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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Education Life: Teaching the Techies

Data science is the hot new pursuit in higher education, a field spawned by the enormous amounts of data that modern technologies create - be it about the online behavior of Facebook users, tissue samples of cancer patients or crime in cities. Data scientists crunch the data, use mathematical models to analyze it, create narratives or visualizations to explain it, then suggest how to use the information to make decisions.

In the Education Life section of The New York Times, Claire Cain Miller writes about this trendy new field. In the last few years, dozens of programs have sprung up in response to the excitement about Big Data.

Because data science is so new, universities are scrambling to define it and develop curriculums. They cannot roll out programs fast enough to meet employer demand. North Carolina State University introduced a master's in analytics in 2007, and all 84 of last year's graduates had job offers, according to Michael Rappa, who conceived of and directs the university's Institute for Advanced Analytics. The average salary was $89,100, and more than $100,000 for those with prior work experience.

At the University of San Francisco, the charter class of students with master's in analytics will soon graduate. And in the fall, Columbia is introducing master's and certificate programs heavy on data crunching; New York University will have two new degrees lined up. Meanwhile, the University of Washington has opened the eScience Institute for studying data across disciplines and has a new Ph.D. program in Big Data.

In a related article, “Geek Appeal: New York vs. Seattle,” Ms. Miller takes note of how New York and Seattle are dueling to be the next hotbed for data education.