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Colleges Aren't Training Enough Students for Business Intelligence Jobs

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Posted June 27, 2011 By Vangie Beal     Feedback

As big data skyrockets, universities struggle to prepare students in business intelligence.

Today's college grads are ill-prepared to meet business needs for data-savvy workers. Even as the growth of big data is skyrocketing, universities worldwide are struggling, and too frequently failing, to adequately prepare students to meet the demand for employees skilled in business intelligence.

That was the finding of an international survey sponsored by Business Intelligence Congress II, a meeting of business intelligence professors and industry professionals co-hosted by the Teradata University Network and the Special Interest Group on Decision Support, Knowledge and Data Management Systems.

The survey, "The State of Business Intelligence in Academia 2010," found that while employers need workers who possess both an understanding of BI and business, the vast majority of universities fail to produce qualified graduates.

Business intelligence is offered as a concentration or degree at the undergraduate level at only three schools out of 129 surveyed. At the graduate level, 12 schools offer business intelligence as a concentration or degree. Individual BI courses are taught at the undergraduate or graduate level at 80 schools — but the course is offered by a single, isolated area of the university, such as an MIS or statistics department.

Too often, graduates have a highly technical understanding of business intelligence, without the understanding of business required to apply those skills to business needs, or they have a broad understanding of business but lack the deep understanding to capably perform BI.

"It's clear that evidence-based decision-making and the data analysis required to support it are now part of the fabric of many areas of business across many industries," said Barbara Wixom, associate professor at the University of Virginia's McIntire School of Commerce. "This requires that business intelligence be part of the curricula of many different university majors. The survey shows that too often education in and experience with BI offers too narrow a view of BI and is not reflecting real-world contexts."

Industry needs new employees who have both technical and business skills: statistics and math, business and communication. However, universities teach these skills across programs, with no one program completely meeting the needs of businesses. Only a dozen graduate schools have an actual BI concentration or degree based on a program that integrates all the content that matters for business intelligence.

The need for highly skilled business intelligence workers by 2018 in the U.S. alone is projected to exceed the available workforce by as much as 60 percent, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report in May. That report projects that by 2018, an additional 190,000 "deep analytical talent" workers plus 1.5 million more "data-savvy managers and analysts" will be needed to take full advantage of big data in the U.S. alone.

As noted in the survey results, hiring managers report they most often hire new business intelligence talent from business information systems (51%), followed by computer science (41%), other areas of business (38%), and math or statistics (34%).

For more on business intelligence and analytics academic programs, see CRM, Business Intelligence Go to College

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