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Who's training the next generation of data scientists?

Sharon Florentine | Oct. 3, 2013
A projected shortage of qualified data scientists could leave U.S. businesses unable to tap the value of big data. To help meet that demand, the University of California at Berkeley has developed a master's degree program to train new data scientists.

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.

 

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