Become a Data Scientist of the Future With the iSchool’s Big Data Certificate

iStudent Blog

Published: May 18, 2016

Businesses, financial institutions, public and academic libraries, and dozens of other kinds of organizations rely on data science to make critical decisions.

Data Scientists are smart, sexy, and in demand according to numerous articles written by leading recruiting websites, financial services organizations, business journals and information science publications. The iSchool’s new certificate in Big Data is a valuable asset to the current information professional, as well as the recent MLIS or MARA grad looking to give their degree an extra boost.

“Considering the voluminous increase in data, data scientists have become the most highly sought after professionals in the marketplace,” says Assistant Professor Dr. Michelle Chen, the program coordinator for Big Data. “Surveys also reveal that demand for data scientists has outstripped supply. This severe shortage of data scientists in and around the world has in turned increased the demand for data scientists with many companies eager to hire data science talent. The driving force behind such a demand is not just the voluminous increase in data, but also the incredible increase in the speed at which data moves, data structure complexity, data format varieties, and data credibility and suitability.”

What is Data Science?
If you’re like me and you’re unsure what data science is all about or what it even is, apparently the definition, like so many aspects of the world of information is evolving. “Data Science,” says Chen, “is now defined as an interdisciplinary field where various processes and systems are used to extract knowledge or insights from the data generated in different forms.”

Data is so much more than an Internet search or finding your friend’s favorite cat video. Businesses, financial institutions, public and academic libraries, and dozens of other kinds of organizations in both the public and private institutions rely on data analytics to make critical decisions, provide information for their clients, and plan programming that is most useful for their communities. “Data Science is now being defined as a process of acquiring knowledge from data generated in relevant fields and using this data to provide support for existing research and management decision-making,” says Chen.

What a Data Scientist Does and How You Can Be One Too
Now that I know what data science is, I want to know more. What does a Data Scientist (emphasis on scientist) do exactly and why is an iSchool certificate in Big Data so important? “The role of a data scientist is to analyze large amounts of data and pull out the key insights from the data,” explains Chen. “However, ‘mining’ such a large amount of data requires special skills. The role of a skilled data scientist is to use those skills in math, statistics, programming, and design to clean, organize and generate insights from the data that is being processed.” Data scientists and those that possess the necessary skills in the field also fill other job titles such as data engineer, business intelligence architect or specialist, analytics manager or quantitative analyst. Whoa—fancy!

Applicants for the Big Data Certificate and the SJSU School of Information should have the following background and experience:

  • A Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Science or related areas
  • Familiarity with Linux/Unix and programming languages (e.g., C, C++, Java, Python, or R)
  • If the student doesn’t have a degree from one of the fields listed above, then they should have a bachelor’s degree in another area, along with practical experience in software development, algorithm design, Linux/Unix, and programming languages (e.g., C, C++, Java, Python, or R)
  • Students are encouraged, but not required, to have knowledge in distributed computing.

In order to be a part of the program, you need to have a minimum of 8GB of RAM and a minimum of 100GB hard drive to work with large data sets.

Program Outline
The three required courses for the iSchool’s Big Data Certificate are Info 208: Big Data Technologies, Info 209: Web and Data Mining, and Info 246: Information Visualization. “These three courses have been designed with the objective of covering the wide spectrum of the pipeline of working with big data,” says Chen. Each course is worth 3 units. Course descriptions, professors, links to the syllabi, course sequencing and availability, and program learning outcomes are all available through the Big Data webpage. “The program not only provides a strong component of big data technologies that focus on hands-on, practical skills, but also equips students with knowledge and skills in how to frame big data questions and formulate informed strategies based on analytical results.”

Unlike the Digital Assets Certificate, Big Data courses cannot be included in the completion of an SJSU iSchool MLIS or MARA degree. Current students will have to apply and enroll in the Big Data Program separately. If you’re not an iSchool student, but receive your Big Data Certificate from the School of Information and want to continue on through the SJSU MLIS program, you can transfer up to six units of your Big Data courses once you are accepted.

The application period for the fall 2016 semester is now open and prospective students have until July 1, 2016 to submit their applications with a required document deadline of July 20, 2016. Questions about the Big Data Certificate program of study should be directed to Dr. Michelle Chen. If students have any questions about the admission process, they should contact Sheila Gurtu.

Other blog posts that might interest you:
One Success Leads to Another– A Letter from iSchool Alumna Kate Dillon

The iSchool’s Best Resources for Networking and Planning Your Career

Big Data word cloud courtesy of Forbes