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Anything but IT

Many students see an advanced degree in IT as a ticket to obsolescence and outsourcing. They have other plans.

By Dan Verton
November 29, 2004 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Educators and IT industry executives are warning that a crisis is looming in the IT job market. Only this time, it's not that there are too many job hunters seeking too few positions. To the contrary, they say that the U.S. isn't producing IT experts in the quantity and quality that it needs to remain the leader of the global IT market.
In an effort to search out the views and perceptions that may be fueling this approaching crisis, Computerworld interviewed a dozen undergraduate and graduate students who are preparing for careers in IT, as well as professors responsible for training them and executives who are recruiting them into the workforce.
Students told us that advanced technical degrees are expensive and may not provide the skills they need to be competitive in the job market. Many plan to seek business degrees instead of technical degrees in graduate school because they fear that they are more likely to be outsourced if they don't have business qualifications
Elsewhere in academia, prominent academics have been warning for years that the U.S. is producing far too few advanced degree holders in the computer science and IT research fields. In 1997, for example, Eugene Spafford, a professor of computer science at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., warned members of Congress that of 5,500 doctorates in computer science and engineering awarded by North American universities between 1992 and 1997, only eight were awarded to U.S. citizens.

Anything But IT
Image Credit: Rich Lillash
In a new study, Corey Schou, director of the National Information Assurance Training and Education Center at Idaho State University in Pocatello, says that the dearth of people with advanced degrees in IT continues. And while the number of two- and four-year degree programs in IT-related fields is rising, the student base has dropped.
Fears of Outsourcing
"At present, there is a lack of interest in this discipline," says Mathew J. Palakal, chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences at Purdue. "This could be due to the uncertainties in the job market. Outsourcing is on everybody's mind, and computer science is considered as a high-risk career choice."
Students echo that concern. Fears of outsourcing played a role in Katherine Farmer's decision to seek an advanced degree. Farmer is studying computer engineering and computer science at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H. She expects to see a greater demand in the U.S. for high-level design and development work as more low-level jobs are moved offshore.
But others shun IT altogether. "I think new students are scared to get

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