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Shortage of Analytics Workers Drives Northwestern U. to Create Master of Science Programs

on December 12, 2011
The main entrance to Northwestern's Evanston campus. | Photo courtesy of Northwestern University.

In fall 2012, a cohort of 30 students will embark on a 15-month journey through a new Master of Science in Analytics program at Northwestern University. 

On Thursday, the university and IBM announced the creation of two analytics programs that they collaborated on to meet industry needs. Nearly every company that Diego Klabjan, associate professor of industrial engineering and management sciences, works with needs to hire experts in analytics.

"The challenge that they face is that in the U.S., we do not produce enough workforce trained in analytics," said Klabjan, who became the director of the Master of Science in Analytics at Northwestern University.

That's because few United States universities offer graduate degrees in analytics. In 2007, North Carolina State University offered the first full-time, on-campus Master of Science in Analytics program and takes 40 students in each cohort. When Northwestern University's program starts in September, it will become the second such program in the nation.

The Master of Science in Analytics program will be offered on campus through the McCormick School of Engineering. Another analytics program, an online Master of Science in Predictive Analytics, will be offered through the School of Continuing Studies.

With the new Master of Science in Analytics program, Northwestern wanted to offer a full-time, on-campus program with a small cohort of students each year. By keeping classes down to 30 students, the university hopes to create a highly selective, top-notch program and cherry pick the best applicants from a large pool, Klabjan said.

One of the challenges they faced as they developed the curriculum involved figuring out how to cover as much material as possible within 15 months. The broad analytics field spans three areas: IT, business and data science (how you crunch numbers and get business value out of them).

Within 15 months, students have to learn each aspect. That's not easy when analytics covers so much space. So Northwestern and IBM decided not to go over every industry and vertical in the program.

Instead, they'll offer a number of electives that cover a few verticals, including how analytics applies to marketing, energy and health care. But they won't cover hospitality or transportation explicitly because of the time factor.

Tenured or tenure-track faculty will teach the courses along with industry experts. And instead of spending all their time hitting the books, students will go through a summer internship and do a capstone project.

The summer internship will give them their first exposure of working on analytics-related problems in a business environment. Then for the capstone project, they'll work on a company-sponsored project and interact directly with the companies. They'll have a faculty member advising them, but the students are responsible for meeting goals and producing deliverables by the end of the project.

"When you are really in a corporate environment, you encounter many additional challenges that are very difficult to teach in a classroom," Klabjan said. "So that's why I believe that summer internships and the capstone design project are very important."

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Tanya Roscorla

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.



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on Aug 19, 2013
Pace is also offering a MS in analytics too