Record growth predicted for IT vacancies but computer science degrees worst for graduate employment

Three studies of IT employment prospects have just been released – with very different outlooks. In all, they suggest that while IT employment is set to boom, computer science graduates are currently finding it harder to start their careers than graduates from other disciplines.

IT vacancies in the UK are predicted to grow at 1.62% each year between now and 2020, almost double the average rate of jobs growth, according to e-skills’ Technology Insights 2012 report, released last week. It calculates that 129,000 new workers need to be recruited annually into the IT industry, both to fill new vacancies and replace those leaving the sector. It also reports that the number of advertised IT jobs has recovered well following an earlier dip, from 82,000 per quarter in 2009 to over 116,000 per quarter in 2011, of which 70% were for permanent positions.

And, as reported last week on TARGETjobs, the AGR (Association of Graduate Recruiters)’s Summer Report has predicted a 72.5% increase in graduate vacancies with leading IT/telecoms employers for the 2011–2012 recruitment season compared with the previous year.

However, a different picture is painted by the recently released Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA)’s employment rates data for university students graduating in 2011. This found that six months after graduating, graduates who had taken a full-time first degree in computer science were the least likely among all degree subjects to be in employment or further study. Only 84.9% were working or studying, compared to an average of 90.3% for all degree subjects. Computer scientists did not fare much better among those who had taken part-time first degrees – at 85.4% they had the third worst results out of the 18 broad subject groups examined in the study.

Making sense of the mixed messages on IT jobs

So what explains this discrepancy? A number of factors could be at play.

  • The HESA data refer to students who have already graduated, whereas the e-skills predictions are forward-looking – employment prospects could be looking up from here on.
  • However, two thirds of the vacancies predicted by e-skills are expected to be at managerial and senior professional level.
  • There’s also the thorny issue of whether computer science graduates have the technical skills needed to find employment. The e-skills report lists the skills most requested in job ads as: SQL, C, C#, .NET, Java, SQL SVR, ASP, JavaScript, Agile and HTML. While this is hardly a surprising list, a number of recruiters have recently commented to TARGETjobs that students should not rely on their degree course alone to each them the technical skills employers look for. See What programming languages and other technical skills do I need to get an IT job? for more details.
  • Computer science students should also be aware that they will face competition for jobs from graduates of other disciplines, for example maths, engineering, physics and in some cases even those from completely unrelated disciplines. To some extent, the higher employment rates for these subjects may reflect students feeling less ‘boxed in’ to a particular career choice by their degree subject.

How to beat the stats for computer science graduates

Statistically, computer science graduates appear to be finding it hardest to start their careers, but TARGETjobs IT and the TARGETjobs employer hubs are here to help you beat the bad news and put yourself in the running for the predicted new vacancies. Use them to pin down what specific skills and qualifications different IT companies are looking for, get advice on what to do if you don’t quite match up, and find out what to expect and how to succeed in the applications and interviews process.

Posted by Liz_TARGETjobs on 10 July 2012