BUSINESS

With job market growing, fewer than 3 percent of college students now graduate with computer science degrees

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Leah Davis
Oxford Stories
lmdavis2@go.olemiss.edu

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Although the writing above may look unfamiliar, this is some of the language you’ll learn as a computer science programmer. University of Mississippi Department of Computer and Information Science leaders say enrollment and the number of classes offered is growing.

Dawn Wilkins, Ph.D., professor and chair of the department, said computer science is a thriving field that is integrated in many professions. The Springfield, Illinois native, who earned a doctorate in computer science, said there are several tracks of classes open to students who are not computer science majors.

“There is a communication track, where people can take journalism or writing and rhetoric,” she said. “There is a track for art, where three of the art classes are combined so that students can learn the highlights of CS in art,” she said.

“We’ve seen the biggest increase in coding classes because of journalism, because the school is so big, and allowing students to take them in lieu of a foreign language has really made it explode. It’s definitely growing because of the world that we live in.”

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The Department of Computer and Information Science is growing and continually offers more opportunities for students to learn coding skills.

Wilkins said the number of computer science majors has increased in recent years. “Our upper level classes are overflowing,” she said. “We’ve had to move to different classrooms in other buildings.”

Computer Science Education Week will be held nationally Dec. 3-9. According to the official website, nine in 10 parents want their child to study computer science, but only one in four schools teach computer programming.

The site reports that computing makes up 2/3 of projected new jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). Computing occupations are among the highest-paying jobs for new graduates. Yet fewer than 3 percent of college students graduate with a degree in computer science, and only 8 percent of STEM graduates are in computer science.”

With projected growth in the field, there are many career opportunities for those who study computer science. Coding is becoming more sought after in different industries. Wilkins said Ole Miss offers specific coding classes for a specific majors.

Students are assigned hands-on projects for which they learn how coding is used in the business world. They also gain experience working in groups.

Thomas McFann, a native of Arlington, Tennessee, is a junior computer science major. He believes his class experience and assignments have prepared him for future technology endeavors.

“My computer science classes have given me the personal skills that I needed to excel in my two internships with International Paper, as well as landing a third one with them,” he said. “Namely, classes like software engineering, data science, and databases have taught me how to be a manager in a team environment, present presentations, and how to visualize and manage data, which are some of my greatest interests in computer science.

“Lastly, my research with Dr. Hassan in learning how to detect fake health news using data mining techniques has provided me with the invaluable skills of collaboration with partners and engaging in self-learning,” McFann said.

Hassan is an assistant professor in the department who is interested in research areas related to big data and data science, including database and data mining.

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The growth of CS has caused classes to expand from Weir Hall to other buildings like Conner Hall pictured here.

Wilkins said the department is offering a new course in data science. “(Students) do lots of big data projects,” she said. “We offer one required course that is team-based because people think that computing is such an isolated job thinking, ‘I’m going to sit in a cubicle by myself’, but not so much anymore. Most companies do a lot of pair programming, so you are not sitting by yourself; you are sitting and working with someone else.”

Wilkins said many computer science projects require teamwork. “This is a challenge for some and a blessing for others,” she said. “We have students who want to be project managers and who are getting good jobs.”

Wilkins said there’s a need for more women in the computer science world. She said there has been slight growth in enrollment for women in upper level computer science classes.

“It’s an excellent discipline for women,” she said. “There are some pushes for getting more women in this field.”

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