Outsourcing of computer jobs a misconception

Megan Whinnery

Ideas about outsourcing jobs in the computer science profession could be deterring some students from entering the field. But a recent study shows those rumors are false.

“The perception of jobs moving away could make people less likely to enter computer science fields,” said Robert Walker, associate professor and interim chair of the computer science department. “There really is a myth that everything is going to India and China.”

Offshoring is having work done in another country, according to a study done by the Association of Computing Machinery about the globalization and offshoring of software.

“We’ve got the wrong perception out there,” Walker said. “If students don’t go into computer science because of the rumors, that’s a problem.”

The Association of Computing Machinery put together a task force of computer scientists, social scientists and labor economists to study the offshoring of computer-related jobs. The year-long study revealed only 2 to 3 percent of jobs were actually being lost because of offshoring.

Walker said the new jobs being created in the computer science industry are more than replenishing the jobs lost to offshoring.

“There are actually more jobs now than ever before,” Walker said. “The jobs that are lost are actually being filled with higher-level jobs.

“Although jobs are being moved, it’s not a bad thing globally. Nobody’s really losing for the most part.”

One of the realities of the computer industry is software must be affordable for consumers, said computer science professor C.C. Lu.

“The offshoring of jobs in the computer industry isn’t a big problem,” Lu said. “No matter how offshore it’s going, we still need a lot of software engineers here.”

Lu recommends the best way to handle the offshoring is to look at how to manage software outsourcing. Computer science professionals and software engineers are jobs that won’t be outsourced because the higher-level positions must remain in the United States for offshoring to be successful, Lu said.

Another misconception about offshoring is all the jobs lost are going to China and India. The No. 1 destination for offshoring is Canada, Walker said. Coming in second is Ireland, and India follows the list at number three, he said.

Walker said one of the reasons for the misconception is because when customers call for software-related technical support, many call centers are in India. Most call center jobs are lower-level jobs, but in India, working in a center is a career.

“Working in a call center in India is a reasonable goal,” Walker said.

At this point, India doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the research necessary for more advanced computer science jobs, he said.

Although the study from the association puts some misconceptions to rest about the loss of jobs in the computer industry, Walker said he is concerned about the misinformation being distributed at the high school level.

“I hope the guidance counselors and teachers don’t give students wrong information,” Walker said. “Things aren’t bad now, there are plenty of good-paying jobs.”

Walker said he is concerned about the wrong information deterring prospective computer science students from entering the field. A problem, he said, that could lead to more jobs being outsourced because the lack of professionals could cause the United States to lose its edge.

Data from the National Science Foundation reveals that among science graduates, computer science graduates earned the highest median annual salaries. The survey polled recent college graduates and employment trends. A look at such data could alleviate student fears of the offshoring of jobs.

“The biggest problem with offshoring is the computer science students’ fears,” Lu said. “Students are afraid of not being able to find a job when they graduate.”

Contact academic computing reporter Megan Whinnery at [email protected].