While Stanford has 400 undergraduates who have declared computer science as their major, 90% of the university’s 6,940 undergraduates are now taking at least one computer science course even though it is not required to graduate.

Stanford University has seen its computer science majors increase by 83% in the last three years. “Our enrollment was up 30% this fall over last fall, and we expect to see continued growth on an annual basis,” says Professor Mehran Sahami, associate chair for education at Stanford’s Computer Science Department. “Our numbers in terms of students majoring in computer science are comparable to the height of the dot-com bubble. But in terms of the number of students taking our courses, we’ve exceeded that previous record… There is greater interest in computer science, which is reflective of the fact that computers are having an impact on other fields.”

The real motivator for many computer science majors is jobs. It is important to strengthen career pathways in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector because jobs in this sector are projected to increase by 27%, making the ICT sector the fastest growing career cluster through 2018. The ICT sector meets national criteria for high demand, high wages, and high skills and is reported to be the driving force of innovation behind the efficiency initiatives of all career clusters. The ICT workforce employs more than a million Californians today in 1 in 20 private sector jobs.

There is strong anticipated growth in ICT Workforce jobs, which pay on average twice the median wage in California, and for which employers report difficulty finding appropriately skilled workers, even in this period of high unemployment. “Our students had close to 100% employment last year,” Sahami says. “Our students were in high demand. They had multiple offers, stock options and signing bonuses… Computer science undergrads saw salaries ranges where the max of the range got into six figures. The median salary was in the mid-90s.”

When preparing the master schedule for next year, high school administrators and counselors should consider offering an elective foundational course like Exploring Computer Science to better prepare students to achieve their individual academic and career goals. AB 1330 allows that any Career Technical Education elective may serve as a graduation requirement.