Due to the big data industry’s widening skills gap, the demand for stronger analytical talent is increasing substantially every year. The influx of big data, thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile technology, largely exceeds the number of analysts available to extract meaningful insights from it.

Global firm McKinsey predicts that by 2018, the U.S. “may face a 50 to 60 percent gap between supply and requisite demand of analytic talent.” Entry into this small talent pool of big data analysts requires skills that extend past technical capabilities. Aspiring big data analysts can place themselves on the path to career excellence by:

Finding Big Success With Big Data Degrees

Big data degree programs train the next generation of analysts to evaluate data more intelligently and improve operational procedures. Choosing the right big data analytics degree should be based heavily on individual learning styles and the tools, resources and hands-on experience available to the students.

Certain programs may offer a more diverse selection of big data tools and platforms—such as Hadoop, Oracle and Tableau—that will give students more real-world experience, boost resumes and improve efficiency before the job hunt even begins. Prospective students should also consider programs that partner or work closely with big data powerhouses, such as IBM, Accenture or SAS Institute.

Industry partnerships offer students opportunities for internships, potential job openings and guidance on how to use data to make better business decisions. Getting a degree in big data analytics puts college students on the fast-track to becoming a trusted voice in business strategy, in every industry from healthcare to government.

Harnessing the Right Data Analytics Skills

Sound statistical knowledge and proficiency in commonly used big data tools will always be required, but the applicants who truly stand out have much more than that. Communication skills, creativity, the ability to multi-task and having an inquisitive nature are all highly coveted skills of big data analysts that are not commonly listed in the job description.

The most successful big data analysts know what questions to ask to discover meaningful patterns and trends in data, and have a strong business acumen; they can sort through and analyze complicated datasets, then easily explain them to business leaders to identify problems, solutions and overlooked opportunities.

Keep analytical skills sharp by testing new tools and platforms, staying up-to-date with industry news, testing different hypotheses and embracing failure. There is very rarely a one-solution-fits-all situation, and today’s big data solutions are typically a mix of strategies and tactics.

Getting Involved in the Big Data Industry

Basic skills for big data analysts remain the same across all industries, but a deep comprehension of the field of interest will help with conducting the right analysis. Knowledge of the industry is especially helpful during the application and interviewing process, when questions about how you can apply your analytical skills to the specific company will likely come up.

For a more thorough understanding, interview other data analysts, business leaders and thought leaders in the industry. If any workshops, conferences or meet-ups are available, take advantage of them. The benefits of networking events are twofold: networking can be useful for finding data analyst job opportunities, or at the very least, you can walk away with helpful tips and insights from those who have been in your shoes. 

With the right talent, data analysis can be a gold mine; data can help discover missed business opportunities, predict customer behavior and be used to shape company direction. The job demand for big data analysts is sky-high across all industries, with competitive salaries to match. However, talent is lacking and positions are difficult to fill as a result. Aspiring big data analysts must understand the difference between recognizing patterns in data and using these patterns to find solutions—that’s what ultimately lands the job and paves the path to success.