No Wonder Everybody Wants to Study Computer Science

58,000 people signed up for a free Stanford course

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You know a class is popular when enrollment numbers hit the five-digit mark. A new course on artificial intelligence at Stanford University taught be ex-Googlers did just that, attracting a jaw-dropping 58,000 students. The fact that the course is being offered free and online certainly helped boost the enrollment number, which is exactly what Stanford was going for. The popular new course is one of three that will be offered in conjunction with a Stanford experiment to broaden the university's reach and get more people interested in technology. But according to recent reports about the job market, people might not need that much motivation.

People who study computer science earn a lot of money. A recent scramble for top talent in Silicon Valley is leading to engineers salaries pay packages that five times that size. "Engineers are worth half a million to one million," Facebook's director of corporate development Vaughn Smith recently told The New York Times. This reflects Mark Zuckerberg's view that exceptional talent is "100 times better" than people who are just "pretty good."

Even if Facebook is wrong about this bombastic approach--and Bill Taylor at the Harvard Business Review thinks they are--computer science is still one of the most lucrative fields in which you can get a degree. The only college major that leads to a high career earnings than computer science is engineering, a field that is becoming increasingly influenced by artificial intelligence. A Georgetown study out this year showed that computer science and engineering majors earn up to 50 percent more in their lifetimes than humanities majors. Median earnings for people computer science backgrounds ranges from $70,000 for those holding a bachelor's degree to $89,000 for those with a master's. By contrast, arts degrees range from $44,000 to $55,000.

Some of these trends seem to be resonating in the recent rollercoaster stock market, the salaries make sense. After all, while all the other stocks were plummeting, Apple became the world's most valuable company.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.