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By Jack Ganssle

CS Graduates On the Rise

Summary: CS enrollments are up; graduation rates continue to decline.

The newly-released Taulbee Survey of computer science students in the US and Canada (http://archive.cra.org/statistics/survey/0708.pdf) is slightly encouraging though rather depressing. The good news: more students are enrolling in computer science. How much are freshmen enrollments up? You'd have to be better at unscrambling the nuances of academics than I am to decipher the prose. Worse, the data seems a bit confused, with some of the text referring to both CS and CE degrees while other sections talk about CS only. But it appears that computer science enrollments are up 9% last year.

Graduation rates are something else. BS degrees awarded in CS in 2009 were down "only" 10% compared to the previous year, which was off nearly 20% over 2007. For us to maintain a lead in science and engineering we need more bright young minds in the profession.

A pair of graphs show BS awards and incoming freshmen in CS and CE. Both generally increase until the dot-com effect, when they shrink at a rate that makes the recent collapse in housing prices look like a tiny downtick. There are now about half as many new freshmen as in 2001, with BS degree recipients not much different. The number of new CS faces on campus is at about the same number as 15 years ago. Since then the US's population has grown by 10% and the infiltration of computer products in our lives has exploded.

It's hard to relate this data to the embedded world, as so many of us came from departments other than computer science. But my most recent salary survey (http://www.ganssle.com/salsurv2009-pg1.htm) shows that we're getting older so the supply of engineers is drying up. That's good news for those of us already in the industry, but will be a problem if not corrected. "Problem" is too kind of a word; if STEM careers wither the country will have little to base a healthy growing GDP on.

But there's a ray of hope in the report's many tables: this is a great time to be a full professor of computer science. The average wage is about $130k, with many reporting much, much, higher numbers.

And that's for 9 months of work.

Published March 24, 2010