Data analytics is one of the hardest skills to recruit in, yet one of the most important, according to a Financial Times skills gap survey.
While data analytics was once viewed as a technical skill left to scientists and IT professionals, it is now an essential skill for any leader looking to make sense of the vast quantities of data at their fingertips.
Business schools have responded accordingly. Bocconi University in Milan offers a Master of Science (MSc) in Data Science and Business Analytics, aiming to provide graduates with the competencies to extract impactful information from data in their industry of choice.
So why is data analytics an essential skill, and what are some of the core competencies that master’s students can gain to succeed?
Why understanding data is important
Put simply, data is a way of understanding things better, whether that’s human behavior, financial patterns, or many other trends and processes.
Professionals in the workplace today, whether they’re in tech or non tech-specific companies, can gain a great advantage through being able to comprehend data and use it to influence the organizations they are working in.
“Data provides a great opportunity to better understand processes at a societal and individual level, and to make more informed decisions in any sector,” explains Alessia Melegaro, program director of the Bocconi MSc in Data Science and Business Analytics.
The MSc aims to equip students with the skills to apply quantitative methods to business topics and concepts.
The program attracts students from technical backgrounds—science and mathematics students—looking for ways to apply their knowledge practically, as well as students aiming to bolster their analytical toolkit.
MSc student Louis Lacombe had a bachelor’s degree in econometrics, and was looking to better understand contemporary problems through data. “Data science seemed like a suitable path to follow as it combined both a more data-driven approach and the business side of a university such as Bocconi.”
Core modules touch both on business subjects like marketing and innovation, as well as introducing theoretical foundations for computer science, machine learning, and statistics. Students then have the chance to take either the Data Science track or the Business Analytics track, allowing them to delve deeper into areas which best match their future ambitions.
What are the most important data analytics skills?
For students looking to use data to make better decisions and influence the organizations they are working in, there are several important skills to master.
First, a theoretical grasp of technologies and how they are used. Many of the core courses on the MSc are quite theoretical, taking time to cover the theory on topics like machine learning, econometrics for big data, and statistics and modelling.
Understanding the theory is one thing, but being able to do it yourself is equally important. This demands hard computational skills. This is where having knowledge of computer science and algorithms are important, as well as concrete skills like programming and modelling.
“I gained a better ability to approach decision making, structuring the process and making better decisions using both theory and data,” Louis says.
Equipped with theory and the right skills, students can then master how to apply what they’ve learned in business scenarios. This is about highlighting and evaluating business problems, and identifying the correct tools to solve the problem.
The Business Analytics track emphasizes this problem solving approach. “Students learn quite tough and complex theoretical models, and then they have to use these techniques to answer specific business questions,” Alessia says.
Consultant and Bocconi MSc graduate Daniel Ruiz recalls how this approach showed him how he could bring computational skills to a future career in advising businesses. “More important than learning algorithms, I learned how management can use these methods to transform its business and be more disruptive and competitive.”
What career opportunities can data analytics skills open up?
From social media to healthcare to government, data analytics skills can really open up opportunities in any industry.
‘Business analyst’ and ‘data scientist’ are popular roles which many graduates go into. Graduates can find a number of these roles across both the private and public sector. Tech companies in particular remain a big employer for business school students, and look to continue increasing their hiring in 2021.
Alessia highlights that many graduates choose to continue their studies through taking a PhD, with the MSc providing the perfect platform to specialize in topics through a data analytics lens.
Given the demand for data analytics skills, students who can master data and apply it to the world’s problems will be well placed for a successful career.