Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interesting Article

At a time when there is so much negative news regarding the economy and the job market, here's some positive news for MS graduate candidates in analytics from sascom MAGAZINE.

The making of an analyst
Find, hire, and train employees with analytical minds
By Ted Cuzzillo

The first graduates with a master’s of science in analytics from North Carolina State University found evidence this spring of a growing demand: Recruiters offered starting salaries to new business analysts that were at least comparable to – and perhaps higher than – the nationwide average offered to new MBAs, statisticians and computer scientists.

The 20 graduates of the university’s Institute for Advanced Analytics are starting at an average salary of $83,300. MBAs start at $65,500 for computer science and $54,700 for math and statistics, according the Graduate Admissions Council and the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

As vast quantities of data flow into corporations, a new problem has arisen: how to approach and analyze it all? It’s no longer just quantitative. It’s often unstructured, messy and possibly corrupted, and it’s constantly changing and swelling. Often, it has to be fit for executives’ perusal in the morning.

The old methods don’t work, and those who know the new methods are in short supply. How do you find them, and how do you train them? Wayne Eckerson, the director of TDWI Research, suspects that most companies look first on the open market for analysts. Failing that, they look inside to find a business-savvy person doing similar work who might be trainable. “This could be a subject-matter expert, a report developer who spends a lot of time talking with the business, or a data or systems analyst who supports a business department,” he says. He warns that a serious, long-term shortage of analysts may have serious effects on the industry. Companies will find it harder to launch predictive analytics programs or improve existing ones. The word “analyst” may mean any of several sets of skills. Some analysts know the programming required to pull together mountains of data from different sources and extract what they need to answer a question. Others have enough knowledge of business, math or statistics to see in the data what happened and what may happen next. Harder to find, says Polly Mitchell-Guthrie, education industry strategist, are those who can do both. Even harder to find are people who can also define the business question and come up with recommendations for senior managers. Top analysts understand the industry they’re in. And they understand what to do with data that doesn’t yet come shrink-wrapped and ready to serve.