New Master’s Program Is Creating Digital Detectives

New Master’s Program Is Creating Digital Detectives

Google “data science jobs” and you’ll find there’s no shortage of work. From Amazon to Booz Allen Hamilton and Stubhub to Bristol-Myers Squibb, data scientists are in demand.

And in today’s digital world of consumer data, personal data, medical data and industry data, that’s not all that surprising. Businesses and industries are constantly inundated with information, all of which needs to be stored, managed and analyzed. In fact, industry experts estimate there will be 2.7 million job postings for data analytics and science in the U.S. by 2020.

“We live in a data-driven world, and more and more interdisciplinary teams are finding solutions that drive decisions that may heavily influence our daily or future life,” says Brent Munsell (above right), assistant professor of computer science and director of the College’s Data Science Program for the 2019–20 academic year.

That’s why the College of Charleston is launching the new Master of Data Science and Analytics program, which aims to bring together students from diverse backgrounds to solve one of the most challenging problems in business today – what to do with all those facts, figures and statistics. Designed as an accelerated curriculum, the graduate degree in data science will prepare students for their careers within 13 months. The program can, however, also accommodate students seeking a more traditional research-based master’s program.

The first of its kind in South Carolina, the master’s degree, which launches in July 2019, is open to students from any undergraduate background. The program will delve into machine learning, artificial intelligence, big data and analytics.

But students aren’t required to have an undergraduate degree in computer science or math. The reasoning is that students with a knack for data science can learn the necessary computational and mathematical foundations – courses they’ll take in the summer semester of their first year – but curiosity and out-of-the-box thinking are innate.

“Companies are finding the best data science talent often comes from unexpected places,” says Paul Anderson (above left), director of the Data Science Program for the 2018–19 academic year.

That’s why there’s no prerequisite degree path.

“We are focused on finding and attracting students who are able to analyze information, are great problem solvers and/or critical thinkers and have good communication skills,” explains Munsell. “In our program, students will be challenged in these areas, and if they possess this skill set, we know they’ll be successful.”

An industry practicum will offer students hands-on experience through partnerships with companies such as Boeing, Bosch, Capgemini, Blackbaud and the Medical University of South Carolina. Munsell says the goal is to prepare students to solve challenging problems in fields that range from finance and medicine to marketing and cybersecurity in an ever-changing digital world.

At the end of the day, a data scientist is supposed to help tell a story through the numbers, shedding light on today’s problems and tomorrow’s solutions.

“Simply put, data science is where computer science and statistics come together to shape the future through data,” says Anderson. “A data scientist is creative, breaks traditional academic boundaries and sees the power of knowledge discovery through data.”

Without question, the data supports that science.

Featured image by Mike Ledford.