sealPurdue News

July 2001

Computer literacy emerging as a core skill for liberal arts grads

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – College students can greatly increase their odds of landing a job after graduation no matter what discipline their degrees are in by adding one skill to their resumes – computer competency.

Computer literacy, long a "must-have" skill for those seeking jobs in information technology and other high-tech fields, is now turning up on recruiters' wish lists across virtually all professions.

"Employers are looking for the total package in job candidates, and computer aptitude – based on the level required for any given position – is starting to be ranked right up with communication skills, leadership qualities and the ability to work cooperatively and collaboratively with others," says Susan Hychka, a counselor in Purdue University's Center for Career Opportunities. "The expectation that college graduates will have good basic computer knowledge grows every year."

According to the 2000-2001 Recruiting Trends Report published by the Collegiate Employment Research Institute at Michigan State University, computer competency is now perceived as a core skill along with reading, writing and mathematics.

Hychka says the expectation that college graduates will be computer literate is leading to more opportunities for those with a broader range of academic backgrounds.

"Some students have the misconception that they have to be computer science majors to land an information technology position," Hychka says. "But an increasing number of the companies that post jobs with us no longer restrict resumes to the technical disciplines when hiring information technology people."

That point is not lost on academic advisers in Purdue's School of Liberal Arts, where a growing number of students are opting for a computer technology minor to complement their degree. The minor, which is identical to the one offered to students majoring in the technical disciplines, has been open to liberal arts students since 1996. The initial lukewarm interest has heated up over the last two years.

"Students are definitely starting to see the benefits of learning how to work with electronic information," says Elizabeth Dexter-Wilson, a career services specialist in the School of Liberal Arts. "In the fall of 1998, only 39 liberal arts majors were pursuing the computer technology minor. But this past spring, 85 students had declared it, and nearly all of the departments within the school were represented."

The minor is especially popular among those studying in the communications field. Of the 85 liberal arts students minoring in computer technology, 42 are majoring in professional writing, public relations, advertising, telecommunication and other communications related disciplines.

But Dexter-Wilson notes that the computer technology minor also has been selected by students majoring in law and society, English, health and fitness, history, political science and psychology.

"There are 63 different majors available in this school, and the computer technology minor works well with all of them," Dexter-Wilson says. "And that's really kind of the point of a liberal arts degree. We're developing students who will graduate with a great deal of versatility, which is always a good thing as far as employers are concerned."

Writer: Sharon A. Bowker, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Susan Hychka, (765) 494--3981,

Elizabeth Dexter-Wilson, (765) 494-3670,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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