With the start of the new academic year approaching, would-be students in Poland are registering for their preferred courses. This year, like many before it, it's likely computer science will feature in the as one of the most popular courses, spurred on by demand from the labour market.
Last year, computer science was the third most popular course behind management and engineering, with over 27,000 new applications to Poland's universities. According to official data from the Ministry of Education, the figure is up 46.2 percent on the 2010-2011 academic year.
The reason behind the growth is Poland's unemployment rate, which stands at around 12 percent. While it may be only a little over the EU average, it's an average that the sky-high rates in financial crisis-stricken countries like Spain and Greece can distort somewhat.
And while Polish companies offer comparatively low wages to other European countries, programmers in Poland have it better than most workers in the country: they can count on anything between 4400 to 8000 zlotys (€1,000 to €2,000) per month, depending on their languages skills and experience. The average wage in Poland hovers around the 3500 to 4000 zloty mark, the GUS national statistics intitute estimates.
The Polish market is begging for new programmers: Polish e-commerce company Allegro Group, for example, is crying out for more Polish students to take IT-related courses as it's predicting the demand for IT personnel may outstrip supply by 30 percent within five years.
"Our IT department has developed very fast and it now employs more than 500 people in four different locations," Monika Disterheft, head of recruitment at Allegro Group, said. "However, we are still hiring employees for new projects. This year alone we are planning to hire 180 programmers. The Warsaw office is in need of 80 people who can work with Java. But people who can program in PHP/HTML, C#, .NET and C/C++ can also count on work here."
Mobile application development is one that could well feel the pinch in the future. Samsung, which has both a home appliances factory and R&D facilities in Poland, needs additional programmers to build and test applications its smartphones.
The company, which employs around 1,800 people at its R&D centre, chose Poland for the centre because "there is a huge potential here," a spokesman for Samsung said. "Poland is home to some of the best programmers in the world. You only need to look at international programming competitions… Poles take many honours there."