Demand for data scientists is accelerating. As a result of the significant increase in demand for data literate talent, academic institutions are rushing to add data science courses, certification programs and degree programs to their catalogs of offerings.
One huge roadblock for these universities, as it is for employers in virtually every other industry, is the shortage of qualified instructors who are available to teach the data science classes.
Data science is an interdisciplinary field that requires a rare mix of analytical, computational, coding and other skills. The hardest part for both corporate employers and academia is finding people who are capable of extracting just the right insights from data — and then applying those insights to arrive at workable solutions for actual problems that governments and industries need to solve. Employers are willing to pay handsomely for this elusive skill set, with some data scientists’ salaries reported at figures as high as $300,000 per year. Entry-level salaries in this field are in the range of $95,000 per year, according to Gil Press, writing on behalf of Forbes. Generally, data scientists are able to earn more in industry roles than they are in academia – so it’s relatively rare for them to choose teaching. Data literate professionals have their pick of high-paying jobs in the corporate sector.
Business.com reports that hiring managers at forty percent of the companies who want to hire data analysts are struggling to find and retain the staff they need. At a time when corporations with sizable budgets are having problems filling their data science job openings, academic institutions are having an even harder time attracting qualified instructors who will teach their data science classes.
As it turns out, education technology is playing a role in bridging the gap between supply and demand for data science instructors. Alex Woodie at Datanami.com reports on one noteworthy example. According to Woodie, approximately 400 students will be able to complete the face-to-face version of Professor Yoav Freund’s big data analytics and Spark class offered by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). However, actual demand for that class is considerably higher.
To meet the demand, UCSD is partnering with online course provider EDX to offer the same course online. Projected demand for the online version of the course is 20,000 – 30,000 students – and these tens of thousands of students will all be able to take the course online through EDX if they choose to.
Other well-respected academic institutions around the world are also offering their data science degree programs online. For example, James Cook University in Australia makes an online Masters in Data Science degree program available to both local and international students. The online nature of the coursework allows this institution to maximize instructors’ efforts as well as expand their reach globally. By offering the program online, they’re making the coursework available to students who would be unable to enroll otherwise.
That’s one significant way that ed tech is enabling universities to overcome this regrettable talent shortage. The presence of online data science courses is empowering students to gain academic opportunities they would probably miss out on otherwise. Universities gain the ability to enroll students they would otherwise have to turn away due to instructor shortages. In the long run, employers will gain access to a growing talent pool. The result is a win-win-win situation for students, universities and employers.