The .com boom led to a massive rise in the number of IT and programming contractors.
No offense to the contractors, but most of the work they do just requires knowledge of programming and some past experience, there really isn't much CS involved. I really don't consider software eng. contracting an academically "challenging" career.
That can be said for most non-contracting jobs too. Unless you are looking at R&D or high profile application development, most line of business applications aren't that "academically challenging".