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Communications of the ACM

The profession of IT

A Technician Shortage

A Technician Shortage, illustrative photo

Credit: Wisconsin Technical College System

On the tenth anniversary of this column, we took stock of changes in the computing profession since 2001.2 Computing had become the umbrella term for our field, rather than information technology (IT) as was expected in 2001; IT referred mainly to technology and business applications of computing. Several new professions had appeared within computing to support changes such as big data, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and cyber security. Certification of important skill sets was more common, but professional licensing had not advanced very much. Finally, there was a sharp drop in enrollments in computer science departments around the world, to about 50% percent of the 2000 peak. Many considered this a paradox because computing jobs were growing and digitization was moving into every field and business.

In 2007 CS enrollments bottomed and began to rise steadily, attaining in 2013 75% of the peak level. Surveys show students are taking up computing not so much because they expect good salaries, but because they perceive computer science as compatible with almost every other field. A major in computer science gives the flexibility of deferring a career choice until graduation.


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