News items like this come along every month. I don’t write about them usually, but the new 10-year projection from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics warrants a comment. The news for computer science jobs is still very optimistic. Here are a couple of outlandish quotes from the CRA post summarizing the new report: ”Computer and mathematical’ occupations are the fastest growing occupational cluster within the fastest growing major occupational group’, and ‘… among all occupations in all fields of science and engineering, computer science occupations are projected to account for nearly 60% of all job growth between now and 2018.’ Here’s the full report from BLS, if you’re curious: [pdf], and here is a nice summary of the good situation that CS graduates are likely to find themselves in for the forseeable future.
If you’re a girl and you’re interested in computing, but you’re afraid of peer pressure or that the culture of computer science is somehow harsh for women, I suggest you read this really nice blog post from a women in the profession. There’s good advice for high school boys and high school (and college!) teachers in there too.
OK. Not in football, unfortunately. We can dream though, right? This #1 ranking comes from Aviation Week & Space Technology, which ranked Virginia Tech first for industry workforce recruiting based on an annual survey of companies in the aerospace and defense industries. Chris Hall, Department Head of Aerospace & Ocean Engineering at VT, graciously pointed out that although aerospace engineering departments are the most obvious producer of graduates for this particular sector, ‘the aviation and defense industries recruit from all College of Engineering programs.’ Boy is that true. We have several very active members of our industrial affiliates board who come from this sector. And if you read the details of the report from Aviation Week (pdf), you will see some interesting numbers. For example, the survey responders plan to hire 192 aerospace engineers in 2010, 325 ‘computer hardware engineers’, and 1722 ‘computer software engineers.’ The salary data reported for software engineers is very competitive as well. Just another example of the many and varied opportunities open to computer scientists.
If you want a sense of the huge variety of things that computer scientists are working on these days, a great place to look is the collection of videos posted by the Computing Research Association (CRA), taken at the symposium sponsored in March by the CRA, ‘Computing Research that Changed the World.‘ A very impressive and exciting list of contributions!
If there’s a common theme to my posts over the last couple of years on this blog, it’s that computer science is a fascinating, dynamic, world-changing discipline. I see examples of this almost every day, but resist the temptation to blog about every one of them. (You’re welcome.) But at the risk of beating the same poor dead horse, here we go again! Have you voted in Google’s Project 10100? These guys issued a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. They received something like 150,000 suggestions, and now they’ve narrowed and boiled those down to 16 broad candidates to receive funding. And we’re invited to vote for our favorites. My point here is not that computer science is the only discipline that will contribute to these exciting and high-impact projects. Big, important projects always require people with lots of skills and experience. But it’s pretty clear that computer science has a critical role to play in just about every one of them. Yet another example of how training in computing can position you to make a great positive difference in the lives of a whole bunch of people!
Want to make a difference in something important? How about the planet? That’s pretty important. Here’s an interesting article from researchers in the UK who nicely summarize four broad ways in which computing can help us build a sustainable future: optimizing the digital infrastructure to achieve maximum energy efficiency, developing a global data collection network for sensing and optimizing resource consumption and environmental impact, forecasting and responding to future events in natural systems, and finding digital alternatives to physical activities. We need lots of smart, creative, motivated young people to make this happen!
I talk a lot to prospective computer science majors about the great opportunities for creative people in computing. Thinking outside-the-box is highly rewarded in so many CS application areas. If you eavesdrop on a team of software designers who are building something for popular use, you would not be surprised to hear someone say ‘That would be cool!’ Of course, there are application areas where wacky ideas are not as welcome, due to security or safety concerns for example. But compared to other technical fields, I would wager that there are a lot more career paths in computing that reward and encourage ‘that would be cool’ inspirations.
I’ve always believed that computing is a wonderful career option for women. There are tons of obvious reasons why we need women to be strongly represented in computing, not the least of which is that half of the people in the world are female, so it’s a real shame to waste all that talent! But here comes an article from Forbes.com, which lists ten top-paying jobs for women — jobs where the unfair salary gap between men and women is somewhat less egregious. And guess what? Positions 4, 5 and 10 on that list are in the computing field. This makes sense! Computing has generally been a meritocracy — if you’re good, you’re good. And many computing careers offer the flexibility of part-time consulting or telecommuting careers, if that works best in certain stages of life. We need more people who are creative and passionate about solving really important problems and making people’s lives better. So if you are a young lady who is pretty good at math and would like to use your smarts and creativity to make a positive difference in the world (and make a good living while you’re at it), why aren’t you thinking about computer science? Please don’t let some worn-out stereotype about computer scientists chase you away from an amazing opportunity!
The Wharton School of Business recently convened a panel of experts to answer the question, ‘what are the top 30 innovations of the last 30 years?’. The article ‘A World Transformed‘ summarizes their conclusions. Not many surprises in there I guess. But it is striking how many of them emerged directly from advances in computer science. I am still amazed how many people I meet who have this vague notion that computer science is old news, and that they need to move on to something new and exciting, like biology or finance. To really believe that computer science is old news, one must believe that this dramatic period of CS-lead innovation is now coming to a screeching halt. Based on the energy and creativity I see in our department, I’m betting that’s not true!
By one measure, yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the World Wide Web. And the guy who was there at the beginning, Tim Berners-Lee, says we are still at the beginning! In his talk yesterday, he’s quoted as saying ‘The web is not all done; this is just the tip of the iceberg. New changes are going to rock the boat even more.’ I doubt there has ever been a technological innovation that got into the hands of so many people, so fast — and not just so that all these people can use the Web, but they can actually contribute to it and create with it. This is one of the main, though certainly not the only, reason computer science continues to be such an exciting field. There are so many opportunities to create and invent and solve problems in this still new world of the Web, not to mention the increasingly important and interesting field of studying what the Web is, how people use it, what effect it is having on the world, etc.