Sunday, June 12, 2005

CS enrollment: start of the next cycle?

The above linked Computerworld article summarizes statistics that indicate that pay is once again rising for information technology (IT) workers. Moreover, pay is rising faster for those without certification (as opposed to those who are certified -- passed a standardized set of requirements, typically tests). The article interprets this as pointing to businesses starting to place greater value on experience, but it's not clear to me if that is merely the study's author's interpretation or if there is actual data to support it. An alternative explanation would be that the pendulum is once again swinging back in favor of core CS academic exposure -- fundamentals that are applicable to a wide range of problems -- over narrow, skills-specific training (not that experience isn't always something valued).

Either way, this suggests that the cyclical nature of engineering employment is once again expressing itself, and we should start seeing student interest (and enrollment) perk up again. One word of caution to prospective students: making a decent, secure living is important, but if you have a choice, choose a field that you can feel passionate about.


  1. I think you are reading way too much into this. The non certified fiels "include application development tool and languages, messaging/e-mail/groupware, networking and internetworking, and enterprise applications development".

    It seems you can learn a lot of these skills from a community college. These don't strike me as higher level skills.

    I tend to agree with the article: these are the skills you pick up from experience. Nobody learns a lot about groupware in school, you learn about it from experience.

    The shift seems to be from 22 years old who got some certification to 35 years old who have a lot of experience hacking enterprise systems.

    The role of a degree in this is quite unclear. There is no question that a university degree coupled with experience can be a very potent mix, but what is the value of the CS university degree in the current job market? We just don't know. I have no clue if it is on the rise or not.

  2. Daniel, you cruel, cruel person, bursting my bubble so callously. Yes, I don't know either; all of the skills in question could apply to community college level education. I believe that a four-year degree will make a difference in the long run, especially for those jobs that are less likely to be outsourced. (I look for evidence to support this in everything I read.) That and $3 will get you quite a nice cup of coffee.