Shortage in the IT U.S. labor market? Or just a lack of graduates?

February 13, 2014 at 1:16 am 6 comments

Is the shortage of STEM graduates a myth, as IEEE has been arguing recently?  Is the case for IT different than the case for STEM overall?

I found the analysis linked below interesting.  Most IT workers do not have an IT-related degree.  People with CS degrees are getting snapped up.  The suggestion is that there’s not a shortage of IT workers, because IT workers are drawn from many disciplines.  There may be a shortage of IT workers who have IT training.

IT workers, who make up 59 percent of the entire STEM workforce, are predominantly drawn from fields outside of computer science and mathematics, if they have a college degree at all. Among the IT workforce, 36 percent do not have a four-year college degree; of those who do, only 38 percent have a computer science or math degree, and more than a third (36 percent) do not have a science or technology degree of any kind. Overall, less than a quarter (24 percent) of the IT workforce has at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or math. Of the total IT workforce, two-thirds to three-quarters do not have a technology degree of any type (only 11 percent have an associate degree in any field).4

Although computer science graduates are only one segment of the overall IT workforce, at 24 percent, they are the largest segment by degree (as shown in Figure F, they are 46 percent of college graduates entering the IT workforce, while nearly a third of graduates entering IT do not have a STEM degree). The trend in computer scientist supply is important as a source of trained graduates for IT employers, particularly for the higher-skilled positions and industries, but it is clear that the IT workforce actually draws from a pool of graduates with a broad range of degrees.

via Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market: An analysis of supply, employment, and wage trends | Economic Policy Institute.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  February 13, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Yes, of course this is true, because the term IT covers a broad swath of positions, from the people who set up your PC at work, to the person who decides which software packages to purchase, to the people on helpdesk, to the security people who analyze your network configurations for problems, to the web designers, to the J2EE specialists, to the database administrators, to the people developing advanced financial algorithms. Very few of these positions require computer science knowledge. Some training in system administration or hardware skills, and good people skills is all that is needed for the bulk of IT occupations.

    I really hate the way we lump all of these occupations together into the IT category. I think we need to separate out the occupations that involve traditional IT – choosing, purchasing, and configuring software and hardware to support a business – and computer science, which is more of an engineering/design field in which people create new software systems.

  • 2. geekymom/Laura  |  February 14, 2014 at 7:32 am

    I also think that those without the CS degree are not going to move up the career ladder. At best, they might move into a group manager role but they’re not going to take on complex projects or perhaps not core functions.

    • 3. Erik Engbrecht  |  February 14, 2014 at 9:35 am

      I disagree. In fact, I think most of IT is completely divorced of computer science. I would strongly discourage anyone receiving a computer science degree who actually likes computer science from going into IT, and if someone really wants to go into IT I would discourage them from getting a computer science degree. Business, with a focus in MIS, is far better. As Bonnie said, most of traditional IT is choosing, purchasing, configuring and maintaining HW and SW, along with supporting the users of it. Some of the producers of that HW and SW need computer scientists, but their numbers are dwarfed by the number of people employed setting their products up and maintaining them. And the technical people in that group are largely expected to know specific products, not computer science, because they are largely technicians not engineers. Some of those products are insanely complex and take a lot of intelligence and time to learn, but it’s not computer science.

    • 4. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  February 14, 2014 at 11:07 am

      CS people rarely take on “core functions” in companies. Thise are reserved for idiots with MBAs—computer science is an engineering field, and engineers are rarely allowed into management positions. IT promotion is rarely based on technical competence, and that technical competence is rarely related to anything a computer scientist would recognize as computer science.

  • 5. Pete  |  February 14, 2014 at 10:55 am

    In the UK Computing degrees have some of the worst employability statistics for all degree courses. I take it things are different in the states

  • […] up that literacy.  But it’s a hard argument to sell, and we keep falling back on the “CS jobs are going unfilled” […]


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