Without a doubt, data science is in hot demand right now, and people with competencies in data science will find themselves indispensable to their organisations – which is good for their careers, and, equally, for their organisation in its ability to deliver innovation and find competitive advantage.
Organisations currently are struggling to find resources with a strong data science skillset. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, held in July 2017, found that data science skills are in critically low supply – as few as one third of data science jobs are being filled. In Australia specifically, the data science workforce numbers 301,000 and 76 per cent of businesses are planning on increasing investment over the next two years. According to James Cook University course coordinator, Ricardo Campello, the sharp skills shortage for data science is a result of leader companies demonstrating the critical benefits of having highly skilled data scientists within the organisation; it’s something that all businesses want to emulate now.
“In recent years, the global impact of companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, with their very successful use of data, has been one of the main factors to arouse the interest of virtually all business and government sectors, triggering an explosion in the demand for data scientists worldwide,” Campello said. “The training and qualification of professionals in this area have not been able to grow at the same pace.”
If the skills supply shortage remains as sharp in Australia as it does the rest of the Asia-Pacific region – and that will be the case – there are a large number of businesses that are going to struggle to recruit these critical skills, which will have a flow on effect in inhibiting the business from achieving its strategic goals.
The value of data science
Data science applies to all industries and sectors, and demand for it will be felt across the entire Australian business landscape, according to Campello. “In my opinion, the demand tend to grow in all sectors, but most noticeably in farming/agriculture, cyber-security/defence, retailing, and health sciences.”
Done well, data science provides competitive advantage, but organisations are also looking for data scientists for risk mitigation purposes. If poorly managed, bad data can be incredibly expensive. Research shows that analysing bad data can cost an organisation over $13 million per year.
Data science also plays a role in every business unit within an organisation. The IT team is often the first place that an organisation looks to fill data science skills, but sales and marketing benefits from being able to access and analyse customer interactions and buying behaviour with the brand, logistics and fulfilment can use data to drive greater efficiencies and the timeliness of delivery (and indeed that’s why Amazon has been so successful globally), and R & D and product development benefit from data when iterating or designing new products.
Finally, management and the executive layer benefit from data science as part of a risk mitigation and fraud defence strategy. Organisations with strong data science capabilities can identify red flags and concerns more quickly and monitor operations more effectively.
To highlight the effect that data science can have on any kind of business, you only need to look at the success of Oakland Athletics, as depicted in Michael Lewis’ excellent book, Moneyball. It’s a story about how effective management, and an intense understanding of data and analytics, was able to take a poor, underperforming team and turn them into champions. Of course, it’s not just sports teams that benefit from data science – every organisation does, and that’s why Harvard Business Review called it the ‘sexiest job of the 21st century’.
You too can benefit from data science
Rather than try and recruit data science skills into the organisation, as the extreme shortage suggests that it will be difficult to do, organisations will benefit from executives willing to add data science to their own skills portfolios. Those leaders, in turn, will benefit from greater earning power and further job progression as they become ever more critical to their organisation’s business strategy.
Of course, finding time to balance study and a full time career can be difficult, which is why James Cook University has developed an fully online Master of Data Science, which can be completed in an expediated two years to get the skills your organisation needs in the business fast.
As it is a Master degree, students will need either a relevant Bachelor degree or at least five years of relevant work experience in an IT or Data Science related industry. The course has been designed to be most applicable to those with a background in IT, maths, computer engineering, or engineering, but the increasingly broad applications of data science in organisations means that that in turn those with the aptitude for similar subjects will derive value from the course, regardless of where they sit in the organisation. For more information on the skillsets that the Master of Data Science will engage and develop through the degree, JCU has produced a blog on the top seven skills for a rewarding career in data science. Read it here.
The Master degree takes students from the foundations of data science, data visualisation and database systems through to coursework on the strategic use of data, including data mining and machine learning, data science and strategic decision making, and security, privacy, and ethics concerns. In all, there are 16 subjects involved in the degree, with each running for seven weeks.
“The students learn a core collection of interdisciplinary skills that comprise the whole lifecycle of data, from acquisition, management, and pre-processing to analysis, visualisation, reporting and decision-making,” Campello said. “They are trained in a blend of computing, mathematics, statistics, and business oriented subjects with a professional-focused balance between the conceptual and practical aspects of data science. The program is not focused on particular application areas. Rather, students are exposed to a variety of case studies in many different application domains; in certain assessment activities, students are encouraged to apply their skills in problems from their own work place.”
For more information on what is involved in the Master of Data Science, JCU has created a video overview. Watch it here.
As JCU is inside the top two per cent of universities worldwide, the teaching staff all have extensive expertise, both in practical and academic terms, and provide full support throughout each course. Additionally, the degree is an opportunity for valuable networking, with opportunities to participate in live chat rooms with peers and tutors.
The degree will be granted in three parts – a graduate certificate will be earned after the first four introductory subjects, and then a graduate diploma at eight subjects before the full Master degree at the end of the course. With the way the course is structured, you’ll have immediate takeaways that are applicable to your work, so as you learn, you’ll also be developing an understanding of the data that’s driving your business, and making better strategic decisions to give your organisation a competitive edge.
If additional qualifications in Data Science appeals to you, then please visit the JCU course page, which will answer any further questions you might have, and outline for you the next steps involved in enrolling: https://online.jcu.edu.au/online-courses/master-data-science.