Big data analytics now worthy of a masters degree, IBM says

Northwestern University is doing its bit to feed the need for analytics skills in this era of big data.

The university’s McCormick School of Engineering this week launched a new Master of Science degree in analytics and is accepting applications for the inaugural class to kick off next September. Included in the curriculum will be coursework on big data analytics.

The impetus ia an overwhelming demand for analytics expertise spurred by the surge of big data applications, as more businesses need to glean information about their customers from social media sites and other data sources. Expertise in the Hadoop big-data framework, for example, is in huge demand and has become nearly prohibitively expensive for many companies.

“For anyone with even basic knowledge of Hadoop and Cassandra, getting a job is a piece of cake and there is a shortage of people with deep knowledge of these things,” said Diego Klabjan, associate professor and director of the Northwestern’s new Master of Science program at Northwestern. Cassandra is a NoSQL database developed and open-sourced by Facebook for use in big data applications.

IBM (s IBM) approached the school about the program and provided $40,000 in seed funding as well as SPSS predictive analytics software. The SAS Institute and Teradata (s TDC) are also sponsors, providing technology for students to train on and use. Students will be trained on both IBM and SAS’s analytics technology, Klabjan said.

The school expects to enroll a select group of 30 graduate students for the 15-month master’s coursework. “We want this to be a top-notch, elite program.”

North Carolina State started offering a master’s in analytics a few years ago, but Klabjan said he knows of no other comparable programs at least yet. Northwestern already  launched a Master of Science in predictive analytics in its continuing education program for students to take online courses. That program drew 170 students.

IBM has ties to Northwestern: Incoming CEO Ginni Rometty got her bachelor’s in computer science from the school  in 1979 and remains on the board of trustees.

For engineering students worried about having a job coming out the other side of their graduate program, degrees like these are worth a look.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Sergio Goncalves Chicago