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Data Scientists – Is it Really a Matter of Degree(s)?

data scientist education certification  Data Scientists – Is it Really a Matter of Degree(s)? There’s no disputing the fact that big data is creating a big demand for data scientists.

In a report on big data, the McKinsey Global Institute released some pretty stunning numbers: “By 2018, the United States alone could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.”

While some people believe that it’s up to universities to develop curricula to turn out grads who can put big data to work in a variety of industries, others say there’s no need to wait for universities to churn out data scientists.

For example, Dean Yi Deng of the College of Computing and Informatics at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is working with the college’s Industry Advisory Board to develop informatics programs that are linked to the needs of business and society. Deng says the pace of big data development is “amazing,” but the problem is that education hasn’t kept up with development.

“We are facing a huge deficit in people to not only handle big data, but more importantly to have the knowledge and skills to generate value from data – dealing with the non-stop tsunami,” Deng says. “The whole thing is hugely important for the future.”

Deng says he realized about two years ago that universities need to change the way they teach technology. Instead of just focusing on systems, technology, networks and communications, they need to educate students to be multi-skilled experts – data scientists – who understand programming, large-scale mathematics, statistics and business.

But while universities are busy creating data scientist programs, data-intensive firms are developing their data scientists by training their current “analysts, quants, Excel jockeys and computer-savvy MBAs in some big data skills like Hadoop.”

So maybe companies don’t have to wait for universities to catch up with the explosion of big data. Rather firms can start educating their analysts and other skilled workers by giving them access to big data analytics tools so they can access the data that can give them the insights their companies need to stay competitive.

What do you think is the best way to turn out data scientists? Let us know in the comments section.

Next Steps: Download our complimentary “5-Minute Guide to Business Analytics“ and learn how analytics technologies can help you uncover the most relevant data when you need it.

Linda Rosencrance
Spotfire Blogging Team

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William J McKibbin

Creating the consumate business intelligence analyst is tougher than it looks — I interview potential analysts all the time, and unfortunately, many applicants are not even close to being ready — what I look for is deep interest and capacity for the following: a) data mining; b) statistical analysis; and c) business processes — now, when I say deep, I mean the ability to go to the white board during the interview and sketch out for me data maps, basic statistical equations, and business processes, complete with symbols, equations, and mapping designations — I also expect the applicant to be able to function on demand using Excel and at least one common programming language — finally, I expect to see a certain flair for critical thinking about business problems — the total package of what I am describing above usually is accompanied by strong academic preparation, though that is not what I look for specifically as too many people with degrees in the computer sciences are simply unable to perform when put on the spot during an interview — that’s my experience for what it’s worth — the degree is not what I primarily consider, however most strong applicants have the degrees regardless — thank you for the opportunity to comment.

Elmo Paige

As a student moving into data science from a background in ecology and enviroscience. what Mr. McKibbin is describing is rather daunting. It seems to me such a individual will have multiple degrees in computer sci., stats, business analytics and data mining experience. I am getting my start in Java and Relational database coursework and enrolling with CUNY’s Information System’s program. I would really appreciate feedback on this program vs. Northwestern’s Predictive Analytics, and others that I many not know about. Thanks


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