The growth of big data means a demand for employees with big data skills. Predictions are, though, that only 1/3 of the jobs will be filled, due to a lack of employees having the right skills. New degrees in analytics and data science aim to correct this shortcoming.
The Master of Science in Analytics, offered through the Institute for Advanced Analytics at North Carolina State University, is the first degree of its kind. Obtaining the degree requires completing a 10-month program. The program mixes coursework and projects to develop skills the industry requires. Classes provide an understanding of analytical techniques and tools, including databases, linear algebra, data mining, and machine learning.
Other classes impart business skills, including communication skills and teamwork, which industry leaders often feel are lacking in new graduates. Students learn technical writing and presentation skills to understand how to present the conclusions of their analyses. They also learn project management and how to be a follower as well as a leader.
Students develop real skills, not just book learning, through industry-sponsored practicums. Students form small teams that work together to solve a real business problem using data provided by a real business sponsor. After eight months of work, the results are presented to their industry sponsor; the results belong to the sponsor and are confidential. Companies can take advantage of the students' education, energy, and enthusiasm by submitting proposals for practicum projects at the institute's website.
The educational program has been operational since 2007. More than 90 percent of its graduates have jobs with competitive salaries. They work across the economy, in large multinational firms and small startups.
Since the first MS in Analytics program was established, other, similar educational programs have appeared at schools across the country. Northwestern offers a longer, 15-month Master of Science in Analytics with a similar practicum; the Master of Science at the University of Chicago can take from 12 months to four years and includes a capstone project. Other schools with similar programs include St. John's, offering an MS in Data Mining and Predictive Analysis and Pace, with an MS in Customer Intelligence and Analytics.
Because of the limited number of graduates, companies that want to bring big data skills into their operations should seek to partner with these educational programs and offer the internships and practicums that will provide the students both educational and work experience to help them succeed once they've earned their degree.