January 31, 2011

New degree to boost software engineer talent in state

Posted: January 31, 2011

The ever-increasing digital world is seeing an even greater need for software engineers to help program the applications and systems for the electronic devices we hold dear, as well as create the next generation for both. The College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University Polytechnic plans to help meet the need with a new bachelor of science degree in software engineering.

Research by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) backs up the notion that demand for software engineers is on the rise. According to its stats, computer software engineering employment is projected to increase by 32 percent between 2008 and 2018.

“These statistics make it one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States,” said Chell Roberts, chair of the Department of Engineering and professor. “This program will prepare graduates for three of the top eight fastest growing occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree on the list.”

Some of these include software application engineers who develop on platforms such as the iPhone or Android directly for end users and systems software engineers that work on larger complex systems such as a social networking system.

Kevin Gary, associate chair of the department, and Tim Lindquist, professor, are the principal architects of the new degree program, though many faculty members and industry partners helped develop the program.

“Software is ubiquitous in our society – from the stock market, hospitals, and national defense to our cellphones, home entertainment systems, and automobiles,” Gary said. “It pervades all that we do personally – connecting with our social network, paying our bills, or shopping for gifts and travel.”

Software applications and systems are complex, requiring a few hundred to several million lines of code. Computer software engineers use a detailed set of instructions to tell the computer what to do, using programming languages.

“Software engineers go beyond programming, applying expertise across the software lifecycle to create new designs, enhance quality and make applications usable for consumers,” Gary said. “This broad expertise creates the compelling value that has propelled software engineer to the No. 1 career for 2011 as projected by CareerCast.com.”

Students in this program will be exposed to a different learning experience from a typical computer science major. Similar to the engineering programs offered in the college, students will learn by doing projects that provide the core competencies as well as a specialized focus throughout their four years.

It’s flexible enough for students to tailor the program to fit their interests by selecting a primary focus, while still being interdisciplinary by allowing them to choose a secondary focus area. For example, students can select mobile applications, web development or gaming as a primary focus, with robotics, music or cognitive science as a secondary focus.

According to Gary, society has long stereotyped the computing professional as the nerd-geek (“Weird Science”, “Revenge of the Nerds”) dropout (Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), with questionable social skills (Dilbert) and a disposition for hacking (“The Matrix”, “War Games”).

“The reality however, is that the software professional defies any stereotype. Software engineers have the unique prospects of contributing to society in a myriad of ways – you may contribute on a large-scale project to put humans and robots on Mars, contribute to humanitarian open source projects or provide responses to tragedies like Katrina, become an entrepreneur or protect the nation of information warfare attacks,” he said.

The program is being rolled out for Fall 2011. For advising or information about either one of these programs, contact the college at 480-727-2727.

Media Contact:
Christine Lambrakis, lambrakis@asu.edu
(480) 727-1173, (602) 316-5616