All That Data: New Program Helps Meet Workforce Demands in a Data-driven World

Data science woman at computer All organizations and enterprises—profit, nonprofit, private, public, etc.—need to find efficient methods to turn data into usable information. And they need workers conversant in ideas and tools. Data science combines math, statistics, programming, and hacking skills, as well as data journalism, to gain insight from a growing volume of information produced by an increasingly data-driven world, and to communicate them effectively enough to help solve real-world problems. Montgomery College is now offering a data science certificate.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for data science and analytics talent is projected to grow by 15 percent by 2020. To help meet the demand, MC launched the new five-course data science certificate program last fall. Professor Brian Kotz, who proposed expanding the College’s single statistics course to a series of courses, says the program matches workforce needs and those of MC’s transfer institutions.

“Every corner of society is producing data at a tremendous rate and with great ease, whether it’s in business, health, security, social sciences, and so on,” says Kotz. “The data are also easier to obtain than ever before, due to data transparency initiatives and advances in technology. The volume is staggering.”

In 2015, Dr. DJ Patil became the first chief data scientist of the United States. One of his first blog posts stated: “I’m the US Chief Data Scientist and I got my start in community college.” Seizing the moment, Kotz reached out to Patil for a campus visit—“since,” he says, “we were developing a data science course or program here at MC.”

Not only did Patil accept the offer to meet, he invited Vice President and Provost Margaret Latimer, Director of Special Projects Beatrice Lauman, and Kotz to the White House. There, Patil told them Montgomery College “had a great opportunity to promote the accessibility of data science education to two-year college students.”

Kotz’s efforts to expand data science at MC were supported by John Hamman, dean of mathematics and statistics: “Data is becoming the language in which we speak. Brian’s vision and his work has allowed the College to be at the forefront of community colleges.” According to the American Statistical Association Community, Montgomery College is one of 12 community colleges in the country to have a data science program.

A recent study by IBM and the Business-Higher Education Forum reported that the Washington Metro region, with 110,000 data science and analysis jobs in 2015, represented five percent of the national market for data science jobs, second only to the New York City area. About one-third of these jobs require data skills that could be met by the certificate.

Students earning the certificate will be positioned to meet this new economy’s growing demand for a more data-literate workforce in all professions, as well as to fill data analyst and data developer jobs in Montgomery County and the Washington, DC, area.

The certificate program benefits extend to liberal arts students, as well. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education reported there are an additional 137,000 entry-level jobs for liberal arts graduates who had data-analysis or management skills. It also found that data-analysis jobs paid at least $12,700 above the average salary for jobs traditionally open to liberal arts graduates.


Photo Credit
Photo by Pete Vidal. Photo illustration by Clint Wu.

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