This post was developed with input from Bill Franks, internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, and author focused on data science & analytics.
In the early 2000’s there were only a handful of data science and analytics programs at universities across the country. In 2022, there are 1000+ data science degree programs in the U.S. and the number is growing every day. So, what does this mean for a student looking to enter the space or further their education? And on the flip side, is this variety of programs a gain or loss for employers looking to hire data scientists or analytics professionals?
Is Variety Always a Good Thing?
Similar to analytics teams belonging to various different business functions across organizations, academic programs are also not one size fits all. Analytics programs can belong across various disciplines within the school of business, engineering, computing, math and science, or even as its own stand-alone academic unit. Due to these programs landing across the map, the specializations that they provide are also vast.
There are programs that are based in classic statistics and predictive modeling, while computing-owned programs generally focus heavily on artificial intelligence (AI) and other newer methods. On the other side of the spectrum, business school analytics programs usually involve less technical curriculum focused on business intelligence (BI), data visualization, and using analytics to make business decisions. It goes without saying that some programs are more technical than others – and what program is the right one for an individual to pursue or a company to hire from entirely depends on what the student or company is looking to gain from the program. We’ll talk more about this later in the blog.
Ultimately, it is important to know what you are looking for irrespective of whether you are recruiting as an employer or are considering going back to school as an employee already in the field.
Don’t Forget to do Your Homework
The good news is that there is a program out there for everyone, you just have to do your homework to find the right fit for you. Usually, students spend time doing research and looking at ambiguous national rankings or lists. We suggest that you shift your focus and look nearby. As mentioned earlier, almost every university in the country now has some sort of analytics program. One of them is bound to meet your needs! It is no longer necessary to relocate or leave your job in order to move closer to a university that offers what you are looking for. Especially if you live in a large metro area, there is almost certainly one a short drive away.
Even better news for employers looking to hire data science and analytics graduates: recruiting becomes exponentially less challenging when sourcing candidates who are already local and in commutable distance to the office. Especially given the recent shifts in the marketplace regarding hybrid and remote work, our findings clearly indicate that more and more employers are looking to have their teams come into the office on some sort of cadence – if your team members are already local, the issues surrounding travel are no longer as expansive.
Assess Your Needs Carefully Before Choosing
If you are an employee looking to further your education, you need to know what you want to accomplish upon completion of the academic program you are pursuing. Do you want to largely code and get into deep theory? Or do you want to have a lot of interaction with business teams and be more consulting focused? Your program choice will vary depending on the interests and goals you prioritize, so be sure to assess your needs carefully before enrolling. One thing you can be sure of is that not all programs will be a match for your needs.
If you are an employer, take some time to truly understand the intricacies of the roles that you are seeking to fill. Are you looking for an expert with deep coding skills to help you organize unstructured data sets? Are you looking for someone with a strict quantitative background to help you with research projects? Or do you need someone that can understand business requirements and issues and can effectively communicate these to upper management? Over time, your overall needs and even specific job descriptions will vary, so it is important to familiarize yourself with different academic programs that can address each space along the continuum. Depending on the role, it is a virtual guarantee that you will need to recruit from different universities over time, so it is very important to identify the right program(s) for your current needs and also to know when other programs will be a better match.
Find Your Best Match
Due to the variety of university programs available for employees going back to school or employers looking to hire, the possibilities for unique specializations within the data science and analytics space is very, very high. Therefore, as a prospective student, it is important to know exactly what you are looking to accomplish, and which program will bring you closer to meeting your unique goals.
For employers, it is important to keep in mind that no two programs are the exact same, and it is vital that you match the requirements of the roles you are trying to fill to the qualifications that said programs are promising to deliver.
Take your time, do your research, and find what is right for you. The Burtch Works team is here to help you navigate the next steps in your professional and academic journey.
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