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Prospects Dim For Future Tech Pros Prepping For Spring Job Scramble

Patricia Chu earned a bachelor's degree in computer sciences from Stanford University last spring, but instead of looking for a job, she returned to campus to work on a graduate degree. "Probably, I would've gone to grad school anyway, even if the job market wasn't what it is," because higher degrees typically command higher salaries, she says.

True, an M.S. will bring in more pay than a B.S., but only if there's a job. Those earning degrees this year may be disappointed, because companies plan to hire fewer college graduates than last year, says the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Autumn is prime recruiting season for spring grads, yet fewer companies are expected to show up on campus. The association has heard from recruiters, including those prospecting for IT rookies, that they'll be visiting fewer colleges, says the association's information director, Mimi Collins.

Employers have a large pool of IT talent to choose from and needn't scout campuses, says Don Weis, national recruiting director/technology at staffing firm Spherion Corp. A few years back, many companies hired technologists right from college. Today, employers not only can insist on work experience but demand that candidates have worked on specific applications or systems. "It's a candidate-rich environment with a lot of talent available," Weis says. "Competition is that tight."

The Information Technology Association of America, which has lamented an IT talent shortage in recent years, says hiring is sluggish. Demand for IT pros dropped 27% this past quarter, according to an ITAA survey of 700-plus hiring managers released last week. Managers say they expect to fill 834,727 IT jobs by next summer. In January, they predicted openings for more than 1.1 million people by year's end. With fewer college grads finding IT jobs, ITAA president Harris Miller says, prospective computer-science students will be dissuaded from pursuing IT, which could lead to shortages in a few years.

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