Computing careers on the rise

Ellie Phillips

Enrollment in Grand Valley State University’s Padnos College of Engineering and Computing has increased by 14 percent in the past year, and some of that increase comes from the School of Computing and Information Systems.

“Our enrollments (have been) climbing over the past five to seven years,” said David Lange, an instructor in the CIS program at GVSU. “We’ve even brought on some new programs in the past five years. We’ve added computer science and information systems, a masters in computer science and information systems, and we’ve also had a masters in medical and bioinformatics.”

According to GVSU’s Institutional Analysis, enrollment in the bachelor’s degree program for computer science has increased about 42 percent, from 117 to 166, since 2009. Meanwhile, enrollment in the bachelor’s degree program for information systems has also increased by about 14 percent, from 79 to 90, during the same time.

The increases in enrollment are primarily due to the increased demand for jobs in computer sciences and information technology, which have been growing since the turn of the century.

“There was a big bubble after 2000,” Lange said. “It went down for a while, and then exploded when the dot com got popular.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for occupations in computers and mathematics has grown by about 16 percent since 2006 – from 3.08 million jobs, to 3.58 million jobs last year.

The BLS also projects computer and mathematics jobs to continue growing another 21 percent by 2020, to more than 4.3 million jobs.

“I can hardly keep up with companies interested in hiring our interns and graduates,” said Tom Demmon, associate director of the GVSU Career Center. “If the companies aren’t hiring interns they have very limited chance in attracting our graduates. Employment is basically 100 percent, with many good opportunities in West Michigan and many other places.”

As demand for these types of jobs has grown, the average annual salary has increased as well, by about 16 percent, from around $69,000 in 2006 to $80,000 in 2012, according to the BLS.

GVSU students have also seen this increase in their salaries. Over the past four years, Demmon has seen an average of $55,000, with some graduates getting up to $70,000.

“These salaries can escalate well within a couple of years with proven capability and a possible move to high demand, salary and cost of living states such as California,” he said.

Lange said the principal of supply and demand is another element of salary range calculations.

“It’s simply driven by the number of people that are available versus the need for those people,” Lange said. “When there’s a higher need than there are people, the salary goes up. It’s not unusual for those people to be making $75,000 – $90,000 in five years.”

Even interns in the computing field find well-paying jobs, with pay ranging from $13 to $18 per hour.

“There’s a dire need for more than what schools in America are cranking out,” Lange said. “We had companies coming in from multiple states and armed services looking for IT people. The careers are just exploding, and the companies need more and more.”

Lange also said that he wants to dispel the myth that CIS majors have to be “nerds” like Steve Urkel. There is a built-in business minor in the CIS program that teaches students how to interact with business professionals.

More information about computing-based employment can be found during the Careers in Computing event today from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the Cook-DeWitt Center auditorium.

Though the focus of the event is to encourage women to enter into the computing field, men are invited to attend, as well. Lange will moderate the event, which will have three 10-minute presentations by speakers in computer science careers, followed by a panel discussion and Q&A.

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