Demand for Big Data Growing, So Is Demand for Skilled Data Specialists

At George Washington Univ, there are currently 18 students in the first graduating class of the new master’s in business analytics program. They come from undergraduate programs in finance and economics, and in IT and marketing. One has a Ph.D. in astrophysics. But all of them are being drawn into the new master’s program by big data.

According to the Washington Post, Companies today are collecting more data faster and in higher volumes than ever seen before. This gives managers and business executives greater insights into business performance that can be often used to make better business decisions. This is a major reason why the demand for skilled data scientists and analysts is soaring.

Many business schools in the Washington DC area and in other parts of the country are now responding to the growing big data demand. They are coming up with new classes, certificates and degree programs that focus on big data and analytics. The goal, according to academics, is to ready the students of today for a much more data-centric workplace. This is happening in many fields, from business to healthcare, with many new degree programs also offered in health informatics.

Some of the Schools Offering a Master’s in Business Analytics

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The 10 month master’s degree program at George Washington Univ came out of a certificate program that the university started to offer to its MBA students in 2009. That program had about 12 students in its initial year. In the second year, there already were 75 students.

Master’s degree students in this program finish 33 credit hours in data mining, analytics forecasting, computational analytics, and also data warehousing. This curriculum tries to balance the mathematical components of data analytics with business concepts that are important in a company in the real world.

The University of Maryland also is doing a similar program but is taking a different tack. Their business school started to offer a new master’s degree in marketing analytics this year. It currently has enrolled 38 undergraduates from many fields, such as computer science, physics, math and engineering.

1.5M data-savvy managers and analysts will be needed in the next 5 years to drive decisions. The big data revolution is sweeping every industry—but there’s a shortage of talented analysts who can uncover data insights to drive business decisions.- Source: “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity,” McKinsey Global Institute, 2011.

The goal of that new program is to find good students who have strong quantitative aptitudes, who are strong in math and data, and then are able to learn a strong marketing framework. Students finish classes in marketing strategy, statistical programming, customer analysis, business communication and business ethics. Businesses in the past may have been able to find graduates who had data analysis expertise, but they may not have had the education to apply the knowledge in a business environment. The University of Maryland program helps to bridge the gap.

These data skills are in such a high level of demand that the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) has now added a new integrated reasoning section to the GMAT test. The VP of R&D at GMAC stated recently that that section was developed over several years after they did surveys of faculty, businesses, graduates and students about essential data skills needed in the work world today.

Big data also is attracting the interest of IBM. That company is now partnering with over 1000 colleges around the world, such as Georgetown Univ and GW to provide curriculum and software aides to instructors who teach in big data and analytics.

Decision making by sorting data is not ever going to fully replace the decision making processes of good executives, but it will definitely complement that skill. More companies are making many big decisions with big data, so the schools mentioned above are helping to provide students with the skills and tools for future success in this area.