The Big Benefits of a Big Data Degree

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lauren-willisonIn this special guest feature, Lauren Willison, Director of Admissions at Florida Polytechnic University, takes a critical look at the value of an advanced degree in big data in terms of job prospects and expected salary. As the Director of Admissions at Florida Polytechnic University, Lauren is responsible for supporting the Vice Provost of Enrollment in managing recruitment efforts. She develops and coordinates on- and off-campus events, as well as manages the campus visit experience.

Whether it’s liking and sharing content on social media, requesting an Uber ride, or searching Google for the best lunch spots in town, an enormous amount of data is being created worldwide — around 2.5 quintillion bytes a day, to be exact.

Businesses around the world have good reason to collect this valuable information. From pinpointing customer needs and streamlining operations, to protecting against fraud and capturing new revenue opportunities, precise data analysis transforms companies into well-informed decision makers. As a result, more universities are feeding this demand for trained analysts by introducing big data degree programs.

Big Data Degree

These programs teach students the fundamentals of converting complex datasets into digestible insights organizations can use to make better business decisions. Programs for big data analytics degrees typically cover the basics of pattern recognition using data mining software like Apache Hadoop. Other common courses include statistics, data mining and forecasting, modeling and the fundamentals of structured and unstructured data.

Students can easily translate these courses into real-world applications, where they can improve business strategy, gain a better understanding of consumers and make solid data-informed decisions.

Thriving Job Market

Named “The Next Frontier” by Mckinsey Global Institute, career opportunities in big data are plentiful. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, a staggering 4.4 million data positions will open in 2016. Most of these openings can be found in the retail, manufacturing, information technologies and technical services industries, but data analysts are needed in less obvious fields, too. University admissions, cruise lines and video game companies are just some of the companies that need skilled graduates to tap into datasets and help devise better business strategies.

Salaries That Sing

Due to growing demand, the salary for big data analysts is increasingly competitive. The average income of an experienced data analyst is comparable to others employed in STEM careers, near six figures, with projections to rise, according to Forbes. Entry-level analyst positions typically move into more senior-level positions or attend higher-level degree programs to refine their skills or enroll in niche specializations. According to Payscale, entry salaries for analysts start in the $60,000 range and can climb to nearly $135,000 for senior level engineers and analytics directors.

The future is bright for big data analysts. Students who earn a big data degree are equipped to uncover industry trends, revolutionize business practices and make data-driven predictions about consumers and competitors. Like the boundless nature of data itself, there are no limits to a future in big data analytics.


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