If you haven’t heard, the big data analytics field is growing–and it’s growing fast. According to a Gartner report from October, big data analytics will create 1.9 million IT jobs in the U.S., and 4.4 million jobs globally, by 2015.
Big data has changed the way companies gauge customer behavior, employee performance and the markets they operate in. The field is still relatively new, with software like Apache Hadoop making such comprehensive data analysis possible. It takes supercomputing power and top-notch IT professionals to be able to collect, read and analyze data that can turn into information that helps companies stay a step ahead of the competition.
Data has always been around us, but the way we can collect and analyze it is changing as technology and human understanding improves. This is the reason big data analytics is such a dynamic and interesting field to get into. It is evolving the ways in which companies work, as data shows them where their successes and failures lie. Data is very dynamic and can change instantly, as customer satisfaction shifts or new products emerge, for instance. If you are an aspiring IT professional, there are not many other fields that offer as much staying power as big data analytics. Several publications even named Apache Hadoop skills and certification as one of the most in-demand for IT pros in 2013. Companies need big data professionals now and will continue to hire them in the future as the field matures.
Being able to analyze and process data and turn it into hard facts is relevant to organizations of various sizes. Companies also need professionals who can understand this data and present it in a simplified manner to individuals outside of IT — for instance to managers, sales staff or business partners. The data scientist is a key figure in this role.
The Role of the Data Scientist
A data scientist is an IT professional who presents information gathered from data in an understandable and concise manner. This professional may be responsible for organizational changes within the company as data is analyzed. It is a very respectable position that requires a lot of IT knowledge. In fact, according to NewTech, in a decade this may be the most important position in the entire IT field. It may also be the most compensated position you can choose within the IT field because of this growing need.
If you want to become a data scientist, you will need to have a wide range of skills. The NewTech report mentions skills in hacking, graphic design and visualization, mathematics, statistics and data mining, and computer science as key to landing this role.
According to Zero Intelligence Agents, hacking skills are a lot more important than computer science skills as a whole:
“Being able to manipulate text files at the command-line, understanding vectorized operations, thinking algorithmically; these are the hacking skills that make for a successful data hacker.”
The report mentions statistical methods and strong overall math skills as key strengths because you will be dealing with statistical analysis. You should also invest in getting substantive expertise and knowledge of the scientific process to be able to form and test hypothesis with sound scientific methods. This job, however, also relies on technological knowledge that many professionals in scientific fields simply do not possess.
As you can see, it will take a lot of different skills and many years of practice to land a position in this area. You should expect to have at least one MS or PhD on your resume.
Having strong verbal skills can also help you land this position.
According to ZDnet, data scientists are a lot like journalists in the sense that they have to present their findings in an understandable way to those who are not experts in the field:
“… Data scientists are a lot like journalists in that both collect data to tell stories. It’s that story part that’s most important — a successful data scientist is one who can weave a cohesive narrative from the numbers and statistics.”
Other IT Positions Related to big Data Analytics
Even if you don’t pursue a career as a data scientist, some knowledge of big data analytics can benefit you in other IT roles. In a recent report, ZDnet pointed out four of these positions:
- The Business Analyst
- The Data Steward
- The Information Architect
- The Data Warehouse Architect
Business analysts analyze organizations and system designs. They analyze business processes within organizations as well as their integration with technology. The data stewards manage data as enterprise assets. Each data steward is responsible for specific sets of data within their companies. The position requires data to be implemented with the business model systematically. Information architects organize and label data. These professionals deal with websites, intranets, online communities and a wide range of software. Finally, data warehouse architects are system integrators who focus on data warehousing or storage, metadata and data management, as well as enterprise architectures.
Demand for Big Data Professionals is Skyrocketing
The other prediction the Gartner report made was that big data analytics will create three non-IT jobs for every IT professional companies hire to deal with big data. With a current lack of talent in the job market, the report mentions only one-third of IT positions are being filled.
Along with cloud computing, big data analytics is a great field to get into for any IT professional because of the relatively new nature of it. The demand for expertise is continuing to grow and is higher than the supply of qualified professionals.
Big data analytics will even open up new opportunities for companies in emerging markets. These companies will be able to maximize their potential outputs and compete on the world marketplace. This is why the demand for big data skills will grow in companies of all sizes and in many parts of the world.
The demand is so high that companies are starting to invest their own capital to train big data professionals. According to TechRepublic, “Prices vary, but as an indication training as a Hadoop-certified administrator costs in the region of $3,000. Certain courses have pre-requisites, such as familiarity with SQL or database concepts, but there are no entrance exams yet.”
You can find out about various graduate programs in big data analytics here.