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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.

Where the Data Scientist Jobs Are
Businesses in almost every industry are finding ways to use data to improve efficiency, create new revenue streams, better target marketing and advertising to customers, and develop new products and services, says McKinsey Global Institute's Chui.

"We don't see any area of a business that can't benefit from using data to streamline processes, better meet the needs of customers and users — to become more effective and more competitive," Chui says.

Currently, demand for data scientists is concentrated in "traditional" sectors like IT and finance, and applicants to the program tend to hold careers in these fields, says Saxenien. But, she says, the application of data science should expand greatly over the next few years, offering graduates opportunities in real estate, government, healthcare, construction, manufacturing and more.

In addition, McKinsey's Chui says, graduates from the MIDS and similar programs will need to educate their employers and future colleagues in how to be smarter, more effective consumers of the data that's analyzed.

Data in Demand
While UC Berkeley's program is the first of its kind, Saxenien says she expects to see similar programs cropping up at schools across the country as demand for highly trained data scientists increases.

"These educational programs are ramping up. I think we'll start to see more of them, and it's going to take us as a University a while to produce these graduates. The students we have currently that are working in the data space are getting snatched up by companies, and at a starting salary for our master's program graduates of around $100,000. That's an incredible opportunity," she says.


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