The New Analytics Education Programs

Filling the pipeline today for tomorrow’s analytical talent

You may not yet have noticed, but a flurry of new analytics education programs have arrived or are being created. The first of these was at North Carolina State, which happens to be the university where SAS started and the alma mater of its CEO Jim Goodnight—as well as many other SAS executives. Goodnight is passionate about education at every level, and he felt that some innovative new analytics offerings were needed at the graduate level. So he contributed enough money to get State’s (that’s what they call it in the Raleigh area) attention.

The university and SAS both wanted a program that was diverse and outside the boundaries of any existing school, so the Masters in Advanced Analytics is on its own, and is able to draw faculty from the business, arts and sciences, and four other schools. Students who are accepted must already have some quantitative background. The curriculum (http://analytics.ncsu.edu/? page_id=123) is an innovative one, with lots of short, one-credit hour courses on topics like regression, data mining, data quality, survival analysis, and so forth. There is an extended practicum—i.e., a real analytical project—with a local organization. A good proportion of the program is devoted not just to teaching analytical technique, but also to communicating it in written and verbal form.

This formula appears to have all the ingredients for success. The program’s graduates (the third class is just beginning) have been snapped up like the first homegrown tomatoes of the season. On average each graduate has received more than two job offers, and the starting salaries are on par with—or even above—those of MBAs. Clearly State is onto something.

Which is probably the reason why other schools are beginning to create similar programs. Central Michigan (http://www.cmurc.com/business-intelligence). Villanova (www70.homepage.villanova.edu/matthew.liberatore/MGT2206F09SYL.docx). DePaul (http://dampa.cdm.depaul.edu/). Pace. They each have their specific emphases—and some are further along than others—but most are masters degree programs with some angle on analytics. Central Michigan (CMU) features the ability to work closely with sophisticated companies in its region, such as Dow. Both CMU and Villanova have created ongoing programs to involve local businesses in their analytical initiatives. DePaul is focused on predictive analytics. Pace’s program is just getting organized, but it will probably have a strong marketing focus.

There is also room for some more specialized degrees. Miami of Ohio has an MBA with an minor in analytics (http://www.fsb.muohio.edu/departments/dsc-mis/undergraduate/minor-requirements/business-analytics). Indiana has a masters and a Ph.D. (http://informatics.iupui.edu/health/degrees.html) in health care informatics. Bentley College has an MS in marketing analytics (https://www.bentley.edu/landing/msma/index.cfm), and an undergraduate major in analytics.

Soon there will be hundreds of these programs in the United States and around the world. This is all to the good; certainly the graduates are needed by an analytics-hungry world. But it’s important for business analytics leaders to work closely with schools to let them know what skills and topics they need. For example, Tony Branda, the head of business analysis for RBS/Citizens Financial, is working closely with Karen Berger, a dean and professor of marketing at Pace University, to help design that school’s program. Dow was very active in shaping the program at CMU. And the advisory board at Villanova is often consulted on what its needs are in analytically-oriented students.

Start today to work with your local university to develop the analytics people you need. People are rapidly becoming the constraining factor in the successful use of analytics. If you’re passive about preparing such people, your pipeline will probably run dry.

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