Data Science Programs on the Increase at Universities

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Graduatesby Paul Williams

The practice of Data Science is growing in importance; it is driven by the continuing increase in the volume and velocity of data, and the need for data scientists at the enterprise is being forced to keep up. Big Data needs to be properly managed and interpreted to provide value to the business.

Because of this, many universities across the United States are adding data scientist programs at the Bachelors and Masters level. Hopefully, this trend produces a pool of knowledgeable scientists able to meet this acute business need. This article looks at some of these new programs, while also checking in on an existing program previously covered at DATAVERSITY™.

Arizona State University Bringing Data Science to the Desert

ArizonaStateUniversity is getting on the Data Science education bandwagon by introducing a Master of Science in Business Analytics program this fall. The announcement about this new graduate degree appeared in the news in late February. ArizonaState is in a seemingly perpetual competition with The Ohio State University for the title of America’s LargestCollege.

The new program adds a supply chain management flavor to the standard focus on data analytics, as the Master’s program features a collaboration between ASU’s information systems and supply chain management programs. A local business advisory council, including companies such as IBM, American Express, Intel, General Dynamics, Charles Schwab, and others, provided input to the program.

Michael Goul, chair of the Information Systems Department of the W.P. Carey School of Business at ASU commented on the shared focus between business and science in the new Master’s program:

“A STEM student coming in from math or statistics will get challenged by a lot of that business knowledge, and business students with a degree in economics will be challenged by the data manipulation. So you might have someone in your class who is an expert in one topic, but you might be more of an expert in the next class.”

Robert Mittelstaedt, Dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business discussed the need for data scientists in the business world:

“Companies are trying to figure out how to make ‘big data’ and business analytics into a strategic advantage as they collect more information about operations and customers. They also want people with a good mix of industrial engineering knowledge and command of supply chains for efficiency, cost savings and risk reduction.”

The accelerated Master’s program takes only 9 months, which makes it an attractive option for those currently employed who are looking for a productive sabbatical, as well as recent technical and business graduates. Goul feels ASU’s program is one of only 12 in the country with their specific focus, but expect those numbers to rise with a projected need for 4.4 million data analysts by 2015.

New York University Opening a Center for Data Science

Also in late February, New YorkUniversityannounced the opening of a new Center for Data Science in combination with new graduate programs in the discipline. Both are part of the university’s Initiative in Data Science and Statistics.

NYU’s Center for Data Science spans the entire university, which illustrates the overall importance of the emerging data analytics discipline. From NYU’s mission statement for the initiative:

“Our initiative is university-wide because data science has already started to revolutionize most areas of intellectual endeavor found at NYU and in the world. We believe this revolution is just beginning. Data science is becoming a necessary tool to answer some of the big scientific questions and technological challenges of our times: How does the brain work? How can we build intelligent machines? How do we better find cures for diseases?”

In a similar manner as at ArizonaState, NYU’s new graduate programs in Data Science feature a mix of technical and business domain material. The university commented on this dual focus:

“Data science overlaps multiple traditional disciplines at NYU such as mathematics (pure and applied), statistics, computer science and an increasingly large number of application domains. It also stands to impact a wide range of spheres — from healthcare to business to government — in which NYU’s schools and departments are engaged.”

At the time of this writing, NYU has begun accepting applications for the seven separate graduate programs, highlighted by a Masters in Data Science and Masters in Business Analytics. The new Center of Data Science will be part of NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences.

Data Science Coming to the Bluegrass

Not all of the new Data Science programs are at the graduate level. NorthernKentuckyUniversity this month announced the creation of a new Bachelors of Science in Data Science program to begin this fall as part of NKU’s College of Informatics.

The new program focuses on data analysis and system engineering, in addition to data science. High school students interested in applying to the program must have scored at least a 25 on their ACT.

NKU president, Geoffrey Mearns, feels the new degree meets a growing need for businesses in the Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio areas: “These programs not only strengthen our existing curriculum, but will also provide more skilled graduates in areas where they are desperately needed.”

Syracuse’s iSchool focuses on Continuing Education to Train Data Scientists

Syracuse University garnered previous coverage at DATAVERSITY regarding their online Data Science iSchool. The unique iSchool focuses on providing Data Science training to those already in the workplace in addition to undergraduates.

Syracuse is actively recruiting for prospective iSchool students currently working in the IT field. Information is available regarding their Certificate of Advanced Studies in Data Science program. In addition, interested students can download iSchool professor Jeffrey Stanton’s open source e-book, Introduction to Data Science.

The Syracuse iSchool illustrates an increasing importance to train data scientists at the business level using a continuing education model. The need for data analysts is growing at such a rate, it can’t be expected to be filled by only fresh university graduates, be they from Bachelors or Masters programs.

Erin Bartolo, Data Science program manager at Syracuse, commented on the iSchool’s continuing education emphasis:

“If you want to excel in the [big data] field, you don’t have to get a full-blown master’s degree. In 15 credits or five courses, you can get a leg up in this area and have a graduate level program under your belt. It’s a really flexible program for working professionals. Courses are ongoing. People can start in summer, and a lot of people like to come in for the fall session if they also doing a masters’ and using data science as a specialization.”

The continuing education model championed by Syracuse with their iSchool program in Data Science is a vital one for all enterprises to look at concerning their growing need for data analysts and scientists. The speed of business doesn’t slow down to accommodate the 4+ years necessary to train a potential data scientist fresh out of high school planning to earn a graduate degree. Most Masters programs take a least a year to complete, and closer to two years, with the noted exception of ArizonaState’s accelerated degree.

This puts additional onus on organizations developing internal training programs in data science to quickly improve the analytical skills of their current employees. Leveraging the educational opportunities provided by this very website is another excellent option in increasing the technical know-how of business analysts and data professionals already on staff. Expect the need for data scientists to continue to grow, but don’t expect colleges and universities to completely meet that need even with the increase in Data Science programs.

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