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Hot Fields for the College-Bound

Summary: Studying architecture or the arts? Better get some experience in the food service industry.

Have a kid entering college? Check out last week's infographic from the Washington Post (http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/for-college-grads-where-the-jobs-are/2012/01/03/gIQA43KCZP_graphic.html?hpid=z4) which lists unemployment rates for recent graduates in different majors. Alas, my youngest is in her junior year at an arts school, which has the second worst number.

Software is hot. NetworkWorld (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/121411-entry-level-outlook-253979.html?page=1) claims that developers are in short supply, and demand is expected to increase this year. Depressingly, it goes on to quote one source: "You don't have to have years and years of experience developing apps for smartphones or social media, because they've only been out and really popular for a few years," Sias says. "I use Facebook as an example. It's developed with a language called PHP. If you can get the basics of that language down, there are entry-level positions for companies like Facebook to develop Web pages."

There's no mention of the engineers developing the smart phones themselves. The embedded world remains a stealth industry.

But it might be hard to get your young `un into a programming program. Another NetworkWorld article (http://www.networkworld.com/news/2011/112111-majors-computer-science-253309.html) shows that CS is heating up and in many cases more apply to these fields than there are openings. Last year was the first time in a decade where CS enrollments didn't continue to slump.

Xconomy claims (http://www.xconomy.com/seattle/2011/05/17/red-hot-the-computer-science-job-market/) that some new grads start at $105k with a $30k signing bonus! That's hard to believe. Remember the dot.com boom? The same thing was happening then.

InfoWorld (http://www.infoworld.com/d/data-center/its-most-wanted-mainframe-programmers-180453) makes it clear what one should specialize in: COBOL. Of today's two million COBOL programmers, 40% are expected to retire soon. Who will support this legacy code when these baby boomers start drawing social security? Wikipedia claims that there are over 200 billion lines of COBOL code out there, and another 5 billion are generated annually.

"Picture" that!

I can't find any data for firmware developers, but anecdotally here that hiring is much brighter than two years ago.

Published January 4, 2012