Continued declines in interest and enrollment in computer science has troubled the computing community for the past few years. After the dot-com bubble burst, employment fell and computer science majors rationally followed suit. However, in the past couple of years this trend has continued to puzzle the field’s leaders who hear widespread but anecdotal stories of graduates receiving multiple job offers and employers noting trouble finding talent for open positions. New data has recently been published that provide more than mere anecdote for the strong job prospects in information technology (IT).
We’ve had information for sometime that shows IT’s bright future. The chart above is our update of data the Computing Research Association (CRA) pulled together showing the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ projected job openings in various science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields vs. the number of graduates from those fields (based on National Science Foundation data). But some have argued that those are just projections and don’t show what is really happening. BLS also collects data showing total job growth in the computing-related field, which we’ve displayed in the chart below. Total employment in IT is actually 10 percent higher than at the height of the dot-com boom, even in the face of increased offshoring. However, there has been significant reorganization within the categories of IT employment.
While this is useful, it only tells part of the story. The other half is what is happening to salaries. BLS tracks salary data, but three new stories have published more recent information showing strong evidence that salaries are rapidly growing:
- CRA reported that computer science graduates were among the highest paid of any major — an average offer of $53,051, which is about a 4.5 percent increase over 2007.
- Network World released a survey of employers and employees showing strong growth in salaries for existing IT workers. The title of the article “Salary survey: IT pay falls short” reflects that the employees are not happy with their compensation, but it misses the point. The data shows that pay raises and bonuses for 2006 showed an 11.6% jump on average. Further, the average base salary grew by 5.6% to $86,700. Interestingly the survey noted that experts in security, storage and networking are wanted but hard to find. We hear from security researchers all the time that lack of federal funding for cybersecurity R&D and chilling effects from the Digital Millennium Copyright Act have driven people from the security field.
- The St. Petersburg Times reported on the tight job market. The article quoted Fritz Eichelberger, owner of hotspaces.net, saying “Smaller companies in smaller markets are the worst hit by the shortage as the marketplace becomes fiercely competitive. Salaries have increased $20,000 to $30,000 per year for some of the jobs.”
It is clear that the IT industry has recovered from the dot-com bust. But enrollment and interest in computer science seems to have moved beyond a cyclical downturn. As more stories and data about the job market come out the question is: When will we start seeing undergraduate enrollment increase, or is there some other consideration besides employment driving this trend?