CORVALLIS, Ore. – An online computer science degree program at Oregon State University – the only one of its type in the nation designed specifically for post-baccalaureate students – has grown rapidly, helping to address a national shortage of computer science graduates.
Although it was launched only 18 months ago by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, by the end of this year the program will allow the school to double the number of its computer science graduates with a bachelor’s degree.
Developed in collaboration with OSU’s highly ranked Ecampus, the program allows students with a bachelor’s degree in another field to complete a degree in as little as 12 months because no general education courses are required. Many students choose a slower pace, however, and the courses are geared to people with no computer science experience.
The program has attracted students with a broad range of previous degrees including accounting, chemistry, engineering, history, journalism, law, psychology, and political science; 39 percent of the students come with backgrounds in humanities and social sciences. The online format allows individuals juggling work and family an easier way to go back to school.
According to a recent survey by the Technology Councils of North America, the entire nation is experiencing a shortage of people trained in computer science. Two-thirds of technology company executives in North America agreed there is a talent shortage, and the crisis is particularly acute in Oregon where 86 percent of executives reported there is a shortage of talent in a survey conducted by the Technology Association of Oregon.
A key strategy in the 2014 Oregon Business Plan is to better connect education with high-paying jobs in science and technology fields, including computer science.
Although the 755 students admitted to the online program are from all over the world, more than half of them are from Oregon, Washington and California, and 23 percent now live in Oregon.
“OSU’s one-year online degree program in computer science is working to help fill some of the gaps by offering students and professionals a flexible way to obtain valuable skills and increase their marketability within the local tech industry,” said Skip Newberry, president of the Technology Association of Oregon.
It’s also making a personal impact on individuals. With an established career in business and two small children, Bental Wong said he would not have been able to return to school to carry out his dream of becoming a software engineer, if it had not been for the flexibility of this program. After completing the program in a year, Wong immediately had three job offers and is now part of a small team at Hewlett Packard in Vancouver, Wash., creating innovative software for HP printers.
“It’s so rewarding to hear about the successes of our students,” said Terri Fiez, head of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We are proud of the impact this program is having on the lives of our students and the tech industry.”