We take it for granted now that we can book a hotel, manage a stock portfolio, find a date or locate the nearest kidney dialysis center any time day or night, with zero cost associated with the services that allow us to do it.
Smartphones and the millions of apps that inhabit them represent just oneplace where we generate data, and where retailers, marketing companies, financial services firms, and search engines wrangle that data and put it to use in ways that improve the services they offer. And we’re just beginning to scratch the surface as the internet of things – smart TVs, smart houses, smart cars, even smart cities – create exponentially more points for data collection, and all new ways for that data to be put to use.
In the brave new world of big data, every mundane detail of your life has value – how and when you wake up and go to sleep, when and what you eat, how you take your coffee, and even when and how often you go to the bathroom. From a dishwasher that alerts the manufacturer when a component isn’t working right to a car that remembers your preference for music and climate control settings – if data is being collected for anything anywhere, you can be sure it’s being parsed through so new uses can be discovered… and in most cases, that new found utility is then monetized at some point along the way.
We were fortunate enough to be joined by Dr. Bhushan Kapoor, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences (ISDS) at Cal State University-Fullerton. He sat down with us for a conversation about how anybody from just about any field would benefit from having some data science courses under their belt. Dr. Kapoor helped us understand how professionals – even those from non-tech fields – can take advantage of data science to boost their value to the businesses they serve, and the salaries they earn.
More and More Options for an Add-On Certificate in Data Science
You can browse through the job ads and see for yourself: pharmaceutical companies, consumer product manufacturers, consulting companies, insurance companies; everyoneis hiring data scientists.
More and more schools are catching up to the demand with full blown master’s programs for those with a strong penchant for quantitative analysis, along with less technically intense post-baccalaureate and graduate certificate programs for people in other fields who would benefit from a deeper understanding of the methods and applied uses of big data analytics, but that need a program that’s a little lighter on the math and programming courses.
Dr. Kapoor has seen the development of data science programs for non-tech people first hand. In fact, he’s been one of the people developing them.
“Data science is a very broad field that consists of, I would say, four major components,” he says. To wield the power of data science you need to learn about concepts like statistics, computer programming, databasing, and research modeling, but you don’t necessarily need to be an expert in these areas. As intimidating as even a little programming might sound if you’re a mere business or marketing mortal unfamiliar with the concept, rest assured these programs are designed to ensure the lay-professional is able to understand and assimilate the information as it applies to their field.
Naturally, marketing is one of the most popular fields for the application of data science. According to Dr. Kapoor, the world doesn’t need billions of data scientists – it needs billions of professionals in all fields who are familiar with data science. He says your primary domain knowledge is fundamental, and that the whole idea is to learn how to make the most of it with a better understanding of how data science is applied within the domain. If you want to go into marketing, then study marketing. If you want to go into healthcare, then study healthcare. Afterwards you can come back and take your expertise to an entirely new level with a post-bacc or graduate certificate program in data science.
Dr. Kapoor sees professionals in their field coming back to learn data science more and more. He explains how this comes about:
“What they find in their field or company or organization is that they are moving to big data. They are working on projects that deal with big data. So they need somewhat different skills than what they already have. They need to update themselves and upgrade themselves to an area which deals with big data. They need to upgrade on statistics and predictive analytics. It is because of the demand from their own industry which is actually kind of pushing them to get the skills set in data science.”
Universities Add a Big Data Focus to Business, Accounting and Marketing Programs
As big data analytics has become an inextricable part of what business and industry does, universities have put together cross collaborative programs. Dr. Kapoor, himself, has developed a program at Cal State that pairs a data science instructor with an instructor in marketing or economics.
In fact, he has gone even further, overseeing the creation of entire collaborative programs and concentrations such as:
- Data science and business, resulting in a business analytics program
- Data science and accounting, creating an accounting analytics program
- Data science and marketing, creating a marketing analytics program
These are just a few examples. There are even more varieties of collaborative programs throughout the nation, and that number is only increasing. Dr. Kapoor even let us in on a secret that right now he’s trying to put together a program that combines data science and economics, which would result in an economic analytics concentration.
There is no limit on the applied uses of data analytics. “… we can apply those techniques to self-driving cars, or for example, personalized medicine. In fact, everywhere,” Dr. Kapoor says with optimism. “Human resources, transportation, marketing; in all different areas. Wherever there is data these techniques can be applied to the advantage of those companies.”