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The future is here

Computer science and engineering graduates have to handle everything from programming and designing apps for mobile phones to developing software for space vehicles and sci-fi films

education Updated: Nov 02, 2011 11:07 IST
M Balakrishnan

Every person in the developed Western world uses more than a hundred “computers or computing engines” in his day-to-day activities. An urban Indian may have already crossed 25. All these need to be loaded with applications which are designed, developed and maintained by computer science and engineering (CSE) graduates.

Computer science originated mainly from mathematics. As computing became widespread, a special branch of mathematics developed into the specialisation we call computer science today. Courses like theory of computing, discrete mathematics, graph theory etc are still considered to be on the interface of computer science and mathematics. On the other hand, computer engineering emerged out of electrical engineering — with courses such as digital design and computer architecture still on the interface of the two. With CSE emerging as a discipline and software becoming more and more complex, courses in software design and development, system software and software engineering were developed to create a comprehensive new discipline of computer science and engineering. It is still not uncommon in the United States or in European universities to have computer science programmes as part of the science faculty (sometimes even mathematics and computer science). Computer engineering programmes, too, are offered by engineering schools - even electrical and computer engineering programmes.

In India though initially BSc and MSc programmes in CS were started in some universities (and have continued), there’s been growth mainly in computer science and engineering as demand for practitioners (read programmers) has increased. With pressure to increase the intake to satisfy market demands, many institutions started BTech or BE in information technology by heavily borrowing from the CSE syllabus but to this day it remains an unfocussed programme without a distinct career path.

Career options
The initial visible growth came from the programmer body-shopping outfits followed by the outsourced software development industry. As an industry catering to international markets, its pay packages have always been attractive. This meant that lots of students switched disciplines to join as programmers — a trend that started in the early ‘80s and is declining now with the explosive growth of CSE programmes in the country. This growth has led to increased career opportunities in academics. Well-qualified postgraduates, thus, have no dearth of jobs.

So, if you are motivated, ready to put in the hard work and have an aptitude for ‘programming’, you can grow fast. It is not unusual for software engineers with two to three years experience being called group leaders and with five to six years of experience becoming managers. The challenge though is the constant need to update yourself due to the very fast pace of change in technology. This is true whether you are in education, industry or even in sales and maintenance.

Are you good enough?
Core computer science and engineering requires a good understanding of mathematics and basic electronics. Only a person capable of logical thinking can become a good programmer.

5 best choices for BE, BTech in CSE/IT

In Delhi
* Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi,
* Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi,
* Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology, Delhi,
* Delhi Technological University,
* Indira Gandhi Institute of Technology (for women only), Indraprastha University, Delhi,

Across India
* All IITs (7 old + 8 new), multiple locations across the country,
* Indian Institute of Science (MTech only), Bangalore,
* IIITs, multiple locations across the country
* National Institutes Technology, multiple locations
* Birla Institute of Technology & Science, Pilani,

The author is a professor of computer science and engineering, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Delhi