More than programming: Shaping the student output in computer science
10.06.2015 | By Andrea Vasquez
According to Code.org, by 2020, there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs but only 400,000 eligible computer science students to fill them. As one of America’s untapped industries, colleges and universities are beginning to see the vast landscape of opportunity for their students. San Jacinto College is not only preparing its computer science students to pursue these opportunities, but also grooming them to become integral parts of the teams they’ll work with.
“Computer science is more than just programming,” said Pamela Betts, San Jacinto College computer science professor, who also has 26 years of computer industry experience. “It’s finding new ways to use technology to help people better peoples lives.”
Betts explained that most colleges and universities teach one computer language at three different levels, which can ultimately become a disadvantage in the workforce that can lead to losing a job. She prefers to expose her students to several languages so that when they apply to university programs or for entry-level job positions, they’ll have an advantage since they’ve been working with several different programming languages that are industry standards.
“The whole idea of our computer science program is to give students enough skills and knowledge in different areas so that they can grow and adapt and come up with the new job opportunities that haven’t been created yet,” said Betts. “Some of my classes use Scratch and Alice, but my honors class uses Python and C++ to program Arduinos and Raspberry Pies which we’re using in team-base class projects of their own choosing.”
According to a recent article in IT World, computer science students are starting to take full advantage of the industry demand. In a survey by Looksharp, a marketplace for internships and entry-level jobs, results showed that of the 50,000 students surveyed that graduated in April 2014, 61 percent with computer science degrees had full-time jobs, a higher percentage than general STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) grads (50 percent). Additionally, 31 percent of computer science graduates had job offers by graduation, ranking third behind finance majors (38 percent) and mechanics and repair (33 percent). Computer science graduates also had the highest average starting salary of $66,161, followed by engineering ($65,000), math and statistics ($60,300), and finance ($58,000).
One of the other core aspects Betts incorporates into her class is teamwork. “In industry, you have to work on projects in teams, and you have to give credit to each member for what they did, so I apply that same concept for class projects. There are students who feel they work better alone, but we teach them to build on their personal strengths so they can be an asset to their future industry teams.”
Computer science classes are growing at San Jacinto College. Betts adds that this is the first year the College has had six full courses of computer science. Non-computer science majors are also adding to enrollment numbers since some of their university transfer programs require at least one course in computer science. Regional salaries are keeping up with industry demand as well. The Texas Workforce Commission lists Gulf Coast salaries for systems software developer ($101,219); applications software developer ($95,064); and computer programmer ($81,034).
For more information on San Jacinto College’s computer science program visit sanjac.edu/career/computer-science.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.