Computer Science Careers are Still Hot in Idaho

by Dan Cravens, Regional Labor Economist, Southeastern Idaho

Careers in computer science are among the hottest Idaho jobs, according to long-term projections by the Idaho Department of Labor. Computer occupations have grown since 2005 in Idaho, despite the drag of the recession, and the department projects continued growth in that industry through 2018.

In 2005 there were 1,930 workers employed as computer support specialists in Idaho. By 2010 that number had jumped to 3,190, a 60.5 percent increase – an impressive growth rate considering it took place during the heart of one of the state’s worst economic downturns.

But while the number of computer support specialists was rising, their paychecks were shrinking. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage for a computer support specialist was $39,680 in 2005. By 2010, the average wage had fallen to $39,330.

Still, training to become a computer support specialist may represent a good career prospect in high technology. The Idaho Department of Labor’s Career Information System shows computer support specialists remaining in very high demand with job opportunities growing.

The preparation is not especially lengthy for entry into a high-tech field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 59 percent of computer support specialists nationwide have less than a four-year degree, and 43 per- cent have less than an associate degree.

Computer programming is also a rapidly growing occupation. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated there were 1,040 computer programmers in Idaho in 2005. That more than doubled to 2,410 in 2010, a 43.2 per- cent increase.

As with computer support specialists, wages for computer programmers also fell during the recession, dropping from $54,630 9in 2005 to $53,020 in 2010.

But unlike computer support specialists, a sizable majority of computer programmers have four-year college degrees. That extra training and education, however, does not always mean that a computer programmer can expect to make over $50,000 a year – just over $24 an hour. In south central Idaho, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., the average hourly wage for computer programmers was $13.21 in 2011. In southeastern Idaho the average was $15.58.

But an affordable high-tech workforce could attract new companies to south central and southeastern Idaho, giving a boost to the regional economies and increasing the competition for available computer programmers and other high-tech workers.

Dan.Cravens@labor.idaho.gov, Regional Economist (208) 236-6710 ext. 3713