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Students’ Interest in Tech Careers Soars in Recent Years

By Kathleen G. Barrow and Lena R. Episalla, Crimson Staff Writers

Earlier this month, flocks of eager students attended the Office of Career Service’s Big Data Analytics & Technology Fair, crowding around tables with representatives from Google and Facebook.

The popularity of the career fair—it attracted more than 1,000 interested guests on Facebook—makes apparent the significant rise in the number of Harvard students pursuing careers in the technology sector. The number of students going into tech or engineering from the College has tripled over the last five years.

“More people are interested in going into tech,” Director of OCS Robin Mount said. “Part of the reason why I think we’re seeing such growth is the increase in enrollment in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Computer science and applied math are concentrations that have been growing.”

According to data provided by OCS, the percentage of Harvard College graduates pursuing careers in technology or engineering has grown from 4 percent in 2011 to 12 percent in 2016; those careers are now the third most popular immediate post graduate pursuit. Technology and engineering falls just behind financial services at 14 percent and full-time graduate or professional school at 15 percent.

Mount noted that, rather than being supplanted by technology firms, the financial industry similarly is beginning to use more data in its work.

“Finance wants tech people also... They see themselves as a technology company because they’re working off of trading platforms and things like that,” Mount said. “So I think there’s just more options for students that have those skills.”

But it is not just the finance and tech sectors that seek to hire students with skills in data analytics or computer science. OCS has seen an increase in demand for those skills in nearly every industry, Mount said. At the OCS data and tech fair, traditional powerhouse tech firms like Microsoft vied for students’ interest alongside firms from other industries. The pharmaceutical company Johnson and Johnson and the basketball team the Boston Celtics were also in attendance.

“The biggest growth we’ve seen is the trend in big data. Analyzing data is of particular interest to companies in just about every sector, whether it’s healthcare, global health, education, marketing, finance—any one of those things, because data is the new kind of—what would you call it?” Mount said, searching for the term.

“Bacon,”Associate Director of Employer Relations and Operations Deborah Carroll interjected.

Data has become the “new bacon” in more ways than one. With companies seeking more employees with strong data analytics skills, jobs in tech have become lucrative.

“A bunch of my blockmates in college, or a lot of them, tried to do other things and they all inevitably moved back into tech, or at least more quantitative sort of, computer-based fields, either research or tech,” Timothy Barry-Heffernan ’14, who attended the fair as a recruiter for Google, said. “It’s where all the money is.”

There is certainly money in technology for recent graduates. According to The Crimson’s annual senior survey for the Class of 2015 , 47 percent of respondents reporting they would make $110,000 or more after graduation were computer science concentrators.

Both recruiters and students are enthusiastic about the new movement toward tech. Javier Cuan-Martinez ’18, a computer science concentrator, said the growth in the technology industry has benefited not only students seeking jobs but also consumers in general.

“The thing that I love about computer science is that you solve problems that people don’t know are problems,” Cuan-Martinez said. “For example, with Uber, no one really thought, ‘Oh, man, I have to find a taxi now, I need a ride.’ But Uber came along, found the problem, and it’s solved now. It’s great, computer science. You get to make things more efficient around the world.”

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CollegeOffice of Career ServicesTechnology