Majoring in computer science does not guarantee job security after all

Majoring in computer science does not guarantee job security after all

Joel Wong (pictured) is in his final year at the National University of Singapore. The computer science major told Insider that the job search was difficult.
Joel Wong

  • Many computer science majors say job hunting has become more difficult after layoffs hit the industry.
  • Ben Leong, a Singaporean computer science professor, said getting a job was never easy.
  • “The truth is that it is a difficult job and having a university degree does not mean you will get a job,” he said.

Joel Wong remembers researching the Singapore Ministry of Education’s Graduate Employment Survey six years ago. At that time, he was in junior college, the equivalent of the last two years of high school in the United States. The survey, which is conducted on an annual basis, provides the employment rate and average salaries for various university majors in Singapore.

Choose computer science.

Wong, 24, is now in his final year at the National University of Singapore. He told Insider that he chose his major because he was interested in technology, but also because of the industry’s salaries.

“Even at that time, salaries for computer science graduates were among the highest,” Wong said. “This definitely contributed to my study of computer science.”

But that was then and this is now. The technology industry is in turmoil. Tech giants like Facebook and Google have laid off tens of thousands of employees.

For college students like Wong, finding work has become more difficult.

“A lot of the tech companies in Singapore that used to hire a lot of computer science majors from local universities are no longer hiring,” Wong said. Wong told Insider last month that he applied to 17 jobs and heard back from five companies. None of these responses turned into a job offer.

And it’s not just jobs: internships have proven elusive, too.

Brian Ho, a 23-year-old studying computer science at the National University of Singapore, told Insider that he has applied for nearly 100 internships.

“I think it’s definitely becoming more difficult because if many companies cut jobs, they won’t take on as many trainees,” Ho said.

He said he received four offers out of 100 applications.

Brian Ho, 22, told Insider he applied for nearly 100 internships and received four offers.
Brian is

A lot of students are chasing the same jobs

Ethan Ang is the CEO and co-founder of NodeFlair, a job board for technology professionals in Asia. The Singapore-based startup has about 40 employees in Southeast Asia. Ang told Insider that the recession we’re seeing today appears to be largely due to the hiring done by tech companies during the pandemic.

“When it comes to employment, there is always a question of supply and demand. In 2021, the demand was very high and there were not enough people. This leads to higher salaries and demand,” Ang said. “People were getting five offers on the table at once.”

“Right now, demand has declined. Companies are very cautious and what you are leaving behind is this surplus of talent,” Ang continued. “You have to apply for jobs now. It’s not like in the past when you would get multiple invitations from companies.”

Ang said that these conditions have reduced the demand for hiring new graduates in technology companies.

“Everyone is playing a short-term game right now. Everyone is trying to conserve cash,” Ang said. “Hiring new graduates is not the best strategy because you need time to train them.”

It’s not so much a shortage of jobs as it is an increase in the number of students in Singapore who are qualified for computing jobs, Ben Leong, an assistant professor of computer science at the National University of Singapore, told Insider.

According to enrollment statistics released by the National University of Singapore, the number of new students who chose computing degrees in 2022 reached 1,042 students. This represents an increase of 57% from 664 students in 2018.

Leung said students today need to be realistic about what employers in technology expect.

“The truth is, it’s a tough job and having a degree doesn’t mean you’ll get a job,” Leung said, adding that being a skilled software engineer is no different from being a lawyer or doctor.

“Law and PhD are professional skills. Unfortunately, computer science will be the same, there are people who will specialize in it but can’t do the job and may have to find other jobs. So that’s the reality,” Leung continued.

Not just Singapore

It’s not just Singapore. In the United States, some students and recent graduates with degrees in computer science or engineering say they have lost confidence in the industry after a flood of layoffs at big tech companies.

“It’s the worst time to be a junior engineer since 2000, when the dot-com bubble burst,” Aline Lerner, founder and CEO of Interviewing.io, an interview training platform for software engineers, told Insider’s Kali Hays in May.

Dimming job prospects also led to a decline in interest in the subject. For example, the number of computer science graduates at MIT fell 12% in 2022 to 260 students, down from 297 students in 2020.

Ho, a first-year student at the National University of Singapore, said he is considering taking a leave of absence from school to pursue additional internships. He says this may put him in a stronger position when he starts applying for full-time jobs later.

“I can delay my graduation a little bit, and hopefully by then, it will be easier to find a high-paying job,” Ho said.

But NodeFlair’s Ang is less optimistic. He said the high salaries that resulted from the pandemic technology boom are unlikely to return.

“Other than a general year-on-year salary increase across the board, I don’t think we’ll see anything like 2021 again,” Ang said.

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