Thursday, April 18, 2024

Grads Finding More IT Jobs Available

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After several years of a sour IT job market, new college graduates in

IT-related fields are having an easier time finding work — and decent

salaries — these days.

This summer is showing the first increases in both new graduate hiring

and salaries since 2001, according to Andrea Koncz, employment

information manager for the National Association of Colleges and

Employers (NACE).

But while hiring is looking up, some experts warn there may be a decline

in the number of technical graduates in the years to come.

A recently released survey of 151 colleges and universities shows a 4.8

percent increase in starting salaries for computer science graduates as

compared to this time last year, reports Koncz.

Computer science grads’ salaries ring in at an average of $49,691, an

increase of 4.8 percent from 2003. Many in that field commonly are

taking jobs in software design and development.

In addition, new information science and systems grads are being offered

an average starting salary of $43,050, an increase of 8.2 percent over

last year. The most common job offers in that discipline are in

technical and computer support.

NACE is a nonprofit organization that surveys colleges and universities

throughout the country to determine which graduates are obtaining jobs,

along with average starting salaries in various fields. It also tracks

trends in the job market, as well as business’ hiring practices.

”Our technical graduates (with combination computer science/engineering

degrees) are doing quite well,” says Elizabeth Reed, dean for

undergraduate education and associate director of the Career Services

and PreProfessional Advisory for the Massachusetts Institute of

Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.

In a post-graduate survey this year, 64 percent of MIT’s newest alums

say they are reporting to a job after graduation; 31 percent are going

to graduate school and the rest are undecided.

”It’s almost as good as the old days when the economy was strong, but

it’s not quite as strong as the Boom Days,” Reed says. She notes that

many grads in IT-related fields are not finding jobs at dot-coms or

start-ups, but they are finding work as systems analysts and high-level


Those numbers were quite different at the turn of the century when

hundreds of dot-com companies went belly up, and layoffs and salary

decreases were the norm. Post-graduate MIT surveys from that time showed

that only 35 percent of the student body had found a job after

graduation, and another 60 percent decided to go on to graduate school,

Reed points out.

However, Reed has noticed that in the last year or so there have been

fewer students majoring in computer science and IT-related fields.

”But there was an unprecedented high number (of IT students) a few

years ago that was probably influenced by the strong market, so I think

this may just be a natural trend in the field now that the economy is

down,” Reed said.

Dave Farrell, director of work-force strategy for the trade association

Semiconductor Industry Association, based in San Jose, Calif., has

tracked students’ enrollment in IT-related academic disciplines for the

Engineering Workforce Commission. He says that although overall national

numbers of IT students appear to have climbed steadily since 1999,

individual colleges and universities are reporting a decline in computer

science/engineering students.

Fourteen schools, including MIT, Georgia Tech and Berkeley, show a 2

percent to 15 percent decrease in computer science/engineering students

between 2003 and 2004, Farrell notes.

”This national change is not a good sign. It’s a caution light flashing

on our dashboard,” adds Farrell, who says he wants to see more

minorities and international students enter IT-related fields.

But for now, the market for IT grads is steady.

Hopkinton, Mass.-based EMC Corp., one of the world’s largest providers

of storage software, recently hired hundreds of IT graduates right out

of school. ”Thats a clear sign they’re bullish about the future,”

says Dan Walsh, chief executive officer of Darwin Partners, a

Boston-based business and IT consulting firm.

Walsh adds that although the IT job market has picked up from when the

dot-com bubble burst and the tech sector took a dive, things are still

not what they used to be in the late 1990s.

”We’re back to rocks and blocks,” says Walsh, adding that in 2004

companies are again looking for solutions to their tech problems, but

aren’t ”doing technology for technology’s sake.”

”People are watching their IT links more closely,” says Walsh.

”They’re not building the intergalactic, hand-held devices. The ‘build

it and it will come’ belief formerly held by IT is not there.”

Walsh’s advice to college students and new IT grads is to stick with it,

but become an IT architect or program manager. Those more technical or

leadership positions are typically not offshored as often as lower-level

jobs, like programming and call-center techs.

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