Newslines–Interest in computer majors ebbs

Forget starting salaries above $40,000 and a choice of companies come graduation day. Students may be toting laptops and chatting by eMail, but they’re shunning majors that would put them on a fast track for computer jobs.

Instead, they’re sticking with business, law, health services, psychology, and other career paths where opportunities or pay may be less promising, according to a survey of college-bound teens.

“Students’ current career aspirations seem to be somewhat out of sync with the jobs that will be available for many of them,” said Richard L. Ferguson, president of the ACT Inc. testing group, which surveyed the high school class of 1998.

Only 3 percent of high school graduates who took the ACT test picked computer and information science as likely vocations. Less than 1 percent said they want to be computer engineers.

Yet companies have hundreds of thousands of openings for programmers, engineers and systems analysts. The average salary for jobs offered to 1998 college graduates in computer science jumped this year to $41,561, up nearly 12 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Ferguson believes students don’t get help with career planning early or often enough. But access to technology also plays a role, said Jessie Woolley, president of Crimson & Brown Associates, a Cambridge, Mass., recruiting firm.

“When you think about the people who have access to the internet, when you think about the people who are mastering technology, really mastering technology, you’re [still] talking about a small percentage of the total U.S. population,” Woolley said.

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