Because virtually all of today's information technology is computer-driven, there is a huge demand for computer software engineers in just about any field a college-bound high school student can name.
"A computer science degree will make you highly marketable no matter what your field of interest may be," says Wayne Dyksen, associate department head for Purdue University's Department of Computer Sciences. "Computer programming skills are critical not just in the traditional industries like aerospace and telecommunications, but also in finance, medicine, and law."
Dyksen knows what he's talking about. Last year, 150 companies came to Purdue's West Lafayette campus in search of qualified applicants with computer-related degrees, and his department had just 50 signed up for interviews through the university's placement center.
"Many of these firms were looking to fill dozens and in some cases even hundreds of positions," Dyksen says. "There are far more jobs than there are graduates. Computer scientists can choose the type of work they would like to do and the place they'd like to do it."
The same is true for the two other Purdue schools that offer computer-related degrees; the Schools of Engineering and the School of Technology. Placement rates at for all three Purdue programs are averaging better than 97 percent, and several disciplines boasted 100 percent placement this past year.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that systems analysts and computer engineers are among the fastest growing occupations in the country. In 1994, approximately 678,000 people were employed in these fields. By the year 2005, the number is expected to reach 1.3 million. Demand for computer programmers will also continue to increase, with 601,000 in the work force by 2005.
Dyksen also has noticed a trend in hiring practices that favors new college graduates.
"It used to be that firms were only interested in people who had five years of practical experience in addition to a degree," Dyksen says. "Now they are discovering that they can't find those people, and in many cases the recent college graduates have more up-to-date skills."
Average starting salaries range from the low 30s to the low 40s depending on the industry and the location, but Purdue Computer Science Department graduates generally average about $10,000 more than that.
"This is an area where a Purdue degree really means something," Dyksen says. "We have a very demanding program, and our students graduate with the technical skills that allow them to have an immediate impact in the workplace."
Purdue was the first university in the country to offer a complete undergraduate curriculum in computer science as well as a doctoral program, and the school is an internationally recognized leader in the field.
While Dyksen would agree that 1997 is the ideal year to be graduating with a computer science degree, 1998 and beyond don't look too bad either.
"The opportunities are really starting to appear limitless," Dyksen says. "People are no longer asking 'What can I do with a computer science degree?' An easier question to answer is 'What can't I do?'"
Source: Wayne Dyksen, (765) 494-6182; e-mail, email@example.com
Writer: Sharon Bowker, (765) 494-2077; e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
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