Moumita Bakshi Chatterjee

New Delhi, July 31

RISING salaries and a growing software industry may have made IT one of the most sought-after careers for Indian students. An estimated 73,500 engineering graduates are expected to take up hi-tech jobs this fiscal.

But computer science is fast losing popularity among US students in undergraduate institutions owing to fears of job loss due to outsourcing.

"There are several causes for declining interest in computer science. The dotcom and telecom bubble burst caused a brief oversupply of IT workers in some categories. In addition, overheated political rhetoric and sensational media coverage caused an exaggerated perception of global sourcing's impact on US jobs," Mr Harris N. Miller, President of IT Association of America, told Business Line in an e-mail response.

As per a study by Computing Research Association - a group of over 200 North American universities and laboratories - there has been a 19-per cent drop in US college students opting for computer science.

The study reveals that the popularity of IT at American undergraduate institutions has taken a major hit over the past few years as enrolment levels have dropped to lows "not seen since the early 1970s." While a major reason for the initial decline in interest has been attributed to the slowdown in the tech industry, analysts say fears of an eventual shift of IT jobs to India, Russia and China may have made the jobs seem further out of reach.

In sharp contrast, the interest level in IT among Indian students is at a high - a trend fuelled by rapid expansion of the Indian IT industry and increasing salary levels.

"In software alone, 1,20,000 new jobs are likely to be created this year, against 1,10,000 in 2004-05, and 50,000 in 2001-02," Mr Sunil Mehta, Vice-President of Nasscom, said.

Nasscom expects 73,500-84,000 engineering graduates to go for IT jobs in the current financial year, compared to 56,000-64,000 in 2004-05. The balance will flow from the B.Sc stream with students opting for GNIIT courses, as well as students from other disciplines going in for diplomas.

Nasscom says the high interest is also due to cutting-edge research activities being undertaken by various companies. "Few years ago, the attraction of an IT career was the opportunity to go and work abroad. This subsequently changed to an opportunity to earn more than in other industries. The latest driver is the scope in R&D work here," said Mr Mehta.

For the of IT Association of America, the study is "an alarming sign" that interest among students in IT-related fields is waning. "The inaccurate perception that global sourcing is causing a net loss in US technology jobs is a factor in some students' decisions not to pursue higher education in IT. It is a perception that we are working to correct," Mr Miller said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated August 1, 2005)
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