Drop in interest may not be significant

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2008-03-04 Print this article Print

Enrollments in computer science programs have fallen for several years as well. Between the 2005-2006 and 2006-2007 school years, enrollments fell 18 percent to 28,675, and they've dropped 49 percent from their 2001-2002 school year peak.

However, researchers caution against drawing too many conclusions from recent numbers, pointing to the cyclical nature of interest in computer science careers.

"Interest in computer science as a major has been essentially flat since 2005. But, it is important to remember that that it has happened before. In the mid-1980s there was a surge of computer science students and a drop off. There was another one in the late 1990s, and this drop off is being measured against that peak" said Vegso.

In fact, the number of Computer Science bachelors degrees granted in 2007 were higher than 1997, suggesting that the drop-off of the last seven years might be less significant than it sounds. In the 1997-1998 school year, there were 7,496 bachelor's degrees granted in computer science at the universities studied by the CRA, a number which jumped to 10,376 in 1999-2000 and peaked at 14,185 in 2003-2004, before beginning its current decline.

"There is still an ongoing effect from the tech industry's downturn in 2001, which created a lingering feeling that computer science wasn't a good field to go into. But the BLS' [Bureau of Labor Statistics'] ten year outlook numbers contradict this, and their numbers are about as neutral and conservative as you can get," said Vesgo.

Released in December, the BLS' 10-year economic and employment predications found that job opportunities for computer professionals would be growing at record paces through 2016. Network systems and data communications professionals made up the single fastest-growing occupation categorized between 2006 and 2016, increasing by an estimated 53.4 percent.

"Even though the slowed interest in computer science careers doesn't look as significant when you compare it to pre-boom levels, there's still an image in peoples' heads about what's going on in the tech sector and that's going to be hard to beat," said Vegso.



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