Educating the Data Scientists of Tomorrow

Big data takes special skills. Teaching students how to become data scientists could be the most valuable thing schools can do right now.

Companies are hanging help wanted signs in an attempt to find data scientists to drive big-data business analytics and data-driven decision making. There’s no question that vastly more data is available than ever before to inform managers and executives. Turning that data into usable information, though, is the part of the puzzle still missing at many organizations.

In an education market filled with rising tuition costs and increasing dissatisfaction with the job opportunities available to recent graduates, it’s unusual to have a subject for which there’s immediate, high-paying demand. The knowledge and skills need to acquire, massage, and interpret big data are valued by big business — to the tune of serious six-figure (and even occasional seven-figure) salaries for those with the right data scientist chops. The question for education is what the academy can do to rapidly prepare students for jobs in this critical and evolving area.

For starters, it’s rather difficult to learn how to work with big data if you lack access to, well, big data. So how do you make big data available to students without bankrupting the department (or the entire institution)? There are a couple of tools that promise to help.

In terms of gathering big data, two sources can provide vast quantities of raw bits. The first is the feed from Twitter itself, which can quickly swell a database by gigabytes of data. The next is the vast array of publicly available data from federal, state and local government sources. The website provides an easy-to-use portal into a number of federal data sets: Judicious (or even near-random) selection and downloading could provide data for multiple classes to work on.

Precisely where will all this big data go when you’re ready to have students work on it? It’s possible that you work in a university that has many petabytes of unused storage sitting around simply waiting for you to fill it up. That is, however, probably not the case. In the real world, cloud storage can be a budgetary lifesaver, since storage units can be spun up and torn down as required by coursework, and a bill presented to the school for only that capacity/time actually used.

For more, read the Enterprise Efficiency article Big-Data Pros Wanted, Hard to Find.

About the Author

Curtis Franklin, Jr., is Executive Editor of, a UBM Tech Community.

Curtis Franklin Jr.
Curtis Franklin Jr. has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He contributes to a number of technology-industry publications including Tech Page One, Information Week, ChannelWeb, and on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking. He is online community manager for the Interop conference and is a senior contributing analyst for the InfoWorld Test Center where he focuses on network infrastructure, wireless networking, and security.
Curtis Franklin Jr.
Tags: Data Center,Software,Technology