It is little news today that few students choose computer science and its related fields as college majors. Yet, more surprising piece information is the number of students who declare an interest in technology at the high school level but lose interest along the way, according to data released in 2006 by the HERI (Higher Education Research Institute) at UCLA.
In an effort to combat this trend, the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has produced a guide aimed at high school level students to help prepare them for careers in computing.
In collaboration with the IEEE Computer Society and the AIS (Association for Information Systems), the "Computing Degrees & Careers" brochure details what computer professionals do.
"Its very clear that were losing their interest after high school and thats why were targeting this group… At Stanford, CS has dropped from being the second largest major to the seventh. Often they end up in the economics or biology departments instead, not necessarily because they want to become economists or biologists, but because theyre following the money. Finance and health care are seen as more cutting edge. They see fewer exciting problems to solve in technology," said Eric Roberts, co-chair of ACMs Education Board, and professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.
The careers brochure presents information on the kinds of computer-based skills required for careers in medical imaging, finding information on the Web, online music and movie distribution, mobile devices and gaming.
It also details the major fields of study within computing, including computer engineering, computer science and information systems. In describing the growing range of career opportunities, major areas of computer science study are highlighted.
Students who love to solve puzzles, exchange theories about new ideas or are interested in using computers in new and different ways are told about computer science, and how it spans the range from theory to practice to cutting-edge inventions and is the foundation for the varied work of computer scientists.
The work of computer scientists is highlighted as finding solutions to "real-world problems" in fields from robotics to digital forensics.
Students interested in building the next generation of mobile phones, tiny media players, or even new and advanced medical tools are encouraged to looking into computer engineering, where they can study the design of software including communication systems, computers and devices, as well as MP3 players and laser surgery tools.
IS (information systems) is encouraged as education path for students who enjoy finding better ways to get things done, or in understanding the ways computers can make businesses run better, and IT (information technology) is suggested as a path for those who are always the troubleshooter that friends call when their computers "act weird."
SE (software engineering) is offered for consideration by high school students who feel they see the "big picture" of things; theyre assured that writing software has to with a lot more than just writing lines of code, combining their experience in computer science, math and engineering.
"The paradox is that the number of students expressing interest in the field is going down all the while the number of computer science jobs are going up. People have misconceptions about the field, and the impact of offshoring and globalization. Weve not come back from the hit we took after the dot-com bubble burst," said Roberts.
This career-based project was launched in part to address misperceptions about the computing field. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that more IT jobs are available today in the U.S. than at the height of the dot-com boom, despite a significant increase in offshoring in the past five years. The BLS predicted that IT jobs would be among the fastest-growing occupations over the next decade.
"There are more jobs in computing and information technology today than at any point in our past. Almost every major challenge facing our world is turning to computing for a solution, from conquering disease to eliminating hunger, from improving education to protecting the environment. We hope students grappling with decisions about their career paths will use the information provided by this publication to broaden their awareness of the opportunities open to them in this field," said Roberts.
Check out eWEEK.coms Careers Center for the latest news, analysis and commentary on careers for IT professionals.