Big Data is the wave of the future as companies in a large variety of industries apply the results of data analyses to their business operations. Highly trained data scientists are essential to the success of these strategies, but such professionals are in short supply. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute predicted that by 2018, there will be a potential shortfall of 1.5 million workers and managers with the skills to fill these positions.
Oklahoma is home to both Fortune 500 companies and tech startups that require data scientists for their success. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reported that data jobs grew by 52% between 2004 and 2014. This agency expects a high level of growth to continue and predicts an increase of 13% for computer and mathematical science jobs between 2012 and 2022 in Oklahoma.
Both Tulsa and Oklahoma City have vibrant tech scenes. Oklahoma City received major press coverage in recent years both for its startup tech scene and its business friendly climate.
In a 2015 article, Business Insider ranked Oklahoma City as the top city in the country for tech talent and cited a study from the commercial real estate firm CBRE that the city grew its tech talent pool by 39% between 2010 and 2013. CNN Money rated Oklahoma City as the best place in the country to start a new business in 2014. In fact, Oklahoma City’s tech scene is so viable that Google announced in late 2015 that it chose the city to be one of the few to have Google Fiber.
In addition to being home to such Fortune 500 companies as Devon Energy and Chesapeake Energy, Oklahoma City has high powered data science companies that have made a name for themselves. The Motley Fool featured Oklahoma City’s startup company Tailwind in a 2014 article. The company boasts more than 12,000 clients for its analytics and marketing platform for Pinterest. While Tailwind has some of its employees in New York City, more than two-thirds of them remain in Oklahoma City.
Tulsa is also a major player in Oklahoma’s tech scene and boasts the popular organizational app Whiteboard. An article in Tulsa World described the increasing number of tech options in the city including such data heavy areas as healthcare. The article also described how Oklahoma’s large oil and gas industry is digitizing and providing even more opportunities for data scieentists.
Thus, with demand strong for data scientists in Oklahoma, this is an ideal time to get advanced training in the field to take advantage of the opportunities in the state. A Master’s degree provides the technical and business training to succeed in high-level data science positions. Oklahoma offers a plethora of opportunities for graduate study in data science ranging from local universities to a wealth of high-quality online schools.
Preparing for a Master’s Degree in Data Science in Oklahoma
Students with plans to become a data scientist should begin preparing for a master’s degree during their undergraduate Bachelor’s degree program. Taking the appropriate courses and obtaining relevant work experience will greatly enhance their chances of being accepted in a data science master’s program.
Undergraduate Degree and Master’s Prerequisite Courses
Graduate schools with data science programs seek students who have the appropriate preparation for the field. Students should be prepared to meet the following requirements:
- Earn a Bachelor’s of Science degree in a quantitative field such as statistics, applied math, computer science, or engineering
- Take courses in such key disciplines as linear algebra, calculus I and II, statistics, programming languages, and quantitative methods
- Have a minimum GPA of 3.0
Gaining Relevant Personal and Work Experience for Admissions
Typically, graduate schools seek applicants with highly relevant professional experience:
- Personal experience related to data mining, programming, database administration, coding, hacking, mathematics, or statistics
- Strong communication skills
- At least five years of technical work experience that ideally should demonstrate quantitative skills
Oklahoma provides a number of options for jobs that may satisfy the requirements for experience. Some of these positions include:
- Senior Big Data Developer with Phillips 66 in Bartlesville
- Database Engineer with Life.Church in Edmond
- Data Architect with a client in Oklahoma City
- Senior Big Data Engineer with a client in Oklahoma City
- Hadoop Framework Designer with a client in Oklahoma City
It is imperative to perform high quality work with an employer, so they can provide strong letters of recommendation that indicate that the candidate is qualified to be accepted into a Master’s degree program.
Preparing to Excel on the Quantitative Sections of the GRE/GMAT Exams
Scoring in the 85th percentile of the GRE and/or GMAT is an excellent way for an applicant to demonstrate core competency in the skills in key data science areas. It is imperative that students prepare for these tests ahead of time and take practice tests on sample quantitative problems to become highly comfortable with them.
Both students who have taken these exams and the testing companies themselves advise taking this approach. The GRE’s quantitative section is particularly important and evaluates the candidate’s skills in algebra, geometry, data analysis, and arithmetic. Candidates seeking a career in data science should pay particular note to statistics including standard deviations and probabilities. Test takers can find sample questions and free practice exams at the official GRE website.
The General Management Admissions Test (GMAT) evaluates a candidate’s quantitative, writing, and verbal abilities. Graduate school admissions departments expect high scores in all of these areas. However, the 37 questions that assess data efficiency and problem solving are particularly important. Candidates can take GMAT practice exams through Veritas Prep and The Princeton Review®.
Filling Gaps in Functional Knowledge Through Massive Open Online Courses and Bridge Courses
Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) – If a candidate has not been trained in key skills during his or her education or experience, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one way to acquire skills that a candidate does not have an educational background or experience in. Such courses are educational programs hosted online designed to supplement the education required to become a data scientist. While many online hosts offer MOOCs, Class Central is a course that is particularly well suited for data scientists wishing to supplement their education.
Bridge Programs – Many graduate programs offer bridge courses designed to enable candidates to supplement their skills in areas that apply to data science. Two types of bridge programs are available:
- Fundamental bridge programs – courses in data structures, algorithms and their analysis, and linear algebra
- Programming bridge programs – training in such essential programming languages as C++, JAVA, and Python
Earning a Master’s Degree in Data Science in Oklahoma
Prospective graduate students in data science have a large number of options to choose from in Oklahoma. Students can enroll in master’s programs from universities in Oklahoma or in high-quality online programs offered at the national level. Obtaining a master’s degree in data science in Oklahoma should offer a number of options in both large established companies and in the state’s burgeoning tech startup scene.
Data Science Programs Offered by Oklahoma Universities
Master’s Programs – Two universities in Oklahoma offer interdisciplinary master’s programs that both have online options:
- Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics in Norman
- Master of Science in Business Analytics in Oklahoma City
Graduate Certificates – In addition, a number of graduate certificates are offered in Oklahoma City:
- Graduate Data Mining Certificate Program (online)
Credits may transfer to the MS program at a later date
- Graduate Certificates offered in conjunction with SAS®
- Data Mining Certificate (core level)
- Predictive Analytics Certificate (advanced level)
- Marketing Data Science Certificate (expert level)
Data Science Programs For Oklahoma Residents from National Online Schools
Students seeking a master’s degree in data science have a wealth of options from highly regarded online programs from out-of-state universities. Such programs offer a high degree of flexibility to working professionals. Students can avail themselves of a number of different formats depending on the time they have available to commit to their studies.
For instance, accelerated programs can be completed in as little as 12 months, while part-time programs generally take 32 months. Master’s degrees offered in standard full-time mode take 18 months.
In addition to the online coursework in the initial part of these programs, most of these degree programs require that students study on campus during their final semester. These immersion experiences offer intensive coursework on campus and the opportunity to interact with professors and peers.
Degree programs available include:
- Master of Science (MS) in Data Science
- Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS)
- Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS)
- Data Science Certificate
- Data Mining and Application Graduate Certificate
- Graduate Certificate in Data Science
- Online Certificate in Data Science
Core Curriculum Content
While the coursework varies in different Master’s programs, the core courses will cover essential skills required for data science positions. All programs will cover these topics:
- Statistical sampling
- Experimental statistics
- Applied regression and time series analysis
- Machine learning and artificial intelligence
- Data storage and retrieval
- Data mining
- Data research design and applications
- Scaling data – macro and micro
- Quantifying materials
- Advanced managerial economics
- Ethics and law for data science
- Network and data security
- Experiments and casual inference
- File organization and database management
- Information visualization
Most online programs offer students the chance to apply their training to real-world problems during the immersion experience. Students get to work in small teams and spearhead a data science project.
Key Competencies and Objectives
Graduates of data science programs acquire a wide range of proficiencies in core areas and have the skills to work in a number of such areas:
- Statistical sampling
- Research design
- Data cleansing
- Database management and file organization
- Data mining and machine learning
- Data and network security
- Data collection and analysis
- Communication and visualization
- Programming languages such as Python and C++
- Ethics, privacy, and relevant law
Career Opportunities for Oklahoma Data Scientists with Advanced Degrees
Graduates of Oklahoma’s data science Master’s degree programs have a wealth of options to choose from. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce reported that the state is home to such prominent companies as IBM, Boeing, Dell, Google, and GE among others. These companies are all in industries that rely heavily on data science for their success.
In addition, Oklahoma houses one of the four sites of the highly prominent data science firm WPA Opinion Research—one of the leading data science and opinion research firms for Republican candidates and politicians. Its clients include such luminaries as Ted Cruz and Governors Greg Abbott and Larry Hogan.
Oklahoma’s prominence in the oil and gas industry also contributes to the high number of data science jobs in the state. In addition to analyses of such topics as supply and demand, the oil and gas industry requires data scientists to help its web-based monitoring and field automation services.
Job listings for some of Oklahoma’s many high-level data science positions were compiled in March 2016. These listings are just to demonstrate the types of data science jobs available in Oklahoma and should not be construed as an assurance of employment or current job offers.
Data Scientist with WPA Research in Oklahoma City – Candidates must have extensive familiarity with Python for data analysis and machine learning. Other valuable skills include R, Java, SQL and NoSQL, or other analytical and programming packages. Applicants with a Master’s degree in data science, statistics, computer science, or an applied quantitative skill are preferred.
Senior Data Scientist – Predictive Analytics with a Client in Tulsa – Candidates will join a team that is building a unique technology platform for the real-time discovery and manipulation of data for the oil and gas industry. Applicants must be passionate about creating efficient and fast algorithms for data analysis and machine learning. Required skills include AI, machine learning, statistical analysis, and proficiency in programming technology and languages such as Python, C++, R, Java, and SQL. The position requires at least a Master’s degree in statistics, physics, computer science, or a related field with a focus on data analysis.