Computer science losing students
Published: Thursday, June 2, 2005
Updated: Saturday, June 16, 2012 00:06
Students nationwide, fearing unemployment and the stigma of being branded a loner, are turning away from majors in computer science fields, according to a recent survey.
The number of students going into computer science as a major declined 32 percent between 2000 and 2004, according to a recent study by Stuart Zweben, Ohio State's chairman of computer science and engineering. At OSU, the number of computer science majors fell 28 percent between 2001 and 2004.
In 2000, 23,416 students were enrolled in computer science programs nationwide, according to the survey put out by the Computer Research Association. By 2004, the number was 15,950.
This drop-off can be traced to several factors, Zweben said, most notably changes in the market for new jobs.
Many Internet businesses that had been successful in the mid-1990s experienced declining business toward the end of the decade. This resulted in layoffs by many companies, flooding the market with experienced professionals, Zweben said.
At the same time, many students who had been inspired to enroll in computer science programs by the success of these Internet companies were graduating, adding to the pool, he said.
Another symptom of the Internet bust was the outsourcing of some jobs. Many lower-level, routine jobs have been shipped overseas where they could be done more cheaply, Zweben said.
The outlook is not as bleak as it would appear, according to Bonnie Bair, a computer science lecturer. There are many higher-level computer science jobs and jobs in the field of information technology.
"The I.T. (information technology) job market is looking really awesome," Bair said.
Bair said that 75 percent of new jobs in science and engineering will be computer related. More jobs will open up as people who pioneered the field begin to retire, she said.
In addition to lecturing on computer science and engineering, Bair is involved with several organizations for women in computer sciences.
Women currently make up about 10 percent of all students enrolled in computer sciences at OSU, Bair said. During times of decline, the number of women in the field tends to decline more than the number of men, she said.
The way men deal with computers earlier in life tends to be different than how women deal with them, which may explain some of the disparity in enrollment numbers, Bair said. Men tend to use more for fun and playing games, while women use more for projects and things like instant messaging, she said.
Another factor that may discourage both women and men, is the image that a computer science engineer is a loner, Bair said. This is a misconception, because programmers and engineers have to work with many people in the process of making a new program, she said.
Binaebi Akah, a sophomore in computer science and engineering, would agree with that assessment of programmers and engineers. Akah will be president of Association for Computer Machinery for Women, a club she said is as much for venting about problems with computers as it is for discussing programming.
Akah said she is not worried about getting a job when she gets out of school. Her interest is in computer graphics, one of the faster growing fields, she said.
Akah said she chose her major because she feels it is a well-rounded one. When she graduates, she will be able to do almost anything, because of her varied experience, she said.
As for the lack of women in her major, Akah said she does not think it is a major concern. She says that while women in the field do stand out, she likes it that way.
"Even if I was in a class of all girls, I would still want to be the best one," Akah said.