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Are We Headed for an IT Shortage?

Computer Science majors have become a dwindling breed in the past few years amid a decline in the stature of Silicon Valley and media coverage of the off-shoring trend. Only 2.3 percent of students enrolled last year at U.S. four-year colleges planned to major in computer science or engineering, down from 4.2 percent in 2002, according to UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute.

With a new crop of freshmen about to enter college, there's little reason to believe the trend will reverse. And that doesn't augur well for corporations looking to add technology talent. "Employers are worried," says Jay Vegso, membership manager at the Washington, D.C.-based Computing Research Association.

Ironically, the tech industry is rebounding. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, computer and mathematical science is the fastest growing professional occupation--poised to generate almost 1 million new jobs by 2014. "There's a mismatch" between students' perception that job prospects have diminished, and the reality, says Jeannette Wing, head of the computer science department at Carnegie Mellon University. "Once that's resolved, then parents, guidance counselors and teachers will realize computing is a profession with enormous opportunity." In the meantime, employers looking for young software engineers or systems developers "will have to go outside of computer science" to find the people they need, she says. --Robert Hertzberg, [email protected]