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Grow Your Business Technology

Georgetown Professor: Big Data Means Big Job Opportunities

Georgetown Professor: Big Data Means Big Job Opportunities Credit: Big data image via Shutterstock

Businesses aren't the only ones that should be excited about Big Data. According to information technology research and advisory firm Gartner, Big Data will create more than 4.4 million jobs by 2015, opening up plenty of opportunities for analysts, computer scientists, mathematicians and other data-savvy job seekers.

The problem, however, is that only one-third of these jobs will be filled, Gartner revealed. As with many technology jobs, the skills gap leaves much to be desired in Big Data job applicants.

To gain more insight about this rapidly growing job field and how to narrow the skills gap, BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Dr. Betsy Page Sigman, a distinguished professor at the Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business and an expert in technology, social media, electronic commerce and information systems. Sigman is a member of INFORMS, a society for professionals in the field of operations research, management science and analytics, and serves as the departmental coordinator and adviser for the Operations and Information Management major at McDonough.

Sigman told BusinessNewsDaily where she believes Big Data jobs will open up, the reasons for this massive growth, and what employers and schools can do now to prepare graduates for these positions.

[What is Big Data?]

BusinessNewsDaily: How will Big Data help create more than 4.4 million jobs by 2015?

Betsy Page Sigman: Big Data is becoming increasingly important for businesses, government agencies and other organizations of all sizes. It is important for quality control in manufacturing; for sensors to make sure equipment runs correctly; for logging all types of information, including geolocation and time data; and for tracking and analyzing social media. Organizations need to hire employees or contract with outside firms to get people who understand how to collect, store and analyze this data. In the process, many jobs will be created and new Big Data companies will emerge to help companies understand the data they are collecting and how to use it for better decision-making.

BND: What is the reason for this growth?

B.P.S.: Big Data is going to be an important engine for innovation and productivity in the years ahead and the organizations that can use it well will have a competitive advantage. According to Gartner, Inc., there is an enormous need for persons who can analyze Big Data. Firms that address this need are popping up rapidly, with a projected 4.4. million jobs being created to support Big Data over the next two years.

Additionally, analytics solutions are being created that can make it easier for people to analyze Big Data, by creating, for example, better, more easily understandable user interfaces. This trend will continue, as there is much room for companies that facilitate the analysis of Big Data and help skilled professionals bring about data-driven change in their organizations, from growing revenue to uncovering new markets.

BND: Which industries will have the most need for Big Data and people to fill those positions?

B.P.S.: I predict that some of the largest Big Data needs will be in health care, retail and manufacturing. The McKinsey Global Institute found that retailers could see increases in operating margin of 60 percent or more due to Big Data. They also believe that more than $300 billion in value could be the result if health care Big Data is used "creatively and effectively." Manufacturing, with its multitude of sensors and gauges, will use Big Data to assure that their systems become faster, safer and more productive.

BND: What kind of jobs will be available?

B.P.S.: The jobs that will be available will basically be of three types: 1) those requiring significant statistical and analytical skills (e.g. statisticians and operations research engineers); 2) those requiring Big Data "savvy" and an understanding of how Big Data can be used to make better business decisions (e.g. business managers and market research and financial analysts); and 3) those who can support the types of computer hardware and software needed for Big Data analysis (e.g. computer scientists and database administrators.).

BND: Seeing as only one-third of these jobs will be filled, what are education systems lacking today that make graduates unprepared for this employment boom?

B.P.S.: Education systems are behind in preparing students to step into the kinds of jobs that are being created by Big Data. In my opinion, they need to include more statistics and data analysis courses in their curricula, for almost every field. Students need more hands-on training with Big Data analytical systems.

BND: What should schools do to address and be prepared for the growth of Big Data jobs in the future?

B.P.S.: Education systems need to make sure that their curricula provide the backgrounds needed to educate students to take these kinds of jobs. Schools should share resources so that students can learn. With help from the IBM Academic Initiative [a partnership between IBM and 1,000 universities worldwide that offers Big Data and analytics coursework and degree programs], Georgetown has already started addressing this by offering an intensive learning experience for the MBA program. There will be a module on Big Data as part of the undergraduate database course this fall.

BND: What can future employers do now to help students gain the necessary on-the-job skills to fill more of these positions?

B.P.S.: Increasingly, universities are partnering with companies to help include cases with real-world data as integral parts of some of their courses. This is a huge advantage to students who are fortunate enough to benefit from these partnerships.

BND: As a professor at Georgetown University, what trends have you seen regarding students' interests in Big Data jobs?

B.P.S.: At Georgetown, students closely follow the latest trends in business and are very aware of and interested in the potential value of Big Data. I have seen increasing and intensifying interest over the last couple of years.

BND: What other advice can you give students, employers or schools to prepare for the future?

B.P.S.: The future of business is changing quickly and Big Data is going to be a large part of this change. Schools and employers need to work together to see that students have the training they need and are well-prepared to step into Big Data jobs.

Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.

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