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They say that lower-end CS/engineering jobs are moving to China/India

  1. Jan 27, 2010 #1
    but does this apply as well to Math/CS/Engineering PhD work as well?

    (I'd like to limit this dicussion to "higher-end" tasks, which normally require at least a Master's or even PhD)

    - industry/business
    - government
    - academia

    I talked to the dean of computer science at University of Texas and he says that American grads don't have to worry so much since only the "lower-end" jobs get sent to foreign countries. I did not understand this, since once the lower-end jobs are over there, won't the higher-end go as well eventually? Have we been seeing CS/Math/Engineering PhD's get their jobs taken away due to outsourcing?

    I also wonder why we haven't "insourced" other professions as much (visas), such as accountancy, law, or medicine. Why mainly the technical jobs?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 28, 2010 #2
    I'm in industry in Silicon Valley, and one thing that continually amazes me is how little the Indians and Chinese *here* think of the Indians and Chinese *there*. The general perception is that outsourcing is good for low-level tasks, but all of the real talent is still coming to the US.

    However, this is slowly starting to change as salaries abroad rise with demand. Once salaries and opportunities are attractive enough there, there is a real risk that we can no longer draw the best and the brightest to this country... and at that point, I think there is a danger that we could see top-level positions in industry move abroad.

    Government and academia, of course, are difficult if not impossible to outsource. Government tends to want US citizens, and academia isn't really moving because of the student population here.

    As for other professions... accountancy and law require specialized local legal knowledge that would not necessarily be known by a foreign lawyer or accountant. Medicine has a high barrier to entry... they intentionally make it difficult for foreign medical grads to get a license in the US.
  4. Jan 28, 2010 #3
    Lol yeah. So apparently, even a PhD in those subjects doesn't guarantee much anymore? I know that general programming/engineering jobs are a definite no-no, but the dean of comp sci at UT said something like "we make sure that our grads are prepared to tackle the high-end, design, creative jobs that Indian workers aren't capable of."

    To me, this sounded like a crapload of BS..
  5. Jan 28, 2010 #4
    or was he the dean of engineering... can't remember :/
  6. Jan 28, 2010 #5
    Well, life in general doesn't really come with guarantees...

    I've never had a problem with a Ph.D. in CS, and although I see the potential for change, it's going surprisingly slowly. Outsourcing has been going on for years, but the top creative talent from other countries is still moving to the US. There are more stories about people moving back to their homelands these days, and that *is* troubling. But as long as we have a net influx of talent, I'd expect there to be plenty of top-level jobs in the US.

    (Of course in all fairness, most of what I'm hearing about people *there* comes from people *here*...)
  7. Jan 28, 2010 #6


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    Bolding mine.

    That is absolutely wrong and insulting.

    The BPO's offer an outsourcing option for tech support, that is the "area" they target. Some of the people are highly educated or going for higher degrees and taking the BPO option for the money.

    Why would there be a call center manned by PhDs?
  8. Jan 28, 2010 #7
    I have been a high-level engineer in the HDD & tape storage business for the past 25 years. I have always been told that engineering in the US was safe because the engine of innovation and creativity was here in the US. What I am seeing is that the whole HDD/storage industry is moving to Asia, not at some slow pace but in a torrent.

    Do not delude yourself with the thought that whatever situation you have here in the US couldn't change. There are many, many highly qualified and talented engineers and scientists in China and India and they can do whatever job you're doing for about 1/4 the cost.
  9. Jan 28, 2010 #8


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    Out-sourcing comes with a cost. If you buy from Dell and you have technical problems, you already know. I bought a wide-aspect LCD monitor because I need to access astronomical images at high resolution while keeping other applications open. The first one that they sent me had bi-lateral color issues, and so did the second. The third and the fourth also featured clumps of very bright stuck pixels, which is not real handy when you're trying to discern visible evidence for galactic interaction using coarse survey images.

    I got so mad at being sent "refurbished" monitors (merely repackaged inferior returned products) that I demanded to be upgraded to a real Dell troubleshooter, and I chewed him a new one. He started to defend Dell's "service" program and I shut him down by telling him that Dell's "service representatives" had told me that I needed to reboot my computer and de-gauss my LCD monitor. Idiots! I don't care whether they are based in the US, India, or anywhere else. The use of script-monkeys to provide front-line "customer service" is the sign of a very BAD company.
  10. Jan 29, 2010 #9
    One thing you HAVE TO remember is that, in China/India & such, massive wage inflation is a fact of life, and a job that could've cost 1/10th of what it cost over here in 2000, might cost significantly more today. Whereas entry-level high tech salaries in the U.S. have remained more or less stagnant during the last decade.

    There's also a general principle: if you want to have job security, work on your people skills, work on your networking, find a niche for yourself ... if your employer can find a 18-year-old in Pakistan and spend $5000 to teach him enough C# and related stuff to make him do your job, your job security sucks. But your advantage is that you speak flawless English (something that the Pakistani guy will never learn), and you already have connections and you'll make more connections as you go on. Learn to manage other people and they'll never be able to outsource your job to Pakistan.
  11. Jan 29, 2010 #10
    Not true.

    The goal of companies is to serve their customers not Americans/Japanese..
  12. Jan 29, 2010 #11
    What happens when wages become similar in the US, India, and China?

    Is that a "natural" solution for all the outsourcing, and then will it be safe to become a high-level CS/engineer in the US?

    (I think if I go that route and obtain a CS PhD, it will be about 10 years from now)
  13. Jan 29, 2010 #12


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    That's not how it works, an employer doesn't look for an individual in another country to train and employ. Countries like India and the Phillipines have companies that hire very intelligent, well educated people that speak English, then when a US company contracts with that outsourcing company, then certain employees are trained in that US company's products. There are high end and low end outsourcing companies. The high end ones, you can't tell they aren't native English speakers, they are that good.

    Since the cost of living is so low in those countries, even at the high wages they earn there, it is still much lower than what a US employeee would be paid. I have had experiences with dumber than dirt US techs and highly intelligent foreign techs. I'll take the highly intelligent foreign techs.
  14. Jan 29, 2010 #13


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    GE seems to bucking the trend.
    I've had recent experience of receiving data generated in Korea or Brazil for a high tech US manufacturing company with whom I was working. The engineers overseas are as capable as any engineer in the US, but their cost is lower. Simple economics.

    As standards of living rise in China, India, Brazil, . . . . , the wages/salaries will increase and the cost advantage will decrease.

    For extended supply chains, it's sometimes beneficial to have production or supply closer to home or market.

    I recently had to do an authentication with Microsoft. The online process didn't work, and I was automatically switched to a person in India. The person was much more effective than the automated system I had been using.
  15. Jan 29, 2010 #14


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    I found out that some of my company's accounting offices are in the Phillipines, they are not outsourced, they are company employees. I always have fun finding out where everyone I work with are. It turns out that our OUTSOURCED work is in CANADA!! Damn Canadians stealing our jobs. :devil:
  16. Jan 29, 2010 #15


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    We have a very successful export market.

    Money is our number 1 export, and jobs number 2. :biggrin:
  17. Jan 30, 2010 #16
    OK guys. I guess I'll go for being a doctor or lawyer (which, about 95% of the kids these days want to be... :/ ).

    Even if the cost advantage of outsourcing decreases, I highly doubt going the CS/engineering route is a good idea for me. I heard from some Indian adults that over in India there is actually a SHORTAGE of these jobs, and that companies hire way more people than they actually need. (some sit around doing nothing for long periods of time).

    So, even if outsourcing stops, those surplus workers in India or elsewhere are probably going to come over here, but the point is I don't see much future for kids my age who want to go the CS/engineering path. :(
  18. Jan 30, 2010 #17
  19. Jan 30, 2010 #18
    They are already coming over here as fast as they can. There aren't enough domestic workers interested in CS/engineering jobs. But there is a quota on the number of high-tech workers American companies are allowed to bring to the United States. In good years, the annual quota is completely exhausted within the first week.

    The United States is a strange country. Sensible countries (like Canada) promote immigration of intelligent, educated workers. The United States sets a tough quota on the number of educated workers (65,000 a year), and accepts three or four times that number of family-based immigrants from Mexico and Philippines, many of whom never even finished high school.
  20. Jan 30, 2010 #19
    thanks but why?
  21. Feb 1, 2010 #20
    rootX, could you give us a reason why it is 'nonsense' rather than uttering the word?
  22. Feb 1, 2010 #21
    The problem is that China and India are growing way too quickly and they have much larger populations plus their culture and society is setup in a way where it benefits the best students rather than most of the students. In USA the education system is setup in way to benefit the average Joe more than the extremely gifted which will probably, eventually, result in USA having less talented people available for jobs compared to China or India.
  23. Feb 1, 2010 #22
    I think he means that it is nonsense that there is no future in engineering for you. Engineering jobs is not a zero sum game. The more the standard of living is raised over the world the greater the demand for technological products will be and thus the higher the demand for engineers will be. But of course the more who gets a high standard of living the more gets educated and thus the more engineers they get.

    China/India are just way behind with their social development, once they start to get closer their wages will not be much lower than yours so there will be no point in going overseas for them or for companies to continue outsourcing.

    You should have no problems at all with a CS or Eng major, what you should be careful about is trying to get a law/medicine degree but faining and being stuck with an all but useless social science degree.

    I would argue that it is the other way around. With our system we lose most within maths and physics, but their strict methods is able to teach almost everyone through heinous amounts of repetition.
  24. Feb 1, 2010 #23
    It is basic capitalism -- supply and demand. As the supply of Ph.D. globally increases the value of a Ph.D. will decrease. If you believe that people in other locations are mentally inferior then do not worry. If you know many smart people from many locations you know that Ph.D.s like PCs are becoming a commodity product that no longer commands a high price.
  25. Feb 1, 2010 #24
    I think this whole argument is slightly being over analysed.

    This all comes down to a supply and demand issue.

    Once upon a time, computer tech jobs were sought after, and high paying. Most of my friends went to school to grab computer job's. Guess what....none of them really went anywhere, unless you call 18$/hour progress for 3 years of university. Too many kids at the time became talented, and the demand dropped right off. Sure, there are still guys making it big in that industry, but not in a cash cow way like before.

    I work part time on oil drilling rigs, and have a solar power business at home, and also work on peoples computers "on the side" LOL, and I'm pretty sure I make a lot more than any of my friends, and I've not even graduated high school.

    The problem with losing jobs overseas, is that as a company, I import lots of solar equipment from china, and it helps my business greatly. Not only is the product very competitively priced, but they go through hoops to get things done - something I did not experience buying from north american companies.
    If I need parts bad enough, I get them express shipped, and at my door in a week. This is only slightly longer than north american shipping, and a little more shipping cost.
    On top of that, the equipment I use costs roughly half of what similar equipment costs here, and has the latest innovations and runs 100%. Again, not something I found buying from north american distributors, who thought a price premium was deserved for these "special" parts, that were really next to outdated.

    To be successful, a person needs to be good at many things. I've seen a lot of people end up with degrees that are so stupid they can barely roll another joint.

    It's easier and easier now to go to school, so more go than they did years ago. I can think of some really smart successful people without school behind them, and some real dingbats that went to school and did really good, but just don't seem to be making it very far.

    Theres a huge difference between book smart, and "real life" smart.
  26. Feb 1, 2010 #25
    It's supply and demand, quite simply. But if you're only in it for the money, go a different route or you'll hate it in 5 years when you realize no paycheck can make up for the lack of interest you have in your vocation. Cubicle hell can be worse than gulag, if you let it be.

    A Phd in IT is useless and pointless, unless you're going to be a computer scientist. If you want to be a programmer, bachelors is the way to go. Or just get an MBA. Degrees in this field are useless because by the time you finish your degree, the stuff you learned in school is outdated. Certifications are taken over any degree, unless you're management.

    If you're truly intelligent and motivated, a degree will not be the deciding factor in your career, but if you are intelligent you will realize that a degree will open doors you would not otherwise get to walk through. It just takes an already great person and maximizes thier potential. If you are average, a degree will make you better than the average guy next to you, but it will not put you at the top.

    Rambiling here, but agree nowadays that competition is global, a degree isn't the automatic road to riches that it was 20 years ago, and if you want to truly set yourself apart, be willing to go that extra mile that everyone else isn't. Get that certification, learn a second language, minor in business to augment science skills, and don't assume that a 3.5+ GPA alone will guarantee you 6 figures- because it won't-especially with the economy. Niche is the way to go if you want to excel. Don't be a jack of all trades, but the the absolute master of whatever you choose to focus on.

    It would not shock me if some day they created a degree above PhD to signify humanity's knowledge curve. Either that or some day you'll need a PhD to work at Burger King
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2010
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