Students now avoiding IT degrees, despite good job prospects

Despite high entry-level salaries and an abundance of jobs, the numbers of students completing undergraduate information technology programs in North America continues to fall, according to recent statistics.

The just released latest results of the Computing Research Association's Taulbee Survey -- an annual study conducted at universities with Ph.D. programs -- shows a 20% drop between 2005-06 and 2006-07 in students completing bachelors degrees in professional IT fields.

"This year's decline is in line with the 16 percent decline estimated by the
departments last year, and follows the declining trends in the number of new
bachelor's students that have been reported widely in recent years," according to the CRA's report.

"Perhaps even more alarming is the drop in the fraction of bachelor's
degrees awarded to women, from 14.2 percent last year to 11.8 percent this year. [The] fraction of new female students is reported now to be less
than 10 percent in many bachelor's programs. Ethnicity is also less diverse,
with the proportion of white, non-Hispanics receiving bachelor's degrees rising to 66.0 percent from 59.6 percent just two years ago. [These] are serious problems in achieving our field's diversity goals."

The CRA's study also found that total enrollment in computer science programs at these North American universities fell to 46,227, a 50% drop over five years before.

But at the same time, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 856,000 professional IT jobs will be added between 2008 and 2018 -- amounting to one out of every 19 new jobs that will appear over the next decade.

Meanwhile, according to a recent brief by the National Science Foundation, as of April 2006, people who had received CS degrees from 2003 through 2005 were doing quite well professionally.

"At the bachelor's level, 82 percent of CS majors were employed in business and industry and 91 percent of them (along with engineering majors) had full-time jobs. At the master's level, 76 percent worked in business/industry and 93 percent had full-time jobs," according to a summary of the brief posted on the CRA's Web site.

"CS graduates also earned high salaries. CS tied for second with health majors for the highest median salary at the bachelor's level ($45,000) and tied for first with engineering at the master's level ($65,000). This compared to median salaries among all science, engineering and health fields of $39,000 at the bachelor's level and $56,000 at the master's level."

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