bandwagon to boost their company’s worth as well. 

Meanwhile, the  Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a further 11% decrease in job opportunities for computer programmers, citing “automation” as the reason. 

Then there are the disruptions being caused by AI. With AI becoming exponentially more powerful every day, it will be able to take over jobs with higher complexities, further exacerbating the shrinkage of the CS job market. And while it is true that rapid AI development is creating lucrative new job opportunities, these are often limited high-level openings; competition for these tighter positions will be fierce as the vast majority of low-level programming jobs are swallowed by AI.

For prospective CS majors, this gloomy landscape is daunting. Job security should be held in high regard, just as much as salary is for job-seekers. To make matters worse, salaries are decreasing too — computer scientists all across the U.S. saw a decrease in salary of over $15,000 in 2022. Salaries dropped another 4% in 2023 — and this downward trend is projected to continue in 2024. 

Every year, over 200,000 students graduate with an undergraduate degree in computer science. All signs point to the job market becoming oversaturated with graduates looking for jobs that either do not exist or are not needed. Should STEM majors give up all hope and pursue work as Starbuck baristas? Not so fast. Instead, they should shift from CS and pursue similar majors such as engineering or mathematics. Those fields still support jobs such as aircraft design or electrical engineering — at least within the near future — AI cannot do.

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