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Gates: CS still good career

A fall-off of computer science majors — 23 percent fewer this year, according to a poll of several hundred North American universities by the Computing Research Association — has prompted industry leaders such as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates to lecture at schools, telling students that their skills can still earn them a healthy salary even as companies export jobs overseas.

Professors report that students are less enthusiastic about computer science at even the most prestigious academies, and are concerned that this attitude is fostered by more than just the disappointment of the dot-com implosion. On the other hand, computer science students who have elected to follow other career paths claim their computing skills give them an edge: Matthew Notowidigo, who has chosen to become an investment banker after majoring in computer science at MIT, says an understanding of computing technology will be critical to nearly all fields in the future.

John V. Guttag, head of MIT’s computer science department, says that in order to combat the erosion of computer science majors, “we have to emphasize…that a good computer science education is a great preparation for almost anything you want to do.” Gates says the most talented students are not being drawn to computer science because there is little excitement or understanding surrounding the field. He told students in a series of lectures that breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, speech recognition, and machine-to-machine communications are on the horizon thanks to years of research, faster computers, and better software. Gates added that computer analysis and modeling is becoming increasingly vital to well-entrenched disciplines such as biology and industrial design, as well as emergent disciplines such as nanotechnology.

NY Times Article (free registration required).

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