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make more than half of what doctors
do. In Finland, the opportunity cost of
becoming a teacher is not as great as
in the U.S.
The real problem of getting
enough computer science teachers is
the opportunity cost. We are struggling with this cost at both the K–12
(primary and secondary school) level
and in higher education.
I have been exchanging email recently with Michael Marder of UTeach at
University of Texas at Austin (http://
bit.ly/2CKwScu). UTeach (https://uteach.
utexas.edu/) is an innovative and successful program that helps science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduates become teachers. They do not get a lot of
computer science (CS) students who
want to become CS teachers; CS is
among the majors that provide the
smallest number of future teachers. A
2011 U. K. report ( http://bit.ly/2CLvi XF)
found that CS graduates are less likely to become teachers than other
CS majors may be just as interested
in becoming teachers. Why don’t they?
My guess is the perceived opportunity
cost. That may just be perception—the
average starting salary for a certified
teacher in Georgia is $38,925 (http://
and the average starting salary for a
new software developer in the U.S.
(not comparing to exorbitant possible
starting salaries) is $55,000 (http://
bit.ly/2CFuQJL). That’s a big differ-
ence, but it’s not the 3x differences of
teachers vs. doctors.
We have a similar problem at the
higher education level. The National
Academies of Sciences, Engineering,
and Medicine just released a report:
Assessing and Responding to the Growth
of Computer Science Undergraduate Enrollments (you can read it for free or
buy a copy at http://bit.ly/2CWttnt),
which describes the rapidly rising enrollments in CS (also described in the
CRA Generation CS report, discussed
in a previous blog at http://bit.
ly/2qiMahP) and the efforts to manage
them. The problem is basically too
many students for too few teachers,
and one reason for too few teachers is
that computing Ph.D.’s are going into
industry instead of academia.
Quoting from the report:
The Real Costs of
a Computer Science
Opportunity Costs, and
Those Are Enormous
December 1, 2017
Imagine that you are an undergraduate who excels at science and mathematics. You could go to medical
school and become a doctor, or you
could become a teacher. Which
would you choose?
If you are in the U.S., most students
would not see these as comparable
choices. The average salary for a general practitioner doctor in 2010 was
$161,000, and the average salary for a
teacher was $45,226. Why would you
choose to make a third as much in salary? Even if you care deeply about education and contributing to society,
the opportunity cost for yourself and
your family is enormous. Meanwhile
in Finland, the general practitioner
makes $68,000 and the teacher makes
$37,455. Teachers in Finland are not
paid as much as doctors (http://bit.
ly/2m3ZnaK), but Finnish teachers
The Costs and Pleasures of
DOI: 10.1145/3178118 http://cacm.acm.org/blogs/blog-cacm
a Computer Science Teacher
Mark Guzdial considers the enormous opportunity costs
of computer science teachers, while Bertrand Meyer ponders
the pleasures of arguing with graduate students.