The Growing Deficit in Computer Science Education

In our increasingly globalized economy, many career paths that seemed to offer security are today only offering uncertainty to recent graduates. Students graduating with degrees in teaching, law, and even human resources or business are finding stiff competition and few opportunities. Even in our stubbornly weak economy, job growth in computer science fields has continued steadily; yet even as computer usage becomes ingrained in nearly every facet of modern life, many graduates find themselves ill-equipped to take on the requirements of technology-based jobs.

The disparity between the need for computer literate professionals in the workforce and the ability of most college graduates has led many educators and technology experts to assert a need for greater computer literacy education. “Computational thinking is a fundamental skill for everyone, not just for computer scientists,” argued Jeanette M. Wing, head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University in 2006. “To reading, writing and arithmetic, we should add computational thinking to every child’s analytical ability.”

While most schools barely teach the basics of computer use to their students, computer science related careers continue to remain among the few sectors with consistent opportunities for job growth. Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show the median pay for computer and information systems managers to be $115,780 per year as of 2010, with expected employment growth at 18% through 2020. Computer hardware engineers, systems analysts, and programmers are all expected to see above average growth and median salary for all occupations. Enterprising individuals are also using their technology skills to work freelance in record numbers. The rapid expansion of online work opportunities throughout the globe has allowed tech-savvy job seekers to find freelance work in web design, programming, and software development, often working remotely for companies around the globe.

Many ambitious job seekers who are not receiving ample education from traditional institutions are finding the resources they need online. A popular site for learning various skills, Lifehacker, now offers tutorials on computer programming in their Lifehacker Night School program. The lessons are done with videos, and are intended for beginners who are learning from scratch. Perhaps the most popular coding site today, Codecademy teaches computer programming skills to users in an interactive and entertaining way for free. Users don’t have to know anything about coding to begin, as the first lessons walk users through each step, offering hints and forums for users to ask each other questions. In January, Codecademy even offers users the opportunity to take part in their Code Year project, which aims to teach computer programming basics to novice users over the course of a year.

Today, the growth of online resources has tangibly linked existing knowledge to a greater extent than ever before. In the coming years, positions for computer experts who are capable of sorting and structuring information systems are expected to grow rapidly. Knowledge organization systems and associated data protocols that structure classifications, vocabularies, and taxonomies in the increasingly sophisticated online sector will only become more important to expedite both business and daily life. As our society becomes increasingly reliant upon individuals who are capable of understanding complex computer programs, the need for widespread and in-depth computer literacy education will only become more apparent.


TaxoDiary writes often about topics that are always peripherally relevant to computer scientists. Today’s post by Olivia Leonardi discusses the growing deficit in computer science education, a phenomenon where colleges cut computer science departments to save money, causing the total graduate pool of skilled programmers to decline. Olivia is an expert author for an online computer science educational resource, where she discusses — among many other things — what people learn in computer science programs, which can in theory also be learned in line from places just like TaxoDiary.