Being able to predict trends is shaping up to be a marketable skill in the world of business.
Business analytics, a field which uses statistics and other techniques to study data and forecast trends, is projected to face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills by 2018, according to research done by consulting firm McKinsey & Company.
Because of this projected job growth in analytics, Ohio State’s Fisher College of Business is adding a business analytics minor, which is set to be available to students in Fall Semester.
The minor will consist of 15 credit hours, including nine required hours and six hours of elective courses, according to the college’s website.
“We created three new courses that will be taught out of the business school, which you can think of as a sequence,” said Ralph Greco, the director of the Business Analytics Initiative at Fisher, a focused curriculum of business analytics for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as practicing managers, according to the Fisher website.
The courses are put into frameworks of descriptive analytics, where students learn to identify behaviors and trends, predictive analytics, where students use historical patterns to predict future outcomes, and prescriptive analytics, where students learn about decision-making using data, according to the college website.
Greco said one factor that went into the development of the minor was the driving need for data-skilled individuals in the job market.
“When you get enough of those (job posts), you stand back and go ‘you know what, we can open up the opportunities for our students by x percent by offering this minor,’ because now there’s jobs they can apply to that maybe a year ago or two they couldn’t,” Greco said.
Analytics can be applied to a variety of careers. For example, a company might study the data from a five minute video on social media, or a local business might gather data from past events to improve future operations, Greco said.
However, Elliot Bendoly, a professor of management sciences at Fisher, said people usually have the misconception that statistics is the only part of analytics.
“You don’t have to be a statistician to be someone who is working in analytics,” Bendoly said. “Statistics is presumably not where the sun rises and where the sun sets. It’s part of a toolbox of approaches.”
Greco said analytics entails “using data, whether it’s big or little, any kind of size data, to help people find insights to answer some questions they might have.”
The development of the minor is also part of OSU’s 10-year Discovery Themes initiative, which plans to expand on research and hire new faculty in the areas identified by some OSU officials as university priority areas, according to the Discovery Themes website.
Launched in 2012, the Discovery Themes target health and wellness, energy and environment, and food production and food security. The $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring new faculty.
In an interview with The Lantern on Tuesday, OSU Provost and Executive Vice President Joseph Steinmetz said data analytics is an important initiative because it can be applied to all three discovery themes.
Steinmetz said the university is in the process of hiring 39 faculty members for the data analytics initiative, with a goal of eventually hiring between 65 and 70 faculty members in this area.
“We’re going to add 65-70 (faculty members) to data analytics, and we have about 150 or more already on campus, so it’ll be a big core group,” he said. “It gives us the opportunity … to focus some of more specific things related to the academics in the university, so we’ll probably have faculty that come in whose scholarship is actually the analytics of academic data.”
First-year biomedical engineering student Jayanth Rajan said he thinks there is a better way to get students interested in analytics than creating a minor.
“I think there are many people not aware of the analytics issue, but I do think there are people who are interested in certain topics,” Rajan said. “I don’t think people are going to choose that naturally. If those topics are weaved into (existing) classes, then I think it would be better overall.”
But other students said they believe creating the new minor is a good move by the college.
“There is a growing field in that area I believe, so I think it’s very good that they are adding the business (analytics) minor,” said James Michael Etheridge, a third-year in physics. “It sounds like it would make sense.”