IT Job Market Causes Concern

Computer-science students at Queens College devise alternate career paths, with some planning to look outside the United States for work
What the department can teach students are practical skills, which is why it recently modified its curriculum. In the past, only one or two elective courses were required for the computer-science major. The new curriculum, implemented in the fall of 2001, increased the number of electives to five for B.S. degrees and to four for B.A. degrees.

The department also offers courses that are meant to expose students to current topics in specific technologies, such as Web design and programming, cryptography, and Internet security. Industry professionals who work in these areas teach many of the electives. For instance, a Computer Associates employee teaches a software-engineering course at Queens for free, Lord says, giving students a valuable industry angle on the topic.

Lord also advises that students gain practical experience and knowledge of the business environment through internships. Companies receive hundreds of resumés from students coming out of school; those with experience are the ones that stand out and typically get the job, he says. The City University of New York, of which Queens College is a part, has an Institute for Software Design and Development. It has an alliance with the New York Software Industry Association to offer internship programs to students. The institute recently formed the Financial Industry Liaison Board, made up of City University of New York computer-science faculty and leaders in the financial sector, to improve how computer-science programs prepare students for employment in the financial sector.

"The market is turning around, but it's tough. We offer internships where companies get to know students and students develop a track record," Lord says. "There will always be computers, the industry will continue to grow, and it will need students with experience in technology."

Queens College students can also turn to the Office of Career Development and Internships, where they can sort through various job postings. But campus recruiting of computer-science students has dropped.

Kwai and Rahner

Kwai (left), a junior, and senior Rahner are concerned about the impact of outsourcing on their job prospects.

Photo by Rachelle Mozman
"For the past few years, the number of companies recruiting computer-science students has gone down. Before that, computer-science students were in big demand, and many were getting multiple offers from employers," says Tesfaye Asfaw, director of the Office of Career Development and Internships. "The job market has been very difficult, and it takes students longer to find employment. I'm seeing more and more computer-science students picking up other majors."

Even students who've managed to land IT jobs face pressure from outsourcing. Amarildo Baci, 24, graduated from Queens in 2001 with a degree in computer science and works at a major Wall Street investment-banking firm. He uses the skills he learned in college to devise programming solutions to day-to-day problems and projects. Baci says majoring in computer science has given him a solid base to understand the problems his job presents him with and how to approach solving them programmatically. Still, recent measures to outsource within the company have placed Baci's job in jeopardy.

"Outsourcing is an issue because in order to stay competitive, all Wall Street firms are evaluating it," Baci says. "My job's currently in negotiations to be outsourced to Hewlett-Packard."

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer