Data Analytics Education – More is Needed

There has been a clear message from business over recent years that there is a big shortage of people skilled in analysis of big data, as well as data analytics generally. Six figure jobs are going unfilled because of this shortage.

At a basic level, the need, according to a project manager in IBM, is for the skills to manage the vast array of data that is becoming available in a number of fields. People in those fields, such as marketing, need to learn how to deal with the data, especially the big data coming out of online interfaces as well as CRM and BI applications.

At more advanced levels, employers are calling for “data scientists”, those with strong mathematical and statistical backgrounds who are schooled in the use of advanced analytical tools for big data analysis. At present, few such data scientists exist, and various professors are filling the gap through sometimes lucrative consulting contracts.

Academia has been moving over the past few years to try and close the gap. Numerous courses have been introduced, often in business schools or Information Systems programs. Many of these are at the basic undergrad level, such as “Data Analysis” at the U of Fraser Valley and “Foundations of Enterprise Data Analytics – Concepts and Controls” offered by the University of Toronto. The numbers of these courses across the country are growing rapidly.

But while they are good for the general knowledge of graduates, they do not fill the need for data scientists. Dedicated, intensive programs are needed for these purposes. There are some available, such as
the Certificate in Data Analytics, Big Data, and Predictive Analytics offered by Ryerson and the Master of Science in Computing & Data Analytics offered by the Sobey School of Business at St Mary’s University, the largest Canadian business school east of Montreal. The Master of Management Analytics program offered by Queens University is another example.

Another very notable program is that offered through the Big Data Analytics Institute at Dalhousie University in Halifax, which is dedicated to creating knowledge and expertise in the field of Big Data Analytics.

While the universities work to close the data analytics skills gap, various online courses are available to provide training in this area. Coursera, for example provides several courses originating from various universities, as does Cloudera. Also several cloud and analytics tools vendors are providing online courses and training in data analytics and in the use of their tools.

Data scientists are the profession of the 21st century. As the volume and usefulness of data continue to increase, business and government will call more and more for them, and will require the business grads they hire to have at least a working knowledge of data analytics.