A couple of weeks ago, the latest job growth report, released by the Department of Labor, disappointed Wall Street. There is now talk of "jobless recovery" or a "double dip recession." I have several colleagues and friends still looking for work, and I have regular conversations with parents of millenials who are living in fear that their recently graduated offspring is about to move back home as savings dry up with no job opportunity in sight.
Recessions aren't created equal. In 2001, the recession led by the internet "bubble" hit the tech sector especially hard. But in 2001, US employment fell by 1.7%. In this recession, US employment fell 4.5%, so we lost close to 3 times the jobs. I was talking to a friend last night whose daughter is completing an undergraduate degree in math and considering her next step. She is thinking about applying for law school, but has little information about the job prospects she would face should she obtain a law degree. We tell our children to follow their dreams and their passions, which is fantastic - but let's arm them with knowledge of the kind of job prospects they will face when they follow their dreams. An advanced degree in philosophy, like one of my friends in college pursued, hasn't exactly translated into job offers for her.
When I was growing up (in Canada), parents were telling their children to become lawyers or doctors. These professions were the ticket to socioeconomic advancement for my parents' generation, but not a reflection of the economic reality I faced upon graduation, which was one of fast-paced globalization and technological transformation.
Where will job creation come from? If I have any advice for the next generation, it's that now may be a good time to get a computer science degree. There is a pervasive assumption in the US that most high-tech jobs have been outsourced and that there is no future in the tech sector. Many are actively discouraging youngsters to pursue a career in high tech. Indeed, a recent report found that a key barrier facing K-12 computer science education reform is the widespread belief that there are no jobs in computer science in the US due to outsourcing. But the truth is, job growth in the US will be largely led by the high-tech sector.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics -the overall US labor force will add about 15 million jobs between 08 and 2018. Technology occupations are clear leaders of this growth - and two of the fastest growing jobs in the US will be in computing. -
- Network systems specialists will grow 53%, adding 156,000 jobs
- Computer software engineering jobs will grow 34% over the next ten years, adding 175,000 jobs
- Jobs for computer scientists will grow 24% over the next ten years, adding 7,000 jobs
- Computer support specialist jobs will grow by 14%, adding 78,000 jobs
- Computer analyst jobs will grow 20%, adding 108,000 jobs
Not all technical jobs will see growth however - the BLS also projects that computer programmers will shed 3% of jobs in the US, and that jobs for computer hardware engineers will grow by a more modest 4%. Technology industries that are projected to grow significantly are data hosting and processing, software publishing and applications, and internet services. Other growth areas are, not surprisingly, healthcare services - driven by increased demand from the aging baby boomers - where 26% of all new jobs will come from, especially in home health assistance. Bad career choices in terms of job prospects include manufacturing, agriculture, and journalism - these fields will shed jobs, while many other jobs will only see modest growth.
Because there are only about 43,000 students graduating with a computer science degree every year, the supply of talent is significantly lower than the anticipated demand of at least 700,000 new jobs- which means multiple job offers and increased salary and benefits outlook for computer science graduates. The race to hire technical talent has already started - companies are reporting that competition in hiring is getting fierce again, with multiple offers and sign on bonuses making a comeback, which feels like an alternative reality for those in fields where opportunities have dried up.
What about that law degree? Lawyers will add 98,000 jobs, but the supply of current graduates at about 45,000 a year will mean a much tighter job market.
Let's hope parents, teachers and school counselors provide accurate information to youngsters who are struggling to find their place in today's job market by providing them a clear picture of the kind of employment opportunities they are likely to get upon graduation. Our economic growth depends on it.