The relationship between the professional industry and academic choices of students has generally been a two way feedback loop. The industry outlook encourages (or discourages for that matter) students to enter a certain field, while the number of resulting graduates shape the industry itself. The Dot Com Bubble of 1995-2001 nicely accounts for the last peak of interest in the Computer Science education, in the commonly cited graph (featured above).
It has been 5 years since the graph has cut off at the freefall of Computer Science enrollment in the United States. A more recent dataset is supplied by my own University, in what appears to be recently published public performance indicators and stats.
It appears that here in Canada, at least at the University of Waterloo, the Computer Science department has showed a strong performance through the entire bubble burst and ever since. Peaking out in 2005, 553 students were awarded a Computer Science degree, out of 4986 total graduates that year, placing CS at 11% of the total – significantly higher than the 6.5% attained in the States at the height of the bubble.
Tidbit: this means that at UW 1 in 10 people can, or at least should be able to, fix your computer. Just in case that’s the kind of technologically heavy school you are thinking of attending.
Though a curious point to consider is that the graph is actually of graduating students, not freshman. Considering the facts that University of Waterloo offers exclusively honours Computer Science degrees, and mostly as co-op – if all the students were to stick it through to the end, the data would be 5 years off. The first drop in 2005~2006 numbers would correlate to the drop of freshman interest, circa 2001.
Next year should better establish the direction of this trend. Meanwhile, even if the current graduates have missed the entire economic crash for books and compilers, now is a pretty good time to come out the other end of the University. The entire web 2.0 movement has created excellent conditions to start your own tech company. Wouldn’t you be interested in that?