Computer Science majors on the rise despite tech layoffs, questions over AI


The department is expected to award 138 graduate degrees this year to its “pure” majors, up from 97 the previous year, even amid massive layoffs in the tech sector and questions over the role that artificial intelligence will play in the industry’s future.

Ben Raab

1:42 am, Feb 15, 2024

Staff Reporter

Ellie Park, Photography Editor

Artificial intelligence is not slowing down Yale’s Computer Science department.

The department is expected to award 138 graduate degrees this year to its “pure” majors, up from 97 the previous year. Other majors under the department’s umbrella, such as computer science and economics and computer science and math, are expected to increase as well. The spike comes amid national layoffs in the tech sector in 2023 and the start of 2024, as well as lingering questions about the future of traditional computer science roles due to the emergence of artificial intelligence technology.

“I personally don’t think that we are anticipating much of a change for CS majors,” computer science professor Brian Scasselati told the News. “The ways in which people program are certainly changing, but the need for programmers does not seem to be going away any time soon.”

The number of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded at Yale has more than doubled in the last five years and more than quintupled in the last decade. Other degrees in the department, such as computer science and economics, computer science and mathematics and computing and the arts, have followed a similar trend.

New artificial intelligence technologies that have been recently released, including ChatGPT in 2022, as well as Microsoft’s Copilot and Google Gemini in 2023, can automate typical programming tasks, such as code generation, debugging and algorithm optimization. In 2023, more than 260,000 tech employees were laid off by employers including Amazon, Google and Apple. Layoffs have continued in 2024, while companies have also made investments into AI technology a priority. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 11-percent decrease in employment opportunities for computer programmers over the next ten years, citing “automation” as a factor. However, software developers, who, according to the bureau, had a higher median pay in 2022 compared to programmers — $124,200 vs $97,800, respectively — are projected to see a 25-percent increase in employment opportunities.

Kyle Jensen, a Yale School of Management professor who teaches the course “Fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence Models,” wrote that Yale computer science majors should have no concern over job security.

Maybe there’s some diminished demand for grunt work, but this is not the kind of work Yale graduates do anyway,” Jensen wrote. “If anything, the kind of education students receive at Yale is now more valuable because the CS student is relieved from a few details, freer to think about concepts and ‘the big picture.’”

In a News survey of 36 Yale computer science majors, roughly two-thirds of all respondents indicated that they felt “just as” or “more” secure about their future career prospects given the advancements in AI and automation. 

Alex Schapiro ’26, a computer science major and the head of Yale CourseTable, said that he feels more secure about his career prospects in tech now than he did when ChatGPT first came out in 2022.

“If anything, I think there could be an expanded need for CS graduates because of all the new capabilities in the industry brought about by AI,” Schapiro said. “Low-level programming positions might be at risk, but I don’t feel particularly threatened at this point.”

But, Schapiro noted, it is still too early to tell exactly what kind of impact AI will have on the CS job market. 

Among survey respondents, responses were more evenly distributed to a question asking how knowledgeable respondents felt about AI’s current impact on the job market. Responses were spread almost evenly across a 1-5 scale of “no knowledge at all” to “very knowledgeable.”

Richard Yang, director of undergraduate studies for the computer science major, agreed with these sentiments, adding that, if anything, the development of new AI technologies like ChatGPT have brought computer science further into the mainstream, attracting more prospective majors than they have turned away.

“I do not see CS majors at Yale slowing down, K. Sudhir, a School of Management professor said. “I predict the demand for CS grads will grow with the emergence of generative AI and other AI technologies … The graduate may not be doing exactly the same work as they would have done before, but there will be significant demand growth for their talent.”

Yale’s Computer Science department was established in 1969.


Ben Raab covers faculty and academics at Yale and writes about the Yale men’s basketball team. Originally from New York City, Ben is a sophomore in Pierson college pursuing a double major in history and political science.


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