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UW-Eau Claire IS Graduates in Demand

RELEASED: May 11, 2009

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is among the top producers of information systems graduates in the nation and is one of the few universities in the country that is seeing a steady increase in the number of IS majors, a review of IS programs shows.

Anthony Keys Thomas Hilton

In the last year, UW-Eau Claire has graduated nearly 70 IS majors, a number that exceeds the total number of students enrolled in many IS programs in Wisconsin and beyond, said Dr. Anthony Keys, an associate professor of IS who has researched IS enrollment trends.

"After the crash, there was a big decline in IS majors," said Keys. "With the negative messages out there and stereotypes about IS majors, enrollments bottomed out. For many institutions, numbers have stayed low but our numbers are going up. We now have more students than most IS programs in the nation, including those at large nationally known schools."

In April, UW-Eau Claire had 240 IS majors and 53 IS minors, Keys said. While still below the 434 peak in 1998, enrollment has steadily climbed since a low of 155 in 2004, he said.

"Our numbers are going in the right direction," Keys said. "As more students understand what's possible with an IS degree, I think those numbers will continue to increase."

UW-Eau Claire's IS graduates are highly sought after, with recruiters from many of the Midwest's largest businesses coming to campus specifically to interview IS majors, said Dr. Thomas Hilton, chair of the IS department. From 2004-09, 39 percent of the employers who came to campus specified that they wanted to talk to IS majors, he said.

"Career options within the IS field are broader than ever," Hilton said. "Salaries are going up, making them among the best starting salaries for people with a bachelor's degree. There are tremendous opportunities within the IS field."

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that starting salaries for entry-level IS jobs are higher than those for attorneys and civil engineers, Hilton said. In Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis or Chicago, many entry-level IS jobs pay $55,000-$65,000 a year, he said.

The number of IS jobs also is expected to grow, with labor statistics showing that six of the 16 fastest growing jobs in the country are IS jobs, Hilton said.

"There is huge growth forecast in Wisconsin and throughout the United States for these kinds of jobs," Hilton said, noting that IS students are often recruited for internships after their sophomore year because companies are anxious to build relationships with top students. "Our industry partners tell us they come to campus because we have large numbers of IS graduates, and because they have the skills they need as well as a very strong work ethic."

UW-Eau Claire revamped its IS program in 2006 because of declining enrollment and changing needs in business and industry, Hilton said. Given the increasing number of students enrolling in the major and minor programs, the restructuring has clearly been a success, he said.

The department now offers two emphases — one more technical and one more business oriented — within the IS major, aligning the emphases with careers within the IS field, Hilton said, adding that the department also revised its minor and certificate programs to complement every major on campus, not just business majors. The programs offer flexibility so students can easily match their program with their career goals, he said.

With some of business and industry's technical work now outsourced to other parts of the world, organizations need IS graduates who understand the technology but also have the skills necessary to solve problems, train people and manage international projects, Keys said.

"We're now attracting students who wouldn't have thought about IS before because they weren't interested in pursuing a career that focused only on coding," Keys said. "There are core technology classes that all IS majors must take. But beyond that, students — through their course selections — determine how much they want to focus on technology and on management."

Mi Yan-Ying Lam is an example of the kind of student the program now attracts. An IS major who will graduate May 16, Lam was originally an art graphic design major who had an interest in Web design and development.

"I changed my major to IS because I can learn the usability and development side of technology," said Lam, who has accepted a job offer from Image Trend Inc., a software development company in Lakeville, Minn. "I enjoy very much being in the IS system development track because I can apply my creativity and technical skill through technology."

Kristen Bomber, a senior IS major, chose the major because it allows her to combine her love of technology and management.

"I've been very happy with my choice," said Bomber, who will study management in Sweden during the 2009-10 academic year. "The quality of the program is excellent. I feel that after I graduate I will be fully prepared to enter any position offered to me."

UW-Eau Claire's IS department has a history of success dating back to the 1960s, Hilton said.

"We've been successful because we've been willing to evolve and change as the industry has developed," Hilton said. "As a result, we have remained a leader in the field."

For more information, contact Dr. Thomas Hilton, chair of the IS department, at 715-836-3416 or



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