Computer Science enrollment statistics: Is the decline slowing? -

Computer Science enrollment statistics: Is the decline slowing?


A recent poll of US and Canadian university computer science departments has turned up some interesting data. It seems not all of today's youth are going into financial management programs.

The data comprises a subset of the universe of schools, but presumably paints a reasonably-accurate picture of CS education.

First, some bad news (assuming you, like me, wish for more fresh blood in this industry): BSCS degrees were down 10% last year, though it's not clear to me what that is down in respect to.

It appears, from a crude graph, that they're off 10% over the previous year, which is a pretty stunning reduction. But that's better than 2007's precipitous crash of 20%. So the rate of decline has decreased a bit. Over 20,000 BSCSs were granted in 2004, compared to around 10k last year.

But CS enrollments are up about 8%, which bodes well for degrees in a few years as this bubble of students graduate.

BS degrees go overwhelmingly to white men. 88% go to males. Whites earn 66% of the degrees, followed by Asians (15%).

Interestingly, PhDs degrees are as hot as financial bailout plans. Under 1000 were awarded in 2002; 2008's number was a whopping 1800. Unemployment for newly-minted PhDs is only 1%. I wonder how that will change in this challenging year.

There has been a sharp decline in the number of PhDs winding up in academia; over the same 6 year period the proportion of those going to industry has nearly doubled to almost 60%.

Over half of PhD students in the US are foreigners. Do students from overseas value advanced degrees more than us in the US?

Young people bailed from computer science at the beginning of the decade when the dot com implosion happened. Many had been lured by the promise of quick Silicon-Valley wealth; when that dream was shown to be ephemeral they went into business and flooded Wall Street in pursuit of their first million by age 30. Now that dream is bankrupt, too.

I can't help but wonder if students will find a more rational way to select a career. I still feel the best advice for a young person seeking out a career is: “Find a passion and follow it. You'll be doing this for 40 years, so make sure you're having fun.”

Jack G. Ganssle is a lecturer and consultant on embedded development issues. He conducts seminars on embedded systems and helps companies with their embedded challenges. Contact him at . His website is .

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