Data science courses are drawing an increasing number of students excited about the potential of data analysis in business and afraid of being left behind.
More prospective students have been picking data science course to an MBA degree. Applicants are expected to show similar levels of academic attainment whether they are applying to business schools for a Master’s in Data Analytics or for MBA programmes. Where the paths differ is in the specifics of the curriculum. Data science students take course modules that stretch their quantitative skills, such as advanced spreadsheet analysis and the concepts behind relational databases. These courses often also include lessons in how social media content is analysed and the techniques companies use in assigning credit scores to customers. MBA students may touch on these issues but the focus will be on building leadership skills and understanding business through case study materials.
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Speaking the language of software engineers
Like many ambitious graduates at the start of their careers, Maria Jimenez believed that she would eventually need an MBA if she wanted a premier corporate job. But she changed her mind after observing colleagues in her first job, working in the IT department of Bogotá-based pharmaceuticals business Tecnoquimicas.
The department was making strategic decisions for the company based on the data it collected on medical outcomes. Out of a team of more than 100 people, Maria was the only one with an undergraduate business degree. She told the Financial Times:
What they needed was someone with a business head who could also speak the language of software engineers.
So she ditched her plans to study for an MBA in favour of a place on a data science course.
Business analytics courses are all the rage
In the US, where applications for the traditional two-year MBA course have been declining for several years, Master’s degrees in Data Analytics are a growth market.
About 74% of big data courses in the US reported increased demand last year, compared with 32% of two-year, full-time MBA programmes, according to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).
One in 10 women and 15% of men interviewed last year by CarringtonCrisp, an education consultancy, for its annual global survey of prospective business school students, said big data and business analytics courses were their preferred Master’s specialism.
Among men, big data was second only to finance in popularity, up from 13th place, in CarringtonCrisp’s last survey. For women, the shift has been in the same direction but less significant, moving from 13th to eighth place, behind management, accounting, human resources, and psychology.
Demand for big data courses is driven by an increase in lucrative job opportunities advertised for people with such qualifications, according to Andrew Crisp, CarringtonCrisp’s co-founder. He told the Financial Times:
General Assembly, [the training business] which provides a lot of skills development in the field, often highlights in its emails the shortage of skilled data scientists in London. I suspect demand is simply a function of students seeing employers seeking to recruit people with these skills.
Data from 2015 show the average pay across 48,347 data scientist roles and advanced analysts advertised in the US was USD 94,576, according to a report by PwC and the Business-Higher Education Forum. More than a third of those job postings required at least a Master’s qualification.
Maria moved to France to study for her Master’s degree and is now midway through the Big Data Analytics for Business course at Lille’s IESEG School of Management.
I did not realise the dynamism of the data analyst jobs market until I started applying for roles.
A few miles away from IESEG at the campus of HEC Paris, the first class taking the Data Science for Business Master’s dual degree, with Ecole Polytechnique, has yet to graduate. But the schools have already received more than 1,000 applications for their second intake of 60 students. Julien Manteau, HEC’s director of strategy and global development, said:
For a new programme, these kinds of figures are really promising.
New York University’s Stern Business School (US) has a strict limit of 70 students for its Master in Science of Business Analytics degree. Roy Lee, programme director, says that if the numbers were higher, the more “techie” students would feel less able to share insights with their business-minded classmates, which is crucial for breaking down barriers.
Sarah Laouiti is a full-time student on the Master’s degree in Business Analytics at Imperial College Business School (UK). She studied international management as an undergraduate at Warwick Business School (UK), but felt uncertain that this qualification would be sufficient, because she believes even previously well-paid roles in consultancy are becoming automated. She says:
I will definitely feel better prepared for the future world of work with a big data degree on my CV. I don’t know what jobs will survive in the future but I am sure that those that do will involve using data.
Source: The Financial Times