Universities Ramp up Data Analytics Programs to Meet Workforce Demands

Data analytics has truly come into the mainstream in the last decade. Nearly every industry is looking to analytics to improve efficiency, speed, and work product–from Federal CIOs wanting new data analytics tools to Purdue University using data analytics to help students choose the right courses.

In response to the growing popularity of data analytics, colleges nationwide have been ramping up their investment in data analytics programs. More than half of current university data analytics programs have been formed in the last six years, according to a recent report from software maker Tableau.

The State of Data Education in 2016 is the result of a year-long study conducted by Tableau. The report examines data from higher education institutions across the country. The report found that undergraduate and graduate-level programs in data analytics have seen significant growth in the past decade. The growth has been particularly strong in elite four-year institutions located near major cities, likely because of the strong job market in these areas.

“Our graduate program in Business Analytics grew out of a direct request from a company who approached us with this need,” said Jeff Cieply, associate director of marketing, Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

One of the newest fields of academic programs universities have been investing in is business analytics and business intelligence with 32 percent of new data analytics programs in the field of business analytics or business intelligence. The focus on these areas makes sense, since business analytics and intelligence have recently grown in popularity with employers.

In explaining why her university strengthened its business analytics offerings Lindsay Montanari, associate director of the MS in Analytics program at Northwestern University McCormick School of Engineering, said “companies were looking for graduates with not only the technical skills, but also the business skills.”

Michael Hasler, senior lecturer and MS in Business Analytics Program Director at the University of Texas at Austin Red McCombs School of Business, explained in the report that the University’s Business Analytics program was created in response to a “crushing need for talent” from large firms.

In terms of offerings, Tableau found that University of Washington-Seattle has the most data analytics programs with 46, followed by George Mason University with 31 and Carnegie Mellon University with 25. The emphasis from these three schools makes sense given their location. Seattle being a hotbed for established technology companies and startups, George Mason University being located adjacent to the Northern Virginia tech corridor, as well as Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Mellon is close to both Philadelphia and New York City.

However, while four-year institutions have ramped up their focus on analytics, two-year institutions have lagged behind. The report notes that while 20 percent of four-year universities now offer analytics programs, only 2 percent of two-year institutions offer similar programs. This is problematic, explains the report, because two-year institutions serve roughly half of all college students in the U.S. If analytics is a rapidly growing employment field, and two-year institutions aren’t offering programs, many students could face graduating without skills employers want.

However, many two-year institutions may want to offer programs, but face barriers that are difficult to overcome.

“The technical skills and business understanding required to teach in these programs aren’t widely available,” said Ellie Mafi-Kreft, clinical assistant professor of business economics at Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

This idea was seconded by Justin Rowland, business analytics instructor at Wake Technical Community College, who explained that “the number one barrier to more schools, particularly two-year institutions, offering analytics programs is qualified teachers.”

While four-year universities may have the budgets and cachet to draw in qualified faculty, two-year universities are struggling to attract the necessary talent to prepare their students for the jobs employers are offering.

To read the full report whitepaper, click here.

Kate DeNardi
About Kate DeNardi
Kate DeNardi is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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