CS enrollments and applications up, follow jobs

NetworkWorld ran a story this week on recent trends in computer science enrollments and applications. In a word: up.

At Carnegie Mellon University, the number of applicants to the School of Computer Science’s Computer Science Department reached 3,000 this year, up 14% from last year and up 76% from 2005. The department caps enrollment at 130 students per year for a total enrollment of fewer than 550 students.

…One reason applications are up at CMU’s computer science program: high starting salaries. The median starting salary for 2009 graduates was $80,000, with the highest reported salary at $105,000.

According to the story, applications also up at Georgia Tech’s College of Computing (5%), UC Berkeley’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences (8%), and others.

“I think the job market is what’s driving the growth,” says Professor Bruce Porter, Chair of the Department of Computer Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, which has seen its enrollment increase more than 5% this year. “The government has made it clear that computer science is a growth field, and I think that message is getting back to students and their parents.”

Corporate recruitment of top computer science grads has remained steady throughout the economic downturn. Last spring, at the height of the recession, Georgia Tech’s College of Computing had the highest job placement rate of any major on campus and the highest starting salary.

More in the story. The most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook from the Bureau of Labor Statistics supports the positive outlook for CS-related jobs over the next 8 years

Employment growth is expected to be much faster than the average, and job prospects should be excellent.

Employment of computer scientists is expected to grow by 24 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Employment of these computer specialists is expected to grow as individuals and organizations continue to demand increasingly sophisticated technologies. Job increases will be driven, in part, by very rapid growth in computer systems design and related services industry, as well as the software publishing industry, which are projected to be among the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy.

Unfortunately, the pickle here is that demand is high in the CS-related job markets today, and those entering college won’t hit the streets for at least four years (8 or more for advanced degree candidates), when the market will be who-knows-what. I had the same experience with my EE undergraduate: when I started it was one of the hottest careers, and I finished four (ish) years later in one of the worst slumps in that job market in decades. Of course, there’s always grad school.

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