UPDATED 08:48 EDT / FEBRUARY 27 2013

HOW TO Become a Data Scientist: 11 Universities to Study Big Data

Big Data has been a hot topic over the past year and it does not look like the hype surrounding the subject will wither away anytime soon. In fact, it will continue to grow in numbers and popularity. Wikibon recently came out with a report that showed last year’s Big Data market had reached $11.4 billion. Next year, Wikibon projects the market will reach $18.1 billion, and by 2017 it will exceed $47 billion. The numbers don’t lie. This is definitely a booming industry, but is it growing too fast for the job market to keep up?

Gap between big data skills and the workforce

Wikibon’s report touched on how there is a lack of data scientists and analytic specialists in the market, creating a gap between the jobs opening up as a result of a burgeoning Big Data field and the skilled workers qualified to take on the economy’s newest challenges. As more people look to data science for its job security, the more education programs we see emerging from academia.  There’s also several firms, IBM in particular, that work closely with colleges and universities to craft data science curriculum  nurturing the Big Data work force of tomorrow.  The more trained data scientists we have in the field, the more insight we have on data sets in order to leverage that information for smarter actions.

IBM and Education


Because it is a popular topic, it would only make sense for universities to offer a major for students around the subject so that we can mold experts in Big Data for the future. In technology, or any field for that matter, knowledge is the water and nutrients to a seed of a new idea or invention. It cannot grow without proper care.

IBM sees the potential in the data science field, which is why the company has been working with numerous top universities in the country to create a curriculum for business and technology students to follow if they are interested in a data science career after they graduate. This is not the company’s first time to get so heavily involved in creating data scientists through academia — it’s been a longstanding effort for IBM in particular, and the school spirit is spreading.

Thanks to IBM’s recent partnership with OSU, the school will be seeing new coursework in Big Data and business. Christine Poon, Dean of Fisher School of Business, said the school wants to attract students to the graduate program that have enough quantitative analytical grounding as well as a lot of strong business training. The third component will of course be a lot of hands-on training and internships. Poon hopes that the students can gain experience at IBM.

If you already received an undergraduate degree and would still like to enter the data science world, it is not too late. Michigan State University offers a program in Business Analytics, which is a great Masters degree for potential data scientists. You can obtain the degree within three consecutive semesters, receiving 31.5 credits within one year.


Universities that specialize in data science, analytics and business intelligence


1. Carnegie Melon UniversityB.I. & data analytics

  • The MISM-BIDA program combines expertise in IT, business processes, advanced analytic techniques and real world applications. Students gain hands-on experience with iLab, which has actual data sets that describe people’s behaviors using mobile devices, social digital media environments, etc.

2. Fordham University – business analytics

  • The Master of Science in Business Analytics is geared toward graduate students that would like to pursue a career in banking, consumer products, energy, government, healthcare, insurance or pharmaceuticals. One great advantage is the school’s location in the heart of one of the leading data and media centers in the world.

3. Michigan State – business analytics

  • This program is more hand-on and gives students opportunities to work in real-life environments and situations.

4. New York University – business analytics

  • The campus is right in the heart of the city, so students will have the opportunity to personally visit the ‘big wig’ companies on Wall Street. This program also teaches students to better understand the role of evidence-based data in decision making and also influence data as a strategic asset.

5. Oakland University – business analytics 

  • The Master of Science in Information Technology Management prepares students for success in careers such as: business analyst, enterprise data architect, business intelligence analyst, information assurance network security, security and network management engineering, IT project manager, etc.

6. Stevens Institute – B.I. & analytics

  • The Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics is a program part of one of the select few universities to offer a degree in this budding field. Students interested in attending their grad program should already have a Bachelor’s in mathematics, science, computer science, engineering, or any other related field.

7. Syracuse – data science

  • The new advanced studies in data science is actually the first state-approved certificate in this topic area of the Big Apple. This degree focuses molding students into professionals that are equipped with the skills and knowledge to analyze, problem solve and deal with “big data” issues.

8. University of Washington – data science

  • The degree in data science prepares students to handle giving insight on small-scale data sets to larger-scale data sets. Students will learn how to use the data science techniques to analyze and find meaning in data sets.

9. University of San Francisco – B.I.

  • Since the school is right in Silicon Valley, students will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience from any of the surrounding companies around the school, which was ranked one of the best universities to attendl

10. University of South Florida – B.I.

  • This school encourages students to interact with international businesses to gain a larger appreciation and more insight on the various ways a business can be run.

11. University of Sherbrooke – B.I.

  • Quarterly Business Intelligence Symposium Series are hosted to bring together business and IT professionals so that they can learn from each other while also promoting leadership, so students have something to look up to.

Education can be the key that closes the gap between the lack of data scientists and growth in the data market. As with any developing business, there is always room for improvement and with more experienced and trained hands on the field, I forsee the improvement happening rapidly.

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