Part I: Developing Trends in Computer Science at Universities in 2016 — Illinois State University

“Since 2010, we have seen a 30% total growth in the department.”

Here at CultureFit, we spend a lot of time working with our clients providing them guidance on “Best Practices” for hiring in the highly competitive IT field at all levels. As you may have experienced, IT candidates are quite unique when compared to hiring practices of other business support groups, such as marketing and sales. Keeping pace with hiring trends has become a table stake in order to effectively hire the right candidate with the right cultural fit. Frequently, we’re able to see early trend indicators within the higher education environment – some of the best resources are in the Greater Chicagoland area and nearby universities.

Hence, over the next several months, we’re presenting a series of articles focused on the changing trends in our local colleges and universities, from the perspectives of the department Chairpersons of the Computer Sciences/IT Department at several local universities and colleges. In doing so, you’ll get a firsthand look on what they’re seeing in regards to curriculum and enrollment, as well as expectations they have of their students as they continue on towards their degree. They also provide valuable post-graduate recruitment guidance for businesses who are anticipating filling a future junior vacancy. Finally, you’ll get a comparative glimpse of how these local findings compare to national averages supplied by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A conversation with Dr. Mary Elaine Califf

Our first conversation was with Dr. Mary Elaine Califf, Chair of the CS Department at Illinois State University in Normal, IL. Dr. Califf has been at Illinois State since 1998, and Chair since 2013. As to the changing trends she shared several observations:

Clear and Steady Growth, After a Few Economic Downturns.

“In 2000, we had roughly 1000 students enrolled in the program. Then the .com bust occurred, and enrollment went flat, and even dropped. The same thing occurred when the Great Recession sent the market tumbling. But since 2010, we have seen a 30% total growth in the department.” This is slightly higher than national trends in hiring for computer science where the BLS has indicated a 15% upturn for the next decade. Dr. Califf also noted that “of the students who enter the program as a freshman, 40% remain in the program and graduate with that degree.”

Growth of the Female Co-Ed IT major

Surprisingly, the female population has actually decreased slightly at ISU, from 10% to 8% – less than the national average of 18%. “Many switch back to another major within the math department after taking their intro to computer sciences classes” she states as one of the reasons for the low female population.

Curriculums Constantly Evolving to Keep Pace to Business Innovation

“Our curriculum comes from our standard computing sciences documents developed through ACM as well as our advisory boards, alumni and local major employers. We are always looking for new industry trends to implement into our curriculum.” Of those areas that are trending hot these days are: Source Code Control, mainframe skills, Enterprise Courses, Web Development and especially security. Nationally, Security is the buzzword in colleges and Universities, becoming increasingly important in their curriculum.

A Better Way To Recruit Graduates

“Offer summer/local internships. This is by far the best way to attract and hold on to students during, and after graduation.” Dr. Califf goes on to share, “of those who intern, it leads to a full time position within 6 months of graduation almost 100% of the time”. This stat lines up nicely to national reporting, where the demand is over 2 times greater than the average. Without an internship, it takes a little longer to find the right position.

These Grads Are Well Compensated

As for salary out of college, they’re securing an annual comp in the low 60’s, similar to the national average. But one thing students should take into serious consideration is that “the projections that have come out from the Bureau of Labor Statistics have indicated a plethora of jobs in the near term for computer science majors.” So starting compensation will most likely continue to grow as the demand and supply curve remain out of balance.

To find out about a degree in Computer Science at Illinois State University, visit them here, and visit their career page. To find out more about these changing trends, talk to one of our recruitment specialists at CultureFit. CultureFit is a full service Technology Staffing and recruitment firm for corporate cultures and IT professionals that value organizational fit, employee satisfaction, and an extremely high level of technical IT skills.

This is part one in a three part series. Read parts II and III.