Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Why Are Students Not Majoring in Information Systems?

Academic journal article Journal of Information Systems Education

Why Are Students Not Majoring in Information Systems?

Article excerpt

1. INTRODUCTION

Recently, there has been much discussion in the popular and business press regarding the demise of the American technology worker (Engardio, et al., 2003), particularly workers in the information technology profession (Baker and Kripalani, 2004). After the boom times of the late 1990s, the job market for IT workers eroded during the economic recession of the early 21st Century. Economy related job loss in combination with the increase in IT outsourcing led some to proclaim the IT profession doomed to decline within the USA. Despite headline news articles, the overall job market for IS professionals has remained relatively strong, and, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projections, remains one of the major occupational growth areas for the next decade (Hecker, 2005). Indeed, these BLS projections suggest almost half (five of the top twelve) of the fastest growing occupations will be in high-paying IT related occupations, and that overall computing related occupations most important issue according to CIOs and other top ranking IT managers (Luftman, et al., 2006). Skilled IT professionals are central to technology enabled productivity improvements that have historically driven U.S. economic prosperity (Atkinson and McKay, 2007; Greenspan, 2000). With IT employment at an all time high, continued job growth expected, and enrollments in information technology related majors near an all time low, it is likely the USA will encounter a severe IT worker shortage that could negatively are growing "more than three times faster than the average for all occupations" (Hecker, 2005, p. 72). Yet, it is possible that new college students and their advisors have been swayed by the gloomy headlines, as enrollments have plunged in most college computer science and information systems programs (Chabrow, 2004). As reported in the CRA Bulletin (Vegso, 2006), according to the freshman survey data collected by the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), enrollments in computer science and related computing programs have fallen by 70% since peaking around the year 2000. Correspondingly, computing related enrollments are the lowest they've been since the late 1970's, a time period that pre-dates many computing related curriculums.

The continued importance of the IT workforce issue is highlighted by ongoing studies of top IT management concerns. In a recent study of "Key Issues for IT Executives," the concern about "attracting, developing, and retaining IT professionals" has again been ranked as the 2nd impact the national economy. Some have referred to this pending talent shortage as a national crisis, while others merely refer to the pending shortage as "a major challenge to remaining competitive" (Mitchell, 2006 ). Consequently, it is in the nation's best interest to better understand the phenomenon of degree major selection by students attending our institutions of higher learning. (Note: while this study focuses on the USA, similar enrollment concerns have been noted in Australia, Canada, South Africa, and Western European countries.)

Historically, enrollment trends in different areas of study oscillate and interest in differing college of business degree programs fluctuate. Currently, enrollments in information systems related degrees are very low. Similarly, in the late 1990s, enrollment in accounting degree programs was down. Consequently, there is now an insufficient supply of properly schooled accounting graduates and that labor market is very tight. Fortunately for the accounting profession, accounting programs are now drawing large numbers of students to that discipline. Nonetheless, it would be helpful to attract students to a discipline before a labor shortage becomes obvious. While student career choice patterns are likely to vary over time, it would be beneficial to both the students and society if we can ensure that new entrants are making informed choices about life-influencing career and degree decisions. …

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