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shutterstock_127082789Data scientists are like the elite athletes of the enterprise world, but there are far too few of them to meet demand.

Teradata released the third State of Business Intelligence Survey today, which found that interest in big data analytics careers is on the rise. However, there is a significant gap between the number of students interested in these opportunities and the amount of hirable talent in the pipeline.

Working as a data scientist (or related position) requires taking a large data set, modeling it, and gleaning insights. As the hype surrounding big data continues, the demand for people with these skill sets is increasing, along with salaries. But just like top tier athletics, not everyone has the requisite talent or ability to follow a career in this field and there is a major, global shortage of data scientists. And despite the fact that two out of three students surveyed agree or strongly agree that there are job opportunities for them in data-savvy careers, only 16 percent are actually considering careers in this area.

Accordingly, employers still struggle to find potential hires. Analytics hiring managers reported that their largest needs for recent graduates are for IT or systems analytics (35%), program developers (32%), data managers (30%), and business analytics (22%). In the survey, one-third of employers identified a lack of experience as their greatest challenge, followed by insufficient business skills, insufficient technical skills, and a general lack of candidates. A lack of communication skills is also an issue.

Preparing students for real-world employment is partly the responsibility of the teachers. Forty-one percent of professors reported an increase in the number of BI or analytics courses at their university, but they also identified six areas where businesses can help them meet the challenges of creating qualified employees: providing large data sets, suitable cases, staying current with practices, technical support and training, realistic and meaningful experiences, and access to contemporary enterprise software.

The tech industry is a competitive job market and companies are always looking for qualified, experienced data scientists who combine technical expertise with creative thinking and communication skills. The responsibility does not lay only on the students, but on the universities, teachers, and companies that turn them from students into successful employees. A degree alone is not enough.

The survey was conducted by Barbara Wixom, an associate professor of commerce at University of Virginia’s McIntire School for Commerce and a research affiliate at MIT’s Sloan School of management. The study was sponsored by the Teradata University Network, which includes 3,400 faculty members, 1,600 universities, and thousands of students. TUN is a free web portal for students and teachers working in this field.

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