Computing Graduates’ Desired Competencies: Some Professional Recommendations

Posted on July 22, 2010



Author:  Sanjay Goel,



Recommendations for Computer Science Graduates

The Joint Task Force on computing curricula of the IEEE Computer Society and the ACM has published several reports related to computing curricula. These reports make clear recommendations on this issue with reference to specific undergraduate programs in computer science, software engineering, computer engineering, and information technology. The final draft on computing curricula, 2001, suggested the following broad level characteristics of computer science graduates:

  1. Systems-level perspective.
  2. Appreciation of the interplay between theory and practice.
  3. Familiarity with common themes.
  4. Significant project experience.
  5. Adaptability.

This report also suggested the following general skills for computer science graduates:

  1. Communication.
  2. Teamwork.
  3. Numeracy.
  4. Self-management.
  5. Professional development.

Recommendations for Software Engineering Graduates

In 2004, the same task force made specific recommendations about undergraduate degree programs in software engineering. It suggested that graduates of an undergraduate software engineering program must be able to:

  1. show mastery of the software engineering knowledge and skills, and professional issues necessary to begin practice as a software engineer,
  2. work as an individual and as part of a team to develop and deliver quality software artifacts,
  3. reconcile conflicting project objectives, finding acceptable compromises within limitations of cost, time, knowledge, existing systems, and organizations,
  4. design appropriate solutions in one or more application domains using software engineering approaches that integrate ethical, social, legal, and economic concerns,
  5. demonstrate an understanding of and apply current theories, models, and techniques that provide a basis for problem identification and analysis, software design, development, implementation, verification, and documentation,
  6. demonstrate an understanding and appreciation for the importance of negotiation, effective work habits, leadership, and good communication with stakeholders in a typical software development environment, and
  7. learn new models, techniques, and technologies as they emerge and appreciate the necessity of such continuing professional development.

Recommendations for Computer Engineering Graduates

In their final report ‘Curriculum guidelines for undergraduate degree programs in computer engineering’, the ACM-IEEE joint task force identified the following characteristics for computer engineering graduates:

  1. System Level Perspective.
  2. Depth and Breadth (of knowledge).
  3. Design Experience.
  4. Use of Tools.
  5. Professional Practice.
  6. Communication Skills.

Recommendations for Information Technology Graduates

In April 2005, the same task force also proposed a draft computing curricula for information technology.  This report suggested  that pervasive themes for IT program outcome should be user centeredness and advocacy, information assurance and security, the ability to manage complexity, a deep understanding of information and communication technologies and their associated tools, adaptability, professionalism, and interpersonal skills. This report also recommends that an IT graduate must acquire the ability to:

  1. use and apply current technical concepts and practices in the core information technologies,
  2. analyze, identify, and define the requirements that must be satisfied to address problems or opportunities faced by organizations or individuals,
  3. design effective and usable IT-based solutions and integrate them into the user environment,
  4. assist in the creation of an effective project plan,
  5. identify and evaluate current and emerging technologies and assess their applicability to address the users’ needs,
  6. analyze the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society, including ethical, legal and policy issues,
  7. demonstrate an understanding of best practices and standards and their application,
  8. demonstrate independent critical thinking and problem solving skills,
  9. collaborate in teams to accomplish a common goal by integrating personal initiative and group cooperation,
  10. communicate effectively and efficiently with clients, users and peers both verbally and in writing, using appropriate terminology, and
  11. recognize the need for continued learning throughout their career.

Recommendations for Information Systems Graduates

In 2004, the ACM, Association for Information Systems (AIS), and Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) published a joint report on ‘Model curriculum and guidelines for undergraduate degree programs in information systems,’ and characterized this discipline as ‘Technology-enabled Business Development.’ They have divided the representative capabilities and knowledge expected for Information System graduates into the following categories:

  1. Analytical and critical thinking: organizational problem solving, ethics and professionalism, and creativity.
  2. Business fundamentals.
  3. Interpersonal, communication, and team skills.
  4. Technology.

Recommendations for Software Architects

Bass et al  (SEI report) have identified that in addition to the knowledge of architectural concepts, software engineering, design, programming, technologies and platforms, the following general competencies are important for software architects:

  1. Communication skills: Oral and written communication skills, presentation and convincing skills, see and address multiple viewpoints, consulting skills, negotiations skills, understand and express complex topics, listening skills, approachable, and interviewing skills.
  2. Interpersonal skills: Team player, diverse team environment, creative collaboration, consensus building, balanced participation, diplomatic, mentoring, conflict resolution, respects for people, committed to others success.
  3. Leadership skills: decision making, initiative, innovative, self-motivated and directed, committed, dedicated, passionate, independent judgment, influential, ambitious, mentoring, coaching, training.
  4. Workload management: work under pressure, time management, priority assessment, result oriented, estimation, ability to concurrently work well on multiple complex projects and systems.
  5. Skills to excel in corporate environment: passion for quality, art of strategy, work under supervision and constraints, organizational and work flow skills, process oriented, entrepreneurial, assertive without being aggressive, open to constructive criticism.
  6. Information handling: detail oriented while maintaining overall vision and focus, see the larger picture, good at working at an abstract level.
  7. Personal qualities: credible, accountable, responsible, insightful, visionary, creative, perseverant, practical, confident, patient, empathetic, work ethics.
  8. Skills for handling unknown and unexpected: tolerant to ambiguity, risk taking/management, problem solving, reasoning, analytical skills, adaptable, flexible, open mindedness, resilient, and compromising.
  9. Learning: good grasping power, investigative, observation power, adept at using tools.
  10. Domain knowledge.
  11. Knowledge of industry’s best practices and standards.
  12. Knowledge of business practices.

Indian Recommendations

NASSCOM-KPMG  and the Government of India Task Force   identified written English, logical reasoning, problem solving and numerical ability, programming skills, listening/empathy, assertiveness and confidence, integrity, values and discipline, sociability, dependability, and reliability as necessary skills for IT professionals. These reports identify spoken English, foreign language, accent understanding, comprehension/creativity, initiative/enthusiasm, team-working, multitasking and time management, and motivation/drive as desirable skills.

For further analysis, Please refer

1.  Sanjay Goel, Competency Focused Engineering Education with Reference to IT Related Disciplines:  Is Indian System Ready for Transformation? Journal of Information Technology Education, Vol. 5, Informing Science Institute, USA, pp 27-52,

2.  Sanjay Goel, Investigations on required core competencies for engineering graduates with reference to Indian IT industry, European Journal of Engineering Education, Taylor & Francis, UK, pp 607-617, October, 2006.


2.   Engineering Graduates’ Desired Competencies: Recommendations by Accreditation Boards of Some Countries





Keywords:   Software Engineering Education, Computing Education, Computer Science Education, Engineering Education, Information Technology Education, Information Systems Education, College Education, Higher Education, Professional Education


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