Analytics is one of the most exciting and futuristic segments of the information-technology sector today. In many ways, analytics is attached to every other major technology trend, as organizations work to get the most out of the exponentially increasing volumes of data generated by cloud computing, mobility, the internet and more.
Many up-and-coming college students, as well as undergraduates, are looking to break into this industry in the coming years, and there will be a high demand for individuals with this skill set in the workforce throughout the foreseeable future. An important qualification for these jobs will be an advanced degree, such as the Master of Science in Analytics offered by Villanova School of Business.
Major skills gap
Management consultants Paul Barth and Randy Bean conducted a study, published in Harvard Business Review, that revealed 85 percent of organizations surveyed either already launched a big-data strategy or had the funding and were in the final stages of preparation as of 2016. The same report found that an astounding 70 percent of these organizations experienced challenges immediately after trying to begin hiring data scientists with the necessary analytics skills.
Of those respondents who were struggling to identify and on-board analytics professionals to fuel their projects, the breakdown of this key issue was:
- Four percent found it impossible to staff their analytics projects
- Thirty-six percent thought it was “very difficult”
- Another 36 percent stated that it was relatively challenging
- The final 24 percent said it was only a little bit difficult to find the right talent
- Shockingly, zero organizations reported that they encountered no setbacks or problems at all
In light of the talent gap and skills shortage, organizations have become a bit more creative when trying to propel their analytics projects. Barth and Bean pointed out that 69 percent of the entities they surveyed had already begun to require training among their existing analytics staff members, but an overwhelming 91 percent are still in need of new hires.
This skill gap makes it clear that analytics professionals, notably data scientists looking to work in the public and private sectors, need to not only hold a basic degree in the subject matter, but possess exceptional, up-to-date skills.
Occupational trends and statistics
Virtually all signs indicate very high demand for individuals with analytics skills and incredibly low supply at present.
The following job categories will have especially high demand, according to research provided by the US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):
- Computer and Information Research Scientists: This field pays highly, with 2015’s median pay hitting $110,620 in annual salaries and more than $53 per hour. The number of jobs in this field is expected to increase 11 percent more quickly than the national average between 2014 and 2024.
- Operations Research Analysts: At a slightly lower pay grade—$37.80 hourly and $78,630 annually—this is a more commonly held position among data-science professionals. Master’s degrees are often necessary, and the BLS expects the number of jobs to expand by 30 percent between 2014 and 2024.
- Computer Systems Analysts: Theforecasted growth of open positions in this field is set at 21 percent between 2014 and 2024, and these professionals make an average annual salary of $85,800. This is a rapidly evolving position due to the fast transformation of computer technology and implications of the data involved.
- Information Security Analysts: IT security has been among the biggest topics of discussion for years, which is why the job outlook is so strong for analysts who specialize in this area of the business. An estimated 14,800 new positions are expected to open up by 2024, with a median annual pay of $90,120 as of 2015.
There are far more specialties involved in the data-science field, and all of them require a strong understanding of analytics to be successful, so a master’s degree is a great idea for anyone interested in holding one of these positions. At the same time, because it is common knowledge that analytics-specialized professionals are going to be in such high demand, competition to get into a respected program is high.
Early considerations for prospective analytics professionals
Here are a few of the steps to set yourself up for acceptance into a top master’s degree program:
- Special and advanced coursework in mathematics and statistics
- Online courses in coding and software engineering
- Any opportunities to learn analysis techniques and methodologies
These are by no means prerequisites, but will better position you for a very successful undergraduate career in computer sciences with a focus in analytics and data analysis. During the undergraduate stage of education, you will want to:
- Maintain a solid GPA, especially for courses that fall under the major
- Take as many courses on data science and analytics as possible
- Become familiar with big data and its applications
- Complete coursework on applied mathematics and statistics
- Gain a strong handle on computer systems and information technology as a whole
According to the BLS, big-data analysts almost always need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, mathematics and/or statistics, as well as a master’s degree or higher. Some of the coursework recommended includes computer programming, engineering, and specialized education in a specific industry such as physics or health care.
Because a master’s degree will be vital to entering this fast-growing field, consider applying to Villanova’s Master of Science in Analytics program. The Villanova MSA is among the most competitive programs in the field, partially because of the criteria used to assess candidates. For example, Villanova’s admissions staff view students on a holistic scale, looking at the candidate’s intangible attributes, such as work ethic and motivation, in addition to the traditional considerations of work experience and GPA, along with the secondary GRE and GMAT scores.
Applicants who have the basics—such as a strong educational career—will also need to demonstrate their desire to develop personally and professionally, grow within the industry, and strive toward exceptional business leadership. Applicants are also expected to be highly collaborative learners, creative, and hungry to disrupt the common themes and norms within the analytics arena.
As such, in addition to tests, a resume, academic credentials and the online application itself, interested parties will need two letters of recommendation from professional references or academic mentors, and will submit two essays with the online application.
Make sure the following is covered within essays and recommendations:
- Proven acumen in computer science, statistics and/or mathematics
- Proof of commitment to out-of-the-box thinking and creativity in otherwise confined environments
- Leadership skills and strengths exhibited in the classroom, on the job or elsewhere
- Strong history of collaborative learning and/or teaching, as well as teamwork
- Ability to function autonomously, completing assigned work on time and with the highest level of integrity
- Exceptional communication, management and organizational skills
U.S. News & World Report ranked the Villanova School of Business as the #4 online graduate business program in the country, which may make acceptance all the more impressive to future employers. Furthermore, by following the guidance, understanding the expectations, and highlighting their unique attributes, applicants will be setting themselves up for an exceptional career in the coming years.