What will it take to resolve that paradox?
Corner any up-and-coming Kevin Systrom wanna-be and have a heart-to-heart about the challenges of building a successful company and at some point you’ll likely wander into the territory of bemoaning how tough it is to hire people with technical skills. At a party recently a startup founder told me “If you could find me five great engineers in the next 90 days I’d pay you $400,000.” Which is crazy talk. Unless you stop to consider that Instagram’s team (mostly engineers) was valued at almost $80 million per employee or that corporate development heads often value engineers at startups they are acquiring at a half-million to million dollars per person. $400,000 actually might not be so crazy for a basketball lineup’s worth of guys who can sling Ruby or Scala code.
So with all this widespread talk about the value of hiring great engineers and the apparent dearth of technical talent in the market, college students must be signing up to computer science classes in droves. This is the next California Gold Rush is it not? The era in which a self-taught programmer can emerge from relative obscurity and land a mid-nine figure payday. Engineering enrollments surely must be at an all-time high?
Au contraire, mon frère. Consider this (from the Marginal Revolution blog):
In 2009 the U.S. graduated 37,994 students with bachelor’s degrees in computer and information science. This is not bad, but we graduated more students with computer science degrees 25 years ago!
In 2009 the U.S. graduated 89,140 students in the visual and performing arts, more than in computer science, math and chemical engineering combined and more than double the number of visual and performing arts graduates in 1985.
We are raising a generation of American Idols and So You Think You Can Dancers when what we really need is a generation of Gateses and Zuckerbergs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (PDF download) computer and mathematical occupations are expected to add 785,700 new jobs from 2008 to 2018. It doesn’t take a math major to see that we’re graduating students at a far lower rate than required to meet demand.
But what’s important is not just what is happening but also why it’s happening. If there’s both security on the downside (computer science majors experience rock-bottom unemployment rates) and untold riches on the upside, it seems the rational economic choice for people to flock to majoring in computer science and engineering. And yet, that’s not what’s taking place.
Let’s look at a few of many theories as to why people might be choosing to study drama and music instead of C++ and algorithms.
via TechCrunch – Jon Bischkeᔥ
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