New major to fill need for those who can manage big data

Posted October 14, 2015

A new bachelor’s degree in data science and predictive analytics will be available for UW-River Falls students in the spring of 2016, and UWRF is the only school in the UW System and one of two universities in the Twin Cities area that offers the program at the undergraduate level.

Hossein Najafi, chair of the Computer Science and Information Systems Department, said that data is being produced at a faster pace each an every day.

“If you look at today, you will see that we are producing more and more data,” Najafi said. “It has been said that, over the past year, we have produced more data than we have in the human history.”

With all of that data, there needs to be professionals to analyze it and dissect it for the public to use it. That skill is valuable and is in demand more now than ever, Nafaji said.

“The ability to take that data and mine it for information is a skill that is very much demanded,” Najafi said.

The goal for Najafi and the rest of the College of Business and Economics for the data science and predictive analytics major is to train students so that they have the skills to retrieve information out of the diverse amount of data and provide it to whomever is interested in it.

Students in the major will take an array of classes that will teach them skills of the trade, such as machine learning, data visualization and data storage.

“Students will learn skills to take data, visualize it, clean it, and process it using tools that are now out there and ever-changing, which results in beneficial information that is out there for organizations to use,” Najafi explained.

Najafi said prospective students already have inquired about the major. He expects the new major to be small at first, but to gradually grow as semesters go by.

Because of the dire need for professionals in the field, Najafi expects graduates of the data science and predictive analytics program to find a job right away.

“In five to 10 years,” he said, “I don’t expect any of our graduates having problems finding a job out of college because there is such a void out there, but at the same time, the change that this major will bring will be significant enough, similar to something we have seen with the dot-com boom of the 1990s.”