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Analytics - The New Buzzword in IT Education

IBM famously gave up their market niche in PCs some years ago when they stopped manufacturing them altogether. Instead they have developed one of the world's largest business consulting organizations, which today tackles all sorts of challenges for businesses trying to transition into the information age. They develop data management systems for all of the PC and server-generated information that is available to business management for strategic use.

Newsweek has a story this week on the role that data plays in businesses today; an environment in which the Internet has made the world has a swelling ocean full of data. "In this world, intelligence is replacing intuition," says Ambuj Goyal, the General Manager of IBM's Business Analytics and Process Optimization Group. The most successful businesses today have data analysis driving their decision making processes. A recent survey by IBM contains a lot of information supporting the importance of information in business: its clarity, its use, and the organizational flexibility required to utilize it.

What does this mean on the job market? The first point made by market observers is that there are far too few qualified professionals in the analytics field. IBM currently has 2,500 job openings for people trained in analytics. They have also opened a large business unit with 4,000 consultants assigned to it, so they have backed their belief in analytics as a business function with an investment in resources.

It's a field for people who are comfortable with math and statistics. Some schools are offering marketing degrees with specialization in analytics. IBM has partnered with Fordham University to develop a business degree curriculum for analytics. North Carolina State University has announced a master's program in analytics that is an intense, ten month course of study for students with bachelor's degrees.

For this field however, a student needs to have a substantial academic history in mathematics and statistics, or obtain one along the way. Some degrees in organizational management address the use of statistical evidence for the purpose of making organizational adjustments. The University of San Francisco has introduced an advanced web analytics specialization for its online degree in marketing.

There are academic bits and pieces available for an analytics career, but not a lot of degree programs that are based on analytics study. It's early enough in the development of this specialty that people who have studied database administration, for instance, could break into the field under the right circumstances and continue with academic courses that augment their job training. There is compelling evidence of substantial job growth in this field, one in which the academic world is currently trailing the demand.

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