Computer student brain drain

September 11, 1998

STUDENTS are turning their backs on computer science in the United States despite their computer fluency and an abundance of well-paid jobs.

The shortage in computing graduates has pushed average starting salaries up to more than $41,000, a 12 per cent annual rise.

Only 3 per cent of the near million students who took the American College Testing service college entrance examination wanted to study computer and information science, according to a survey. Fewer than 1 per cent picked computer engineering.

Most said they planned to take on such subjects as business, psychology, law, health services and other areas, despite lower pay and scarcer opportunities.

"Students' career aspirations seem to be somewhat out of sync with the jobs," ACT President Richard L. Ferguson said. He blamed poor career guidance and the newness of computer science.

The United States has had to import programmers, engineers and systems analysts from abroad because of the shortage.

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