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ACM CareerNews for Tuesday, April 6, 2010

ACM CareerNews is intended as an objective career news digest for busy IT professionals. Views expressed are not necessarily those of ACM. To send comments, please write to careernews-request@acm.org

Volume 6, Issue 7, April 6, 2010




Engineering Grads Earn the Most
Wall Street Journal, March 12

According to a new report from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, eight of the top 10 best-paid college majors are in engineering, led by petroleum engineering at $86,220. Computer science was the fourth most lucrative degree, with graduates starting at $61,205 on average. In fact, the average salary for computer science majors has increased by at least 5% each year since 2007. The other non-engineering major in the top 10 is information sciences and systems, with an average starting salary of $54,038. Most impressively, job growth within these majors is expected to grow at a rapid rate over the next decade.

Engineering is expected to grow at a fast clip over the next eight years with 178,300 jobs added by 2018. Growth in civil engineering will be particularly rapid as a greater emphasis is placed on improving the nation's infrastructure. The BLS projects biomedical engineering jobs to increase by an astounding 72%--the top-growing field--from 16,000 in 2008 to 27,600 in 2018. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the chemical engineering field will add 155,800 jobs between 2008 and 2018, an increase of 53.4%, the second fastest growing career in the data the BLS offers and well above the average job growth for all professions of 10.1%


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How Contracting Can Recharge Your IT Career
CIO.com (via Computerworld), March 29

As the U.S. unemployment rate continues to hover around the 10% mark, technology workers, especially older professionals, are increasingly re-evaluating their career options. They now view IT contracting as a solid alternative to permanent positions and as a way to jump-start career growth. Historically, contract positions are among the first to see growth as the country continues its recovery as companies turn to consultants to fill the gap left by staff reductions. With companies attempting to recover from two years of cutbacks, contracting can be an excellent way to recharge an IT career.

Most importantly, becoming an IT contractor can improve your marketability. Since contractors have the opportunity to pick and choose their assignments, they have the freedom to gain experience with a variety of new types of hardware, software, technologies and businesses. Secondly, IT contracting can open doors to a permanent position, becoming a "try before you buy" opportunity for you and the employer. Many companies offer contract employees full-time positions at the end of their assignments. Moreover, in many cases, good consultants can earn a significantly higher rate than a permanent job would allow, because they're in the position to tell a company how much they're worth. Contracting also offers flexible work schedules.


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Computer Science Major Counts Up Second Year in a Row
Campus Technology, March 29

As reported by the Computing Research Association in its 2008-2009 Taulbee Survey, enrollment in computer science courses is up 5.5% year-over-year. This marks the second consecutive year of enrollment increases, leading some experts to speculate that the steep decline the computer science field saw during the latter half of the last decade may be over. At a time when computers, smart phones, and online social networks are a daily part of young people's lives, it is perhaps not surprising that perceptions about the role of computing in everyday life are changing.

According to data collected from the computer departments of 185 Ph.D.-granting universities, computer science enrollment has increased 14% cumulatively over the previous two years, reversing a decline that started in 2002. The number of new students majoring in computer science in the fall of 2009 increased by 8.5% compared to the previous year. Computer science graduation rates should increase in two to four years as these new students graduate. Women comprised 11% of bachelor's graduates in computer science, and minority students 10%. Total Ph.D. degree production decreased by 6.9% from last year to 1,747 degrees, the first decline in seven years.


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Why Aren’t There More Women in STEM?
Washington Post, March 23

Despite gains by women within the science, technology and engineering fields over the past decade, social and environmental factors still play a big role in maintaining a gender gap between the number of men and women in these fields. One reason for this gap, points out the American Association of University Women, is the educational stereotype that boys are better than girls in math and science. Workplace bias is another factor, with colleges and universities not doing enough to create environments in which women faculty feel comfortable. The good news is that small steps – such as positive feedback to female students at an early stage and broader overviews of the computing field in introductory courses – can result in improved performance by girls on tests as well as more positive perceptions about STEM careers.

At a time when 5 million people work directly in science, technology and engineering (nearly 4% of the U.S. workforce), women continue to be underrepresented across these STEM fields. By most estimates, women only hold one-quarter or fewer of STEM jobs. The numbers appear even lower, given that there is no longer a difference in average math performance between girls and boys in the general school population. Girls are also earning high school math and science credits at the same rate as boys. The only remaining area of gender underperformance relates to scores on Advanced Placement exams in STEM-related subjects, where girls generally earn lower scores.


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How to Launch a Successful Remote Job Search
Boston.com, March 29

Conducting a remote job search can be a challenging but not insurmountable task, especially for job seekers who are comfortable using technology. A career expert weighs in on best practices for conducting a job search when you are looking for a job in a new geographic region. Online networking tools such as LinkedIn play an important role, as do connections with alumni groups and professional associations. It also helps if candidates are able to position their cover letter and resume in a way that convinces hiring managers that they are serious about re-locating to a new region.

To launch a remote job search, use online social networking tools likes LinkedIn to network with contacts in the state or region of interest. If you have family or friends in that area, reach out to these individuals for referrals. Developing relationships with contacts in the target area, such as employment agencies or professional and alumni associations, is also critical. If you have attended college, or lived in this area before, make sure that you mention this fact to prospective employers and contacts. Prospective employers will be less skeptical if they sense that you have roots in the area. In addition, use online job boards that allow you to target specific areas geographically.


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Overqualified? Yes, But Happy to Have a Job
New York Times, March 28

Given the strained hiring environment, many job seekers who have been out of work for months at a time are settling for jobs and positions for which they are largely overqualified. Conventional wisdom warns against hiring overqualified candidates, who often chafe at their new roles. However, as the aspirations of many workers have been recalibrated amid the recession, some companies are finding that taking that risk can reap unexpected rewards. The end result is a new cadre of underemployed workers dotting American companies, occupying slots several rungs below where they are accustomed to working.

With nearly five job seekers for every opening, employers are seizing the opportunity to stock up on discounted talent and professionalize their companies, despite the obvious risks that the new hires will become dissatisfied and leave. While some new employees will fail to work out, forcing the company through the process of hiring and training someone else, many companies are benefiting from an influx of talent they probably never would have been able to attract in a better economic climate. According to several studies, approximately 20% of American workers are toiling in positions below their experience and skill level.


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Young Job Seekers Hiding Their Facebook Pages
CNN.com, March 29

Young job hunters are taking steps to restore privacy to their personal Facebook pages, concerned that potential employers will discover information that could negatively impact their ability to land a new job. Many students and recent graduates say they are changing their names on Facebook or tightening privacy settings to hide photos and wall posts from potential employers. A recent survey commissioned by Microsoft found that 70% of recruiters and hiring managers in the United States have rejected an applicant based on information they found online, including “inappropriate” comments, “unsuitable” photos and videos, criticisms of previous employers or clients, and even inappropriate comments by friends and relatives.

For better or worse, online screenings by employers may be a permanent part of the hiring process. According to a Microsoft survey, 79% of U.S. hiring managers has used the Internet to better assess applicants. Employers review and research anyone they’re looking to hire or use as a contract employee, across Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Understandably, job seekers are concerned that their ability to land a new job depends on something they do when they’re not in the office or something that a friend posts online for others to find. Thankfully, most companies only consult an applicant's online reputation to make sure he or she hasn't misrepresented their work experience.


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A Different Take on Some Aspects of Work You Hate
California Job Journal, March 28

Peggy Klaus, a workplace communication and leadership expert, discusses how to make the best of difficult situations at work. Ignoring a difficult aspect of the job, such as office politics, will not make it go away. In fact, avoiding the things you love to hate about work will eventually stall or derail your career. As a result, IT workers need to start directing their energy toward fine-tuning the skills and qualities they already possess, rather than thinking they must become someone they are not to succeed at the getting-ahead game. Once you have identified your strengths, they will quickly become the building blocks of your very own career launching pad.

Competition in the workplace does not have to mean “aggressive” and “back-stabbing.” Constructive competition is simply about striving for your goals by clearly communicating who you are, what you have accomplished in the past, what you are achieving at the moment, and your intentions for the future. Second, reconsider the way you think about networking events. By approaching your next networking event with the same attitude you bring to other social events, developing rapport with others will come more naturally. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, choose three people at the event and make it your business to get to know them and treat each one as a potential new friend.


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ACM Awards Recognize Computer Scientists for Innovations that Have Real World Impact
ACM Press Room, March 30

ACM recently announced the winners of six prestigious awards for their innovations in computing technology that demonstrate the benefits of computational thinking for industry, education, and society. The awards reflect outstanding achievements that have led to improved medical diagnostics and healthcare delivery, better teaching methods for high school computer science, more secure Internet transactions, and enhanced network efficiency. The 2009 ACM award winners, from internationally known research and academic institutions, include practiced innovators as well as promising newcomers in the computing profession.

Mihir Bellare and Phillip Rogaway, professors at the University of California, were recipients of the Paris Kanellakis Theory and Practice Award for their development of practice-oriented provable security, which has resulted in high-quality, cost-effective cryptography. Stanford University professor Mendel Rosenblum and his students were awarded the Software System Award for realizing that virtual-machine technology could help with many of the problems suffered by modern computing environments. Michael Jordan received the ACM/AAAI Allen Newell Award for fundamental advances in statistical machine learning.


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E-Learning and ICT Integration in Colleges and Universities in Saudi Arabia
eLearn Magazine, March 9

Hend Suliman Al-Khalifa, a member of eLearn Magazine's editorial board and an assistant professor at King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, highlights how higher-level educational institutions in Saudi Arabia are integrating e-learning and ICT. Since 2002, the government authority responsible for Saudi Arabia's technical education and vocational training (GOTEVOT) has been expanding e-learning training opportunities and digital resources. For example, GOTEVOT has signed an agreement with Cisco, Microsoft, and ICDL to deliver electronic courses training packages. The article summarizes recent moves by the Ministry of Higher Education and Saudi universities to create a coordinated and collaborative approach to e-learning.

In order to provide equitable and quality education across Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Higher Education established the National Centre for E-Learning and Distance Education in 2006. A core goal was to facilitate next generation e-learning in Saudi higher education, through such initiatives as the National Learning Management System. This initiative helps to store, manage, and share learning objects between Saudi universities. Other initiatives have been launched to help progress from traditional ways of teaching and learning to more advanced methods through the use of technology; to offer training programs aimed at improving the abilities of female faculty members in Saudi universities; and to foster overall e-learning excellence.


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