Demand for IT Grads Is Driving Up Supply, Study Finds

IT-related bachelors degrees and associates degrees up 9% and 16%, respectively.

The high demand for information technology professionals is driving up the number of college students pursuing IT-related degrees, according to a new report.

The “American Tech Talent Crunch,” released Tuesday by IT jobs website, found that 43,072 IT-related bachelor degrees and 37,677 associates degrees were conferred in 2011, jumping 9 percent and 16 percent respectively over the previous year. The number of associate’s degrees in particular has jumped 36 percent over the past four years, Dice found.

Those numbers are lower than their peak in 2004, when nearly 60,000 tech bachelor’s degrees were conferred, but significantly higher than 2009, when just 38,000 were given.

“As the growing demand for tech workers meets a growing supply – a higher number of new two-year and four-year graduates entering the workforce – the result may well be more competitive pressure for job applicants and a tougher fight among the best and brightest for coveted jobs on the enterprise side of the tech world,” the report states.

It appears that one trend in IT-related degrees is an increasing emphasis on two-year degrees, particularly as more businesses and schools provide an “open door” to recent graduates eager to start their careers. Companies including GE, IBM, Northrop Grumman, Cisco and Microsoft, as well as the National Science Foundation, have been working with community colleges to produce tech-savvy workers.

This push for the expansion of community college IT education could be why in 2010 and 2011, 19 states conferred more two-year degrees than bachelor’s degrees, Dice noted. 

Meanwhile, federal agencies looking to target their IT recruiting might be interested to know the universities with the strongest growth in computer science degrees. In 2011, those universities were University of California at San Diego (58 percent), University of North Carolina, Charlotte (41 percent), UC Berkeley (29 percent), N.C. State University (25 percent), University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (17 percent) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (11 percent), Dice found.

And with tech skills in hot demand, students do not necessarily need to go broke to find a top-notch computer science program. Five of the top 10 computer science schools, for example, have annual tuition rates below $15,000. Number three-ranking UC Berkeley, for example, charges just $11,767 in annual tuition. That compares with the top-ranked institutions MIT and Stanford, which have $42,050 and $41,787 annual tuition rates respectively, Dice noted.

“Ask the leaders of top-drawer institutions, the mid-majors and community colleges about creating ROI [return on investment] for students, and they all talk about creating a range of payoffs for their graduates – empowering their passions, giving them current, saleable skills and helping them navigate the pathway to fulfilling employment,” the report states.