Opportunities and Challenges Await Computer Science Graduates

By Hughes, Herman D. | Diversity Employers, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Opportunities and Challenges Await Computer Science Graduates


Hughes, Herman D., Diversity Employers


Opportunities in computer science and information technology are at their highest point in recent years, including high salaries, multiple job offers, and a variety of perks for luring individuals into joining a company. In general, students who have graduated from college make the best fit in the corporate world. Those of you who accept full-time jobs before graduation may be the first to be released by the companies during cutbacks. From a study conducted by the Junglee Corporation of Sunnyvale, California, about 76% of high-tech jobs required a bachelor's degree, 16% called for a master's degree and 8% required a Ph.D. degree. Several companies including Lucent Technologies, IBM, Telcordia, and Dell Computer Corp., target schools with large African-American enrollments for their special recruitment programs. These companies recruit students to permanent positions after providing many of them with work experience via co-ops and internships. Recruiters are working overtime these days trying to find qualifie d individuals to fill many job openings.

There are more than 200,000 jobs available for skilled computer science professionals; whereas, the number of graduates receiving a bachelor's degree in computer science has dropped to 24,200 persons per year. This shortage means pay is rising sharply, where the average salary for a beginning computer science major with a B.S. degree is about $60,000. Universities are not increasing enrollment fast enough in computer science, and as a result, a shortage of workers means that companies cannot rely 100 percent on college graduates. More aggressive efforts are needed to attract a higher percentage of minorities and women to the field of computer science. In 1997, only about 26% of the undergraduate computer science degrees were awarded to women. This represents a drop from a high of 34% in 1984, and computer science was the only science that experienced such a drop. For African Americans, both women and men, the situation is even worse. In 1998, 4% of the B.S. degrees in computer science went to African America ns. For graduate degrees, these percentages are lower. Studies have shown that if these underrepresented groups were fully participating in the information technology (IT) workforce, there would be no IT shortage. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) must play a critical role in the development of this high-tech workforce pipeline. Some universities such as the University of California, Irvine and Carnegie Mellon University are putting in place initiatives to increase their computer science enrollments. Sensing the difficulty in finding qualified personnel for technology ventures and electronic commerce, online recruitment firms are emerging and getting creative.

Government research laboratories are struggling to retain the nation's top scientists as high-tech companies lure workers away with the promise of huge salaries and stock options. Growing attrition rates in the next several years could threaten the quality of government research, including projects involving national security, administrators say. Leading research national laboratories such as Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia have all seen attrition rates jump into double digits, compared with the traditional four percent.

The high-tech job shortage is not confined to the programmers, engineers, computer scientists, and system analysts. There is a shortage of workers to fill jobs that require more general computer skills. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that over 60% of all jobs this year will require technical competency. As students, the information technology (IT) worker shortage is an opportunity and a challenge. It is estimated that by the year 2005, there will be a shortage of over 1 million IT workers. By the year 2002, the Internet will have directly created 5.8 million jobs in the United States and 3 million in six European countries (France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom).

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