Wanted: Data Scientists

HelpWantedIf Big Data is going to drive the future of business, then we need more people behind the steering wheel. Unfortunately, the need for drivers is far outpacing the supply.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that in the U.S., “Chief information officers are struggling to find data scientists, those individuals with engineering and business skills, as well at the statistical savviness required to analyze and derive value from Big Data companies generate.”

Indeed, the McKinsey Global Institute projects that somewhere between 140,000 and 180,000 data scientist jobs will be open by 2018. That’s a shocking number, which should have alarm bells ringing across corporate suites. Businesses need the right talent to leverage the rising tide of data – and to navigate a rapidly changing technology landscape.

The Tech Partnership published a similar report recently that focused on the UK, which noted that “the big data workforce is expected to grow by around 346,000 professionals, pushing the rate of job growth in big data up to 160 percent, with approximately 56,000 big data job opportunities to fill each year up to 2020.”

That’s an incredible number of jobs. And, by the way, Tech Partnership says that these jobs pay 24% more than an average IT position. And yet, even in the UK, “77% of big data positions were either ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ difficult to fill.”

So, what’s the problem? Data science jobs requires skills that cut across many of the traditional departments at universities, which have been slow to offer interdisciplinary programs that produce a high volume of data scientists.

Fortunately, some schools are getting the message. There are examples like this Michigan State University job posting for a Big Data professor. And the University of California at Berkeley now offers an online Data Science Masters degree.

When Berkeley’s School of Information announced the new program last January, it said in a press release: “Data science has rapidly emerged as a game changer in organizations across industries, which are helping to make highly informed and predictive decisions that have significant impact on planning, operations, and overall success,” said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean and professor in the I School. “While the need for data scientists has grown steadily, the challenge is that a standard educational or professional roadmap to develop them hasn’t existed until now.”

This is a start, but it’s just a start. Without being too alarmist, the promise of this new era won’t be fully captured without the right talent. Government, universities and companies need to find a way to expand this pool of Big Data employees to make sure we all reach our potential.

Image credit: Andreas Klinke Johannsen

Posted in Big Data by Lisa Petrucci

Lisa Petrucci is Vice President of Dun & Bradstreet Global Alliances and Partnerships.

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