Computer science (CS) majors at Amherst are facing a new sense of job insecurity amid waves of layoffs across major tech companies, leading some to redirect their career-exploration efforts to tech roles in government, medicine, and other nontraditional sectors.
Companies such as Amazon, Twitter, and Microsoft — popular targets for students interested in a programming career — have heavily downsized their workforces this year. In recent months, Facebook has laid off roughly 21,000 employees, Amazon reportedly cut 10,000 workers, and Twitter cut 3,750 positions.
Carolyn Margolin, the program director of careers in science and technology at the Loeb Center for Career Exploration and Planning, outlined the cause of these layoffs. “As public needs shifted after the height of the pandemic and consumer spending changed with rising inflation, the needs of these companies changed as well,” she said. “[This led] to their decision to downsize in some areas.”
Daniel Flores Garcia ’24, a CS major, said that many fellow majors were affected by the cuts, with some even losing standing internship offers.
“Some companies did not give return offers for their interns,” he wrote in a message to The Student. “As such, CS majors in Amherst who were relying upon their return offers for another internship the following summer or even a job after college had to go back into recruiting during Fall 2022-Spring 2023.”
“But many (probably most) companies were hiring fewer people in general during this recruiting season, which added to the agitation and uncertainty,” he said.
Adam Rogers ’24 has already experienced difficulties finding an internship as a CS major. “[The layoffs] make me nervous about finding jobs upon graduation, and also internships now,” he said. “I think companies are hiring fewer interns just because they’re shortening down their infrastructure.”
This year will be a particularly difficult year to find jobs in big tech, and it could take a few years before the demand rises again, according to Margolin. “This current issue will impact this year’s graduates — and potentially have continuing effects for one or two years after that,” she said.
Although big tech companies are hiring significantly less, Rogers noted that this doesn’t mean that students pursuing tech are entirely out of options. “I think computer science majors are needed in other industries, other than tech,” he explained. “Every company, whether it's retail or consulting, needs someone who can code, someone who knows software.” Rogers also referenced the fact that almost every company has a website, and individuals in tech can always fill positions involving website development and layout.
Margolin shared a similar view, adding that “there are still going to be many jobs for CS majors. It will mean expanding their view of what a career in technology can mean.”
She assured that there are many roles which involve tech in almost every other field — ranging from medicine to government. Climate and green energy technology is another great option, since jobs in this industry are on the rise as climate change becomes an increasingly alarming issue. “Consider what types of questions and issues you are interested in and then find the roles that allow you to approach them through the lens of technology,” she said.
Garcia, for his part, said that many CS majors were looking for and had found opportunities in the form of research experiences for undergraduates at different universities.
Margolin encourages CS students searching for jobs this year to also consider “small tech” roles at technology companies that aren’t massively well known like Google or Amazon. Finally, she mentioned that job seekers should look towards emerging technologies — artificial intelligence, and machine learning in particular — as demand for these is currently increasing and will continue to increase over the coming years.
Despite existing difficulties, Rogers maintained that these layoffs shouldn’t discourage Amherst students from pursuing CS and technology. “Study what you're interested in and what makes you happy,” he said. “You will be able to fill a gap that’s necessary in the job market no matter what industry.”
The sense of uncertainty is not ubiquitous. At least one upperclassmen CS major, Matthew Chun ’24, wrote in a message to The Student that he already had secured an internship at a big tech firm and was not concerned about the layoffs.
Additionally, the future is much brighter for underclassmen who may be thinking about pursuing a career in tech, Margolin said. She predicted that in the future, especially as AI and other emerging technologies continue to grow, CS majors and jobs in tech will likely be on the rise again and return to their previous high demand.
Kevin Dai ’25, another CS major, echoed Margolin. He said that as a sophomore, he was not too concerned about his job prospects.
“It seems that because the tech industry is pretty cyclical, by the time that younger students graduate, the job market likely will have improved substantially from where it’s at right now,” he said.
As for graduates this year and next year, positions in other non-tech industries will likely be the go-to solution to the decline in the big tech workforce. Margolin encourages students to utilize the resources found at the Loeb center and reach out to her and her colleagues with any concerns.