Computer programming grads from Champlain College are in demand. It seems like the college can't turn them out fast enough to fill openings for security experts, video game programmers and web and mobile developers.
Unfortunately for Champlain, that also means qualified instructors can be hard to find.
Champlain College Assistant Professor John Pile Jr., who teaches in the college's Division of Information Technology and Sciences, is part of a search committee on the hunt for someone to teach mobile development. Only a handful of candidates have applied for the position they currently have open; dozens typically vie for jobs in the school's sciences and math programs. "It's difficult to compete against the technology industry," he said during an interview in West Hall, home of the ITS division.
Pile, 38, handed me a photocopy of Game Developer Magazine's April 2013 Salary Survey that he gives to students. It notes that game programmers have an average salary of $92,151; programmers with six or more years of experience can expect to earn six figures.
And it's not just the money that's attractive; programming jobs at tech companies come with sweet perks, such as tennis courts or an organic café at the office.
Pile estimated that the pay for the full-time instructor position he's trying to fill may be closer to $50,000 a year; though, as he pointed out, that's really for just nine months of work. Pile, who's been at Champlain for three years, is planning to use his summer break to play with his new Oculus Rift development kit and to catch up on time with his wife. Last summer he finished his first book, 2D Graphics Programming for Games.
Not that he felt any pressure to publish. Unlike profs at research schools, Champlain professors don't have to "publish or perish," he said. "We don't have any research expectations on the faculty at all." Of course, the faculty doesn't have tenure, either.
But some of the same rules that govern faculty at larger schools such as the University of Vermont do still apply — Champlain professors need advanced degrees, for example. Yes, even the ones teaching in the rapidly evolving field of mobile development. It's a requirement for the college's accreditation. Pile got his master's in software engineering from the University of Abertay Dundee, Scotland. Master's degrees are preferred, but not required, for instructor positions.
So Pile's hiring committee is looking for a mobile developer with a master's degree in computer science, software engineering or a related field — challenging, given the fact that the heroes of the tech world drop out of school to start their own companies or work at places like Google. And that someone needs to have recent industry experience. "Once you're not doing it on the job for a year or two, you're old," Pile said. "It's hard to convince the kids that you're relevant."
They're also looking for a great teacher who can connect with students. "A lot of programmers are somewhat introverted," Pile observed, "and to be a good teacher, you have to be somewhat less introverted."
And apparently it would be great for Champlain if that person were female. Women are underrepresented in technology fields, and in Champlain's game programming major in particular. Of Pile's 100 programming students this year, just four were female. "Having strong female program role models is really important," he said.
All of that, added Pile, means "it's a tough thing we're asking for."
The benefits, besides a laid-back summer? "The old cliché that teaching is rewarding is true," he explained. Not only do educators get to work with bright and motivated Champlain students, but they also have the flexibility to adapt coursework to keep it current with industry changes.
"Potential educators should not underestimate the value of the 'street cred' that comes with having worked in the industry: designing software, building applications, and creating technology solutions for a clients," Pile said. "It’s not until you start to design a course that you realize how much you have learned on the job and what you wish had been part of your own education."
Know anyone who might be interested in giving teaching a try? Here's the link to the job posting on the school's website.
The school is also looking for part-time adjunct faculty. "Teaching as an adjunct in the evening — one night a week for 15 weeks — is a great way to get experience and explore an interest in teaching," Pile said. They're looking for a LINUX/UNIX adjunct instructor and an adjunct instructor for digital forensics. Heads up, that one just requires a bachelor's degree.
Image of Pile in his office — with logo for Gun Pile, his game development company — Cathy Resmer.