Number of college grads with IT degrees down

A CareerBuilder study shows that colleges are issuing fewer IT degrees than ten years ago. Here are the stats and a possible reason why.

I’ve been writing about IT careers for a long time. I’ve gotten thousands of PR releases about new studies. Many of these “studies” make me scratch my head and wonder why they were conducted and why anyone thought the results were newsworthy.  

But I got one the other day from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists (EMSI) that got my attention. According to this study, the U.S. is producing fewer college graduates with computer and Information Technology degrees than they were ten years ago. (The study uses EMSI’s labor market and education database, which pulls from over 90 national and state employment resources and includes detailed information on employees and self-employed workers. Higher education completion data includes associate’s degrees and above and comes from the National Center for Education Statistics.)

Ironically, the number of computer and IT jobs grew 13 percent nationally from 2003 to 2012, while the number of computer and IT degrees completed in the U.S. declined 11 percent during that same period. Here are the IT stats from the survey:

  • 13,576 fewer degrees in 2012 than 2003, an 11 percent decrease
  • Related jobs in the U.S. have increased 13.1 percent from 2003-2012, an addition of 311,068 jobs.
  • Of the 15 metros with the most computer and IT degrees in 2012, 10 saw decreases from their 2003 totals.
  • The biggest decreases in computer and IT graduates among the largest metros included New York City (a 52 percent drop), San Francisco (55 percent), Atlanta (33 percent), Miami (32 percent), and Los Angeles (31 percent).
  • Notable metros to increase their computer and IT higher education output were Washington, D.C. (a 31 percent rise), Minneapolis-St. Paul (14 percent), and Salt Lake City (117 percent).

So what’s going on? Part of this sea change is that people are starting to see that, with technology’s speed of change, the curriculum for a computer science degree gets obsolete about a month after it’s created.

Also, people are finding that it’s faster, and more cutting-edge, to pursue tech certifications after you’ve gotten your degree in any other discipline. There are no college prerequisites for getting a tech cert, and you can pursue them at any points in your career.

The stat that made my eyes pop out of my head was that there’s been a 47 percent increase (from 2003 to 2012) in Liberal Arts and Humanities degrees. Back when I was considering a degree (me and Fred Flintstone), a Liberal Arts degree was pretty much a guarantee that you would never get meaningful employment. And, of course, Humanities was where my heart was.

I forged on with my English degree, despite all the warnings of unemployment and inevitable starvation. When in school, I worked part-time at the law school and one of the professors told me I should attend law school because my ability to write would serve me better than a pre-law degree. I thought he was full of it.

Now that I’ve been in working world for several centuries, I can see his point. I think the most valuable employees are not those who come in with a deep knowledge of a specific area, but those who can learn almost anything once they’re in and can quickly adapt to change. And now that IT is more closely tied to the business, the ability to communicate effectively and see the big picture is more important than ever.

I think people are seeing that the more important takeaway from college is learning to think more strategically. I’d like to hear from those of you from both sides of the equation? If you have a computer science degree, do you think it’s given you a leg up in your career? And for those who come into IT with out-of-the-norm degrees, do you feel that your lack of an IT degree has hindered you?