Career Watch: Computer science enrollment on rise

The Big Numbers

• 19.8%

The number of bachelor's degrees awarded to computer science majors by Ph.D.-granting universities in the U.S. increased by 19.8% in 2012 compared with a year earlier. It was the third year in a row that the percentage increase was in the double digits, reflecting an uptick in the fortunes of the cyclical IT jobs market. According to Peter Harsha, the director of government affairs at the Computing Research Association, CRA members have said that the recent upward trend is due at least in part to the fact that "students are much more aware of the importance of computational thinking in just about every other field of science and technology."

• 29.2%

The cycle appears to be on the upswing, since even more undergraduates are flocking to computer science. According to the CRA survey, the number of new undergraduate computer science majors at Ph.D.-granting U.S. universities rose by more than 29% last year, an increase that the CRA called "astonishing."

It was the fifth straight year in which the number of students enrolled in computer-related degree programs rose, according to the CRA's annual survey of computer science, computer engineering or information departments at Ph.D.-granting institutions.

-- Patrick Thibodeau

Source: The Computing Research Association's annual CRA Taulbee Survey

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader:Zack Hicks

The Toyota Motor Sales CIO answers three questions on networking as a career choice.

I just got a degree in computer engineering and plan to go into networking, database management and, later, security. Does this sound feasible, or should I just pick one? If the latter, which one should I pick? At Toyota, I encourage my IT associates to rotate through our different technical and nontechnical roles. My path to CIO was by no means a straight line, but I found that the perspectives gained from both technical and nontechnical roles set me up for success as a CIO. I would encourage you to get as varied experience as you can. That being said, if you find that you have a passion for networking, database management or security, you can find great success by becoming an expert in any of those areas.

And for readers currently in school, I cannot stress enough the importance of a summer internship, which provides exposure to real-life business processes and often gives you an edge when you're applying for full-time jobs.

I have a bachelor's in business administration and an A+ certification. Right now, I am a network technician, but what I really do is basic help desk support with some network stuff on rare occasions. I would like to expand my expertise and skills in networking and security for a higher-paying job. Is this a reliable route to take? What certifications would you suggest? I've been thinking of getting CompTIA Network+ certification, but I've heard a lot of people say to get a CCNA instead. Networking is a top skill. Three areas of focus for networking would be wireless, WANs and security. With so many mobile devices coming into the corporate world, in addition to the movement to cloud computing, this is a great space.

I suggest the following network classes and certificates: A CCNA certification (in routing/switching, wireless and security) would be more specific than Network+ admin classes and would give you more marketable skills. After that, I suggest you look into a CCNP, if you want to upgrade your network skills further, and a CISSP to round out your security knowledge and experience. Network and security roles are continuing to become more important in my organization. With Toyota Entune, most of our cars have amazing telematics features that require advanced networking services and hardened security. It takes very experienced individuals to provide these services.

I'm wondering whether a move into network support and administration would be a good hedge against outsourcing. I don't want to guess wrong, because I'll have to pay for my own training. Generally, a company's outsourcing strategy is based on the unique needs of the organization. What I have noticed among my peers is that skills such as networking, data/business intelligence and security are, more often than not, locally sourced, but it would be difficult to predict what your experience will be. For whichever area you choose to focus on, my advice would be to spend time understanding the emerging technologies in that space and think creatively about how they can be applied to business. The ability to demonstrate this type of innovative thinking is highly valued.

If you have a question for one of our Premier 100 IT Leaders, send it to askaleader@computerworld.com, and watch for this column each month.

Read more about management in Computerworld's Management Topic Center.

This story, "Career Watch: Computer science enrollment on rise" was originally published by Computerworld.

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