New Data: Good News for Computer Science and Engineering

October 25, 2016

The Great Recession put an exclamation point behind the message of STEM education advocates around the country. Amidst worsening unemployment and anxiety about an uncertain economic future, a credential in fields such as computer science and engineering promised stability and prosperity. CTEq’s new analysis of federal data on degrees and certificates awarded in the U.S. shows that Americans may have embraced this promise.

Since 2009, the number of degrees and certificates in computer science and engineering has grown much faster than the number of degrees and certificates overall.

CS & Eng Creds growing fast--chart

Overall, degrees and certificates below the bachelor’s level grew the fastest. In computer science and engineering, by contrast, the number of bachelor’s and advanced degrees has grown faster than the number of credentials below the bachelor’s level. That said, even subbacalaureate growth has been robust in these STEM fields:

Bach+ Degrees growing fastest

This trend towards bachelor’s and advanced degrees has changed the balance of computer science and engineering credentials since 2001:

Bach+ gaining ground in CS & Engineering

Why the growth in these STEM degrees and certificates? Americans seem to be responding to market forces, and the advantages of computer science and engineering degrees are attractive, especially and the bachelor's level and above. Vocal STEM champions--including CTEq--publicized the immediate rewards of STEM credentials, especially during the economic recovery. Take, for example, this overview of STEM unemployment from 2011 to 2014:

STEM Grads did best 2011-14

The employment advantage has held up well for computer science and engineering in 2016:

Low unemployment in CS & Eng

The earnings incentives for getting degrees in computing or engineering could hardly be clearer:

CS & Eng pay off

So what lessons can we take away from these recent data? Those of us who have been shouting from the rooftops about the benefits of an education in computer science and engineering can take heart that our messages are not falling on deaf ears.

Stay tuned in the coming week for more in-depth analysis of these trends by race and gender.

UPDATE: The analysis of credentials in computing and engineering relied on data from the U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS) from 2001 to 2015. Subbaccalaureate credentials include "postsecondary certificates," "associate's degrees," and "awards of at least 2 but less than 4 academic years. Bachelor's-plus degrees include "bachelor's degrees," "post-baccalaureate certificates," "Master's degrees," "Post-master's certificates," and "Doctor's degrees." Computing credentials include a broad range of computer science, information technology, and other computer-related degree and certificate programs. Engineering credentials include degrees and certificates in engineering technology, civil engineering, electrical engineering, industrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and other engineering fields.

Tags: jobs & workforce, engineering, computer science