By Colleen O’Leary–
Following the “burst of the dot-com bubble,” studies show a sharp decline in student enrollment in the field of computer and information technology. According to the Computer Research Association, “the number of newly declared computer science-majors declined 32 percent from the fall of 2000 to the fall of 2004.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that “computer and mathematical occupations are expected to add 785,700 new jobs from 2008 to 2018, and, as a group, they will grow more than twice as fast as the average for all occupations in the economy.”
Job opportunities in the field are booming while the number of qualified graduates has been falling. With Bill Gates himself begging for students to take an interest in the computer science, how can this trend be explained?
The appeal of job stability and the promise of entering the workforce on a career path with some of the highest paying entry-level jobs may for some pale in comparison to the prospect of life as a cubicle dweller.
Many professionals and undergraduates in the field blame the nature of the media coverage for the decline of interest and enrollment. Reports of jobs being outsourced, the exaggeration of the implications of the drop in enrollment and supposed grim outlook of the field deter students who may have a budding interest in computer and information technology.
There seems to be a vicious cycle in the trend of employment in the field. Employers are seeking H-1B visas to bring in foreign workers because of the shortage of qualified Americans. Americans see employers applying for H-1B visas and believe this means their job will be outsourced so they do not apply to the employers outsourcing jobs, forcing the employer to seek foreign employees.
Americans may be misinformed about the reality of the current state of the field. According to the Computer Research Association, enrollment in the field of computer science has been steadily on the rise since 2007.
The 2009-2010 CRA Taulbee Survey states: “Total enrollment among U.S. computer science undergraduates increased 10 percent. This is the third straight year of increases in total enrollment, and indicates that the post dot-com decline in undergraduate computing program enrollments is over.”
The slow but steady rise of interest and enrollment in the field is a battle won, but the war is not over. Austin Cameron, a 23-year-old Louisville native and co-founder of Impulcity, an “event-aggregator” smartphone application, says, “There is definitely a shortage of talented developers. Schools are teaching outdated skill sets, unfortunately, and even when they do teach programming, most are outdated languages. Plus, small businesses don’t have the resources to teach new employees the skills themselves.”
Photo by Andrew Nathan/The Louisville Cardinal