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Research Proposal On The Future Of The Computer Jobs Industry

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The Future of the Computer Jobs Industry



Given the number of people looking for jobs today, it may be difficult to believe that some industries are concerned about worker shortages due in great part to stagnant or even declining enrollments in the academic programs that prepare new workers for these sectors.  Interestingly, several industries are preparing for a few years down the road when too few people will be available to fill too many jobs. That's bad news for these employers, but potentially good news for young people, especially those who are interested in pursuing an education and a career in one of these industries (Vogt, 2002)

Of the 10 fastest-growing occupations between 2000 and 2010 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), eight are computer-related (Vogt, 2002). The need for skilled computer scientists, particularly in security and database administration, will likely grow.  The descriptions of these jobs include computer support specialists, computer software engineers for applications and systems software. 

Thomas (2003) pointed out that the job market for computer science graduates moves so quickly that by the time anything is said about it, something new pops up to change the dynamics of the industry. However, the industry has been booming and profitable.  Edward Lazowska, chairman of the department of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle and chairman of the board of the Computer Research Association (CRA) said in Thomas (2003) that the computer science field is “going in so many directions, that's what keeps it lucrative".

However, today’s college students, who saw their slightly older peers graduate with computer-related degrees and land extraordinarily good jobs just two or three years ago, are now discovering what happens when the economy cools off a bit.   Many colleges and universities around the country have begun seeing dwindling numbers in degree programs like computer science and computer engineering. For instance, according to Vogt (2002), at Virginia Tech, undergraduate enrollment in the computer science department is down twenty-five percent (25%) this year. At the University of Michigan, enrollment in a key course for computer science majors is also down 25 percent.   These numbers reflect data from the Computing Research Association (CRA) that show the number of undergraduates majoring in computer science fell 1 percent in 2001. According to Verna Schuetz, associate department head of Virginia Tech's computer science program, there will likely be a shortage of new graduates with computer-related degrees by 2007 (Vogt, 2002).

               With this backdrop, this study wants to find out what the future holds for the young people studying for a career in the computer industry.   Aside from finding out if such abovementioned concerns exist, the researcher is also interested to explore the expectations of computer companies on their newly-hired employees, how these companies are training them, and find out if the pay for these workers have really diminished if compared to the boon years of the 1990’s. 

Thesis Statement

            There is a weak correlation between the expectations and goals of the students taking up courses in pursuit of a career in the computer industry, with that of the managers and employers in the industry itself.

Research Problem

Predicting the growth of an industry in terms of its employment opportunities is vital in ensuring that the youth are guided into choosing careers that could decisively improve their futures.  This study aims to ask the following general research questions:

1.    What is the future of the computer jobs industry in the US?

2.    What are the characteristics of a career in the computer industry?

3.    What are the effects of the cooling down of the computer industry in the US on its job market?

4.    What are the expectations of both the employers and the future employees on jobs in the computer industry?

Research Objectives

            It is the purpose of this study to investigate the future of the computer jobs industry in the US.

Specifically, this study seeks to reach the following objectives:

1.            Describe the profile of computer science students in terms of:

a.    age;

b.    course;

c.    reasons why this course was taken;

d.    future career goals; and

e.    future career expectations.

2.            Relate the career goals of the respondents with the demands of the industry, as depicted by leading HR or managers in the computer industry and find out if they are similar or divergent in views. 

3.            Relate the career expectations of the computer science students with the expectations of the managers of the computer industry and find out if these expectations are similar or divergent.

4.            Depict how the jobs in the computer industry were affected by the cooling down of the US economy in the 1990s.

Research Questions

1.    What do the current statistics on labor employment, specifically in the computer industry, indicate about the status of the industry, vis-à-vis the whole employment picture in the US?

2.    What future jobs in the computer industry has the most promise?

3.    What skills do the youth have to possess to become successful in their careers in the computer industry?

4.    What is the current state of the computer jobs industry in the US?

5.    What has the computer industry done for its employees to offset the “cooling down” of the US economy?

6.    What are the expectations of both the employers and the future employees on jobs in the computer industry?



Significance and Importance of the Study

            This study will primarily benefit both the youth and the captains of the computer industry.  The youth, especially those intent on a career in the computer industry will find out what is expected of them by the industry, what future the computer industry has for them, and what they have to do to be competitive career-wise, in this type of industry.  As for the employers, this study will show if their expectations and goals can be met by future batches of computer science graduates.  Through feedback, they would be able to voice out their concerns regarding the quality of graduates and help the universities cope with their demands and the ever-changing needs of the industry.

            This study would also be of help to those social scientists who are interested in finding out the social implications of the boom and the bust phases of the computer industry, specifically on the careers of computer professionals. 

            Moreover, educators can gain from this study, as they find the connection between how they have designed their computer science curriculums and what are the actual needs of the computer industry.  In that way, they would be able to make immediate changes, if necessary, or continued improvement of their programs, through further studies.

            Furthermore, human resource specialists, especially those in the computer industry, will have a better understanding of the needs of their industry and what the graduates of the academe can offer to them in terms of type of training and skill.  Any deficiencies in skills training can then be addressed by both the academe and the industry so that there won’t be any labor shortages in that field.

            Finally, this study would benefit future researchers in the field of computer science, education, human resource management, business and the social sciences since it depicts the future of the computer job industry and its varying effects to many sectors of society.


Literature Review

Newly-hired computer science majors to seasoned company executives have hefty salaries and compensation in computing and software. Corporate HR people, however, complain about the lack of qualified applicants, which forces up salaries and increases as employees jump between competitors (Thomas, 2003).

Reports of available job openings in major corporations are staggering. A recent Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) study claims a shortfall of 190,000 unfilled positions. The same report states that companies on the magnitude of Intel have 3,000 openings as does Microsoft with 2,000 and Sun Microsystems at 1,000.  Thomas (2003) quotes Peter Denning, dean of Computer Science and vice provost for Continuing Professional Education at George Mason University who said that new jobs are continually opening up that  have been unheard of up to ten years ago.  These job titles include web master, Windows NT server system administrator, and network identity graphics designer. 

Some computer scientists are researchers and inventors. They develop ways to use computer technology to solve complicated problems. Systems analysts figure out how new computer technology can help an organization. They spend a lot of time thinking about what a system does. Then, they decide on a design. They describe it so others can use it. They have to show that the new design will work and won't be too expensive. Those who design and maintain Internet sites are known as webmasters or Internet developers. Those who develop ways for computer systems to communicate with each other are called network systems and data communications analysts. Database administrators figure out ways to organize and store data.

Denning questions the numbers of unfilled jobs. For instance, many of them can be filled by retrained people without computer science degrees. Interestingly, no matter how the numbers fall, 68% of information technology companies say lack of qualified staff hinders their ability to grow. In the Seattle area alone, 3,000 software and digital media firms are hiring continuously (Thomas 2003).

Denning speculates that the situation will eventually resolve itself as future savvy college students head into computer science and private companies emerge to offer training.  Business trends indicate that this hiring frenzy is due to the fact that every industry relies on information technology and computing to some degree.  Stu Zweben, professor and chair of Computer and Information sciences at Ohio State University and also a CRA board member, in Thomas (2003) points out that today’s hardware products are becoming faster and cheaper and that there are very few areas of business that don't have some stake in computing and software.  Moreover, every business sector is cooking up new software application needs. 

Marjory S. Blumenthal, executive director of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board at the National Research Council, in Thomas (2003) brings up data mining as an example of the effect software has on business growth. Blumenthal cites large-scale retailers and Wall Street as customers who actively recruit electrical engineers to develop the algorithms that make trading decisions.

Goldberg and Rowh (2002) describe that, although the computer job market for computer science graduates is booming, employers still demand skills and a commitment to ongoing career development.   Employers also expect good communication skills from the graduates, someone who is up to date and who thinks continuing education is vital, someone who is prepared to respond quickly to changing market conditions by learning new skills, someone who can get the big picture of the computing industry, and not just his or her particular focus, and most importantly, someone whose competence in the field is certified.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), systems analysts, computers scientists, and database administrators are expected to be among the fastest growing occupations through 2010. Employment of these computer specialists is expected to increase much faster than the average for all occupations as organizations continue to adopt advanced computer technologies. In addition to new jobs, many job openings will come from the need to replace workers who take other jobs or who leave the labor force. 

In terms of compensation, one half of systems analysts earned between $46,980 and $73,210 a year in 2000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,460. The highest 10 percent earned more than $89,040 a year.  One half of database administrators earned between $38,210 and $71,440 a year in 2000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $29,400. The highest 10 percent earned more than $89,320 a year.  One half of computer and information scientists, research earned between $54,700 and $89,990 a year in 2000. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $41,390. The highest 10 percent earned more than $113,510 a year. 



This study will use the descriptive approach.  This descriptive type of research will utilize interview, observation and questionnaires in the study.  To illustrate the descriptive type of research, the researcher will be guided by Ader and Mellenbergh (2000) when they stated that the descriptive method of research is to gather information about the present existing condition.  The purpose of employing this method is to describe the nature of a situation as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of a particular phenomena.

This study will investigate the future of the computer jobs industry in the US.  It will depict the profile of computer science students in terms of age, course, reasons why they took this course, their future career goals, and their future career expectations; relate and find out if the career goals of the respondents are similar with the demands of the industry; relate and find out if the career expectations of the computer science students are similar with the expectations of the managers of the computer industry; and investigate how the jobs in the computer industry were affected by the cooling down of the US economy in the 1990s.

The primary source of data will come from a researcher-made interview questionnaire which will be administered to the respondents.  The study will have two sets of respondents:  randomly selected college students majoring in computer science and purposively selected managers in the computer industry coming from both the technical and the human resource departments. 

The secondary sources of data will come from published articles from human resource management journals, social science journals, business journals; theses and related studies on employment in the computer industry.

For this research design, the researcher will gather data; collate published studies from different American and overseas universities and articles from human resource management, social science, and business journals; distribute sampling questionnaires; arrange interviews; and make a thorough analysis of the collected documentary and verbal material.  Afterwards, the researcher will summarize all the information, make conclusions based on the hypothesis posited by the study and provide insightful recommendations on the dealing with the challenges posed by the continued developments and improvements in the computer industry and its impact on the preparation and training of computer science students. 

The general population for this study will be composed of college-aged students, numbering one hundred-fifty (150) respondents.  They should be  currently enrolled in a computer science program. 

The researcher will use a combination of purposive and random sampling for the two sets of respondents.  For the set composed of students, the researcher will randomly pick students currently enrolled in any computer science program in selected universities.  For the set composed of managers in the computer industry, the researcher will purposively sample them, choosing the best sources of information based on the questions formulated in this study.

To be able to answer the questions posited by this study, the researcher will prepare a set of survey questions which will be given to the student  respondents of this study.  A similar set of questions will also be administered in a pre-set interview with the managers of computer companies. 


Ader, Herman J. (ed.) & Mellenbergh, G.J. (2000). Research Methodology on the Social, Behavioral, and Life Sciences: Designs, Models, and Methods.  Sage Publications: London.


Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2002). BLS Career Information.  Available at  Accessed [02/03/03]


Goldberg, Jan & Rowh, Mark. (2002). Great Jobs for Computer Science Majors (2nd ed.). McGraw-Hill:  New York. 


Thomas, Charlotte. (2003). “Hit the Hot Button for Jobs”.  The Future of Your Discipline.  Available at  Accessed [02/03/03].


Vogt, Peter. (2002). “College Degrees and the Future Job Market”.  The Great Labor Shortage.   Available at  Accessed [03/03/03].





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