I Can Actually Get PAID To Do This?

011_paul_grahamOrdinary programmers write code to pay the bills. Great hackers think of it as something they do for fun, and which they’re delighted to find people will pay them for.

– Paul Graham


I read a report on CNN’s website saying that the number of college graduates with computer degrees has been declining steadily for the last four years. I’ve personally seen evidence of this myself, since back in 1998 when I first enrolled in Murray State’s computer science program, it seemed like everyone was majoring in computer science. Now there are fewer than 100 – and that’s not an exaggeration.

The difference can also be seen in people’s reactions. In 1999, if you told someone your major was computer science, their response was, “Wow, that’s a hot field. You’ll be set with that degree.” Nowadays, you’ll hear, “Hmm. Are you actually going to be able to a get a job with that degree?”

It just seems to me that about five years ago, before the dot-com collapse, computer science was the “cool” degree to go into because you could make a lot of money with it. For me, money was never my primary motivation for choosing CS as a major, thought I must say it will be a nice side-benefit. I chose CS because I absolutely cannot see myself doing anything else. I’ve heard it said that if you’re so passionate about what you’re doing that you’d do it for free, then you’ve made the right career choice.

You can hire just about anybody to write something in English, but if you’re a publisher, you hire people who have a masterful command over grammar, spelling, punctuation, and the ability to convey ideas clearly and efficiently. I feel the same can be applied to those who write software. There are a lot of people out there who can bang out code, but successful software companies seek out the exceptional developers who program because they love it, not because it makes them rich.Screen shot 2011-11-03 at 21.08.55

I believe that there are fewer CS graduates coming out of universities than years past because the “money seekers” have moved on to other fields. Programming just isn’t as “cool” a major as it used to be because a lot of people were downsized or had their jobs shipped off to India. Sure, there may be fewer graduates coming out each year, but you can rest assured that the majority of these graduates are passionate about programming, not money – which means less of a chance for an employer to hire an idiot straight out of college.

Check out Paul Graham’s essay, Great Hackers (from which the introductory quote was taken) and scroll down to “More than Money” for another take on what drives programmers and keeps them motivated.