With fall around the corner, college students are about to return to their classes and potentially begin the search for their first “real” job. The labor market is on their side — available jobs now outnumber workers to fill them — and while grads have lots of job choices, computer science students are especially in demand. Silicon Valley’s high wages and ample job opportunities make it an obvious choice, but retail companies are increasingly seeking to hire recent college graduates with computer science backgrounds (and are willing to pay comparable salaries). As retailers move into bold tech initiatives (see Target’s Tech Incubator or Walmart Labs), their tech talent needs are beginning to rival those of Silicon Valley.
Emsi data shows more than 35,000 graduates in computer science in 2016, with the overwhelming majority (92 percent) completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree. When considering related programs (computer and information sciences, information technology, etc.), the number of graduates with tech degrees climbs to well over 200,000.
Retailers have thousands of job openings for computer science graduates.
Despite the dramatic increase in computer science graduates, the growth in demand for these graduates still far outpaces their supply. According to Emsi’s Job Posting Analytics, employers posted more than 118,000 jobs across all industries in 2017 requesting between zero and two years of experience, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, and computer science skills. Of these, almost 5,000 were in the retail industry. This means the retail industry alone could hire almost 15 percent of all computer science graduates into relevant jobs, with no signs of the demand for recent computer science graduates slowing. In June 2018, the retail industry had over 1,200 unique, entry-level, computer science job postings.
The pay is good.
In addition to the huge demand for retail tech talent, these positions are paid salaries comparable with those in other industries, and in some cases more. The table below presents a selection of computer science occupations in retail compared with the same occupations in all industries.
The positions offer geographic diversity with a lower cost of living.
Retail careers exist in communities big and small across the United States. Many of these jobs are in locations without Silicon Valley’s high cost of living, meaning a college graduate’s entry-level salary goes even further.
The jobs are cool.
Practical and economic thinking aside, a tight labor market means graduates can afford to be choosy. As emerging technologies continue to transform the shopping experience, a career in retail tech could mean being at the forefront of advancements in everything from AI and voice recognition to visual search and autonomous vehicles.
As computer science students and recent graduates look for their dream job, they should consider going beyond traditional tech employers and considering what retail has to offer. For those interested, check out the NRF Foundation’s numerous career development and scholarship opportunities for all students considering retail careers.