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Do employers care about your major

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  • Thread starter brtgreen
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I'm a freshman currently planning to be a computer science or math major. I like math so much better but I'm afraid that if I don't major in computer science then I'd be a lot harder to get hired for a programming job.

Does your major matter even though you know how to program?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
HallsofIvy
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Computer Science is far more than programming! In fact, I have been told that the way to tell a good "Computer Science" or "Computer Engineering" program from a bad one is that the good program will NOT have any courses titled or specifically about programming in specific languages. You are expected to pick up the languages while learning such things as (from the M.I.T. computer science website)
Dynamic Programming
Principals of Computer Science
Discrete Stochastic Processes
Neural Nets
and more.

The fact is that most science majors know how to program in at least one language and can pick up others easily. Asking if you can get a job in a computer field if you can program is a lot like asking if you can get a job in linguistics if you speak one language!

(Yes, there are people in computer fields, even without a college degree, who do nothing but program. That is a very low level, low paid, job, not much above "data entry". It is the people who decide what programs should be written that do the real "computer" work and get paid better.)

If you like mathematics enough more than computer science to consider majoring in mathematics rather than computer sciences, why are you talking about getting a job programming rather than in mathematics?
 
  • #3
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Math is a good compliment to computer science. In some fields of math the proofs have exceeded the complexity that allows a person to comple the proof. Computers are used instead to crank through it.

You will likely come to enjoy programming anyway if you like math, but yes programming to a computer scientist is not what you do all the time. It's a tool you use to get your real work done the way an engineer uses math.
 
  • #4
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Computer Science is far more than programming! In fact, I have been told that the way to tell a good "Computer Science" or "Computer Engineering" program from a bad one is that the good program will NOT have any courses titled or specifically about programming in specific languages. You are expected to pick up the languages while learning such things as (from the M.I.T. computer science website)
Dynamic Programming
Principals of Computer Science
Discrete Stochastic Processes
Neural Nets
and more.

The fact is that most science majors know how to program in at least one language and can pick up others easily. Asking if you can get a job in a computer field if you can program is a lot like asking if you can get a job in linguistics if you speak one language!

(Yes, there are people in computer fields, even without a college degree, who do nothing but program. That is a very low level, low paid, job, not much above "data entry". It is the people who decide what programs should be written that do the real "computer" work and get paid better.)

If you like mathematics enough more than computer science to consider majoring in mathematics rather than computer sciences, why are you talking about getting a job programming rather than in mathematics?
i don't want to be a teacher, and I'm not talented enough to become a math professor.
 
  • #5
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In my opinion, if you are a math major then you have a lot of experience. Employers are looking for people who are able to learn something fast, and math majors are those kind of people. If you have a math major, and a computer science minor, then you won't have any problem with obtaining a job in programming! If I was an employer, then I would be looking for those people, instead of computer science majors. But that's just the mathematician in me whose speaking :biggrin:
 
  • #6
AlephZero
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If depends on the job. If you want to work for a company in a very specialized field (e.g medical image processing or suchlike) they are quite likely to want SOME of their computing people to be experts on APPLICATION area (which is medicine, not image processing!) as well as on programming. It's no use employing a team of the world's best programmers if none of them understand what the computer software is actually supposed to accomplish.

On the other hand, for many computing jobs a good general academic standard is all you really need - in other words, your degree is more a demonstration that you are literate, numerate, and able to learn "hard stuff" quickly, than a guarantee that you know already know any specific facts, programming languages, operating systems, etc.
 
  • #7
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Question: Have you been gainfully employed as a computer programmer? I've been working as a computer programmer for ten+ years and what you are saying doesn't make sense to me.

Computer Science is far more than programming!
That's actually a big problem. You can be great at computer science and lousy at programming. This means that employers really don't care if you have a CS degree or not.

Asking if you can get a job in a computer field if you can program is a lot like asking if you can get a job in linguistics if you speak one language!
It really works the other way. Just because you have a degree in linguistics, people may not offer you a job as an interpreter.

That is a very low level, low paid, job, not much above "data entry". It is the people who decide what programs should be written that do the real "computer" work and get paid better.
Sure. But those people have MBA's (seriously). The people that make the decisions about what programs need to be written generally are people with marketing and management expertise, and often know nothing about computer science (which causes some Dilbert situations). Of course, what tends to happen is that they want you to program the total wonderful system and get it done yesterday, at which point the technical people "negotiate" a realistic schedule. But even at that level, you are dealing with project management issues and I don't know of any CS program that teaches those skills.

The reason I think that programming your own Android app or open source app is useful is that this will get you some exposure to the politics of software development, and understanding office politics is how you get yourself in a good paying position. Politics isn't a dirty word, and the fact that a lot of engineers think that it is, is one big problem with a lot of engineering programs.

If you are living in the US and you want to go into software development, you absolutely need some very basic management skills, because all of the jobs that are "programming only" are being shipped off to India.

If you like mathematics enough more than computer science to consider majoring in mathematics rather than computer sciences, why are you talking about getting a job programming rather than in mathematics?
For many of the same reasons I went into astrophysics but managed to get a job programming computers.
 
Last edited:
  • #8
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I'm a freshman currently planning to be a computer science or math major. I like math so much better but I'm afraid that if I don't major in computer science then I'd be a lot harder to get hired for a programming job.
It's not. The important thing is to have some real experience in computer programming. Work on an open source project and write some Android apps. Also look for internships.

Does your major matter even though you know how to program?
Not really.
 

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