Is it worth investing US$300,000 in a computer science degree amidst tech layoffs?

is a computer science degree worth it
As the world's preeminent hub for technology, Silicon Valley has attracted some of the brightest minds to pursue computer science — but is it really worth it pursue this degree as tech companies continue to announce cut jobs? Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

Is a computer science degree worth it?

That’s the question most computer science graduates would ask as they read news of massive layoffs in the tech industry.

Amazon deepens tech sector gloom as the company announced it would axe another 9,000 roles on Monday, Reuters reported. 

The move piles on a wave of layoffs that have swept the tech sector as an uncertain economy forces companies to get leaner. 

Other tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook have made similar moves. 

Meta has announced that they will be laying off another 10,000 people and will institute a further hiring freeze as part of the company’s “Year of Efficiency”, according to a Facebook post by Mark Zuckerberg. 

Microsoft is in its third round of layoffs. The company has axed jobs that impacted employees in roles related to supply chain, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, Business Standard reports. 

is a computer science degree worth it

Tech layoffs are putting a gloom on the industry. As a computer science graduate, you might be wondering: “Is a computer science degree worth it?” Source: Chris Delmas/AFP

Why are tech companies cutting jobs?

Approximately 174 tech companies have laid off over 56,000 employees in 2023, according to Forbes

As a sector that has long been one of explosive growth and capitalising on the latest trends, companies are constantly readjusting their priorities and resources for growth. 

That includes allocating the necessary workforce for the right jobs or challenging resources to new tech that may benefit a company in the long run. 

What’s more, the economy has been anything but stable in the last year. 

The cost of living crisis has made headlines in the UK, and economists have forecasted a recession to hit the US as early as Jan. 2023. 

Naturally, tech companies are trimming their expenses by cutting jobs. 

Deputy Dean at MIT’s Sloan School of Management Michael Cusumano, however, thinks that massive tech layoffs have more to do with investors than the companies’ bottom lines. 

Investors focus more on revenue per employee. With so many hires during the COVID-19 pandemic, that metric has declined dramatically for major tech firms. 

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, thinks otherwise. He believes that companies are copying each other.

“Oftentimes, companies don’t have a cost problem. They have a revenue problem. And cutting employees will not increase your revenue. It will probably decrease it,” he told The Verge.

So, why do tech companies lay off workers?

“People do all kinds of stupid things all the time,” Pfeffer shares. “I don’t know why you’d expect managers to be any different.”

is a computer science degree worth it

If you dreamed of working at Microsoft, there’s still light at the end of the tunnel. Source: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

So, is a computer science degree worth it?

It depends.

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the median usual weekly wage for full-time employees who have obtained a degree was US$1,525 in the first quarter of 2022, compared to US$827 for those with only a high school diploma and no college. 

It shows that the highest paying jobs are usually possible with a degree qualification.

Data from Payscale’s Online Salary Survey show that those who graduate with a computer science degree have a median starting salary of US$77,300

When they graduate, they can work as a:

  • Game developer
  • Software engineer
  • Software developer
  • IT consultant
  • Database administrator
  • UX designer
  • Mobile app developer
  • Project manager
  • Information security analyst
  • Systems architect
  • AI engineer

But is it really true?

is a computer science degree worth it

There’s no better place to study computer science than in a country that gave birth to the world’s first computer. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images North America/Getty Images/AFP

A reduction in internship opportunities

Tech companies tend to use internships as a method for recruiting promising job candidates — even going as far as extending offers to students to return as full-time employees after graduation, according to Natasha Singer and Kalley Huang from the New York Times.

This year, those opportunities are shrinking. 

Amazon, for example, hired about 18,000 interns in 2022, paying some computer science students nearly US$30,000 for the summer, according to Singer and Huang. 

The company is now considering reducing the number of interns for 2023 by more than half, according to a person with knowledge of the programme who was not authorised to speak publicly. 

Smaller tech firms are also changing their hiring plans. 

Roblox, a popular gaming platform, plans to hire 300 interns during the summer of 2023 — almost twice as many in 2022 — and was expecting more than 50,000 applications for those spots. Redfin, which employed 38 interns in the summer of 2022, has cancelled its internship programme for 2023. 

Still, the computer science field is growing. From 2021 to 2031, employment for software developers and testers will grow by 25%, amounting to 411,000 new jobs, according to projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many of these jobs, however, are in areas such as the finance or automotive industry.

is a computer science degree worth it

With inflation and expensive tuition, we can’t help but wonder: is a computer science degree worth it? Source: Chandan Khanna/AFP 

It’s not cheap to study computer science in the US

Depending on the uni you’ve chosen, the cost to pursue a computer science degree varies. 

At Stanford University, the cost of attendance for the 2022-23 term is US$79,540. This price includes tuition, housing, food, and estimated miscellaneous expenses. 

At the University of Florida, students can expect to pay US$45,428 for an education in computer science. This number includes transportation costs, living expenses, miscellaneous personal expenses, and federal student loan fees. 

There’s also the option to pursue your computer science degree online — a golden opportunity for those who want to pursue this lucrative career without going through the trouble of living in a new country. 

Plus, inflation in the US is currently around 8.6%, the highest figure since the early 1980s, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

It will affect the cost of most commodities — from food and gasoline to housing.

With this, universities across the country have unfortunately had to raise the costs of tuition after holding out throughout the pandemic. 

Seattle University and Syracuse University, for example, have raised their tuition by 3.75% and 4.5%, respectively. 

Robert Manning, Board of Trustees Chair of the University of Massachusetts, says the 2.5% tuition fee increase across all its campuses is unavoidable.

Pair this with the increase in groceries and rent, and international students would need to fork out more money to cover their cost of living over the next few years.