When I was researching my last article about the drop in enrollments for Computer Science in the mid-2000's, I found some articles that tried to explain why. Many of the articles I read indicated that students were worried that if they completed a degree in Computer Science in the 2000's, that they would end up losing their job due to counterparts offshore.
An article in Business Week from May 2006 states, "Students fear that if they become programmers they'll lose their jobs to counterparts in India and China, who work for a fraction of the pay. Analysts say those worries are overblown: Programmers with leadership and business skills will do just fine." The last part of that quote is the important key to bringing more students into the field.
"I couldn't really get excited about sitting in front of a computer and just writing programs," says Duke junior Brandon Levin, who has taken computer courses but is majoring in math and plans a career in academia. Unfortunately that is the image that is the perception many have of the Computer Science industry. However, that is so far from the the reality of Information Technology industry these days.
In fact, in the mid-to-late 2000's Computer Science and Engineering departments started to realize that the curriculum for Computer Science degrees needed to change to adapt to reality. In an article in InformationWeek from August 2004, Grady Booch, an IBM fellow and author of books on programming, states, "Many universities teach people how to program, but they don't teach them how to work in projects. They don't teach them how to design."
Luckily many universities adapted to the times, and now teach business and management classes along with Computer Science classes. As I stated in an earlier article, there are many degree programs which combine computer technology classes with business classes. These degrees are usually called Information Management, Information Systems or Business Information Systems degrees. These programs provide a selection of business classes with technology classes which prepares the student for the business side of IT.
Now, about the misperception of what an IT professional does...
There are many different jobs in IT that may appeal to many different type of people. If a person does enjoy being along and working solo, there is certainly plenty of opportunity for that type of work. However, even the most "hard-core" programming job involves some interaction with others. It is necessary to sit in meetings with others to discuss business requirements and develop design solutions. After designs are agreed upon and signed off on, then the coder can go back to his computer and put his head down and get to work.
If a person wants to be in IT but not a heads-down coder, there are opportunities for analysts as well. An analyst is usually the liaison between the business and IT. The analyst meets with business users and stakeholders and helps them determine what requirements will help them do their job better. The analyst creates business requirements documents, and a Functional Design Document. These documents serve as the basis for the detailed design documentation, which is usually created by the programmer.
And finally, if a person wants to be in leadership, there are abundant opportunities in IT. Whether a person wants to be a leader of small teams of coders or analysts, or wants to be project or department managers, there are many opportunities to lead in IT. If a person desires to grow into a leader, IT is a great path to that goal.
After the dot-com bubble burst, many students shied away from computer-related degrees. Luckily learning institutions saw the future of IT and started creating business-related technology degree programs. This switch in the degree programs to Information Management helped draw students back to the IT related degrees. And now that business and computing are so inter-related, there are positions in IT which can appeal to almost anyone.