October 02, 2013, 11:54 AM — The University of California at Berkeley's new School of Information (iSchool) masters' level program aims to help students gain the knowledge, tools and training to land high-level, highly sought-after positions with businesses looking to use big data to improve efficiency, create new revenue streams, and compete more effectively in the marketplace.
Missing: Data Scientists
The new Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) program is the school's first online-only degree program and is an effort to preemptively address businesses' need for skilled data scientists, says Dean of the School of Information AnnaLee Saxenien.
"There certainly are folks today in business and in academia who can fill these roles. The problem is there aren't enough of them to fill the need. The effective use of data science has applications in almost every business in every organization around the world, and that's the issue." --Michael Chui, principal, McKinsey Global Institute
What's been missing in the market, Saxenien says, is mid-level, master's degree training that can bridge the gap between workers in business who are responsible for collecting the data and the current crop of data scientists, many of whom have Ph.Ds and are working in academia.
"There certainly are folks today in business and in academia who can fill these roles, and they are very valuable," says Michael Chui, principal, McKinsey Global Institute, a research and analyst firm.
"The problem is there aren't enough of them to fill the need. The effective use of data science has applications in almost every business in every organization around the world, and that's the issue," Chui says.
"In the future, we'll be dealing with information not just as text and physical artifacts, but [also as] video, data, audio, sensor data collected from computers, Web clickstream data -- and that will all be globally networked. We are going to need a new education paradigm to address that," Saxenien says.
Above and beyond the new types of data, graduates of the program will be educated in the larger social, economic and personal usage issues that surround data, she says. This new degree program is much more narrowly focused on teaching students to work with data sets of all sizes; to get them to understand how to ask good questions about data; to teach them how to clean it, extract it, put it together and explore it. It's about how to use statistics and machine learning tools, across the whole spectrum of data analytics, Saxenien says.
"We're not just educating people in programming and data mining, but in law and legal issues, in social science and behavioral studies, user interface design and user interaction, for instance," she says.
Where the Data Scientist Jobs Are
Businesses in almost every industry are finding ways to use data to improve efficiency, create new revenue streams, better target marketing and advertising to customers, and develop new products and services, says McKinsey Global Institute's Chui.
"We don't see any area of a business that can't benefit from using data to streamline processes, better meet the needs of customers and users -- to become more effective and more competitive," Chui says.
Currently, demand for data scientists is concentrated in "traditional" sectors like IT and finance, and applicants to the program tend to hold careers in these fields, says Saxenien. But, she says, the application of data science should expand greatly over the next few years, offering graduates opportunities in real estate, government, healthcare, construction, manufacturing and more.
In addition, McKinsey's Chui says, graduates from the MIDS and similar programs will need to educate their employers and future colleagues in how to be smarter, more effective consumers of the data that's analyzed.
Data in Demand
While UC Berkeley's program is the first of its kind, Saxenien says she expects to see similar programs cropping up at schools across the country as demand for highly trained data scientists increases.
"These educational programs are ramping up. I think we'll start to see more of them, and it's going to take us as a University a while to produce these graduates. The students we have currently that are working in the data space are getting snatched up by companies, and at a starting salary for our master's program graduates of around $100,000. That's an incredible opportunity," she says.
Sharon Florentine covers IT careers and data center topics for CIO.com. Follow Sharon on Twitter @MyShar0na. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook.
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