Successfully analyzing big data can do more than improve a company’s efficiencies and productivity. Consider the following:

  • An international relief organization visualized shelter data following Typhoon Haiyan and the Nepal earthquakes to identify sites with the greatest needs.
  • A county emergency medical services department revised its CPR protocols based on an analysis of historical data on CPR treatments and patient outcomes. One hundred people left the hospital that would have died under the previous guidelines.

Analytics is also reducing fraud in banking and government, and enhancing law enforcement and national security efforts.

But even though the personal and career opportunities in big data make it “the sexiest job of the 21st century,” the field is missing a key element: skilled professionals to meet the business demand.


The Big Data Skills Gap

Big data professionals generally work in three areas:

  • Data Management: Making data accessible, reliable, secure, and useful for an organization.
  • Data Analytics: The exploration of data to discover insights and actionable information.
  • Business Intelligence: Drilling into the data details and report findings to shape business solutions.


See how big data professionals work together to determine where almond milk sits on a grocery store shelf.


The need for big data professionals is high and growing every day, but businesses are having difficulty finding employees who have the skills necessary to fill the positions.


Skills Needed to Work in Big Data

Employers are looking for skilled data professionals who have deep technical knowledge, business acumen, and excellent people skills. Job requirements often include the ability to:

  • Leverage business intelligence tools.
  • Work with analytics technologies.
  • Connect data to business objectives.
  • Develop applications.
  • Manage data warehousing/data manipulation.
  • Understand such programming tools as C++, Java, Python, Hadoop, or R.
  • Create data-driven performance metrics.
  • Visualize data to help leaders understand key findings.
  • Think critically and solve problems.
  • Communicate effectively with stakeholders and leaders, connecting findings to business goals.
  • Communicate technical information to a non-technical audience.
  • Build consensus among decision-makers.
  • Work and lead in a team environment.


Typical programs used to grow these skills—such as training, badges, and industry certifications—often don’t provide the depth that professionals need. Instead, many organizations are partnering with universities to create accessible degree programs that address both the analytical and business skills needed to succeed.


Dean of Technology Sue Talley answers the degree or certifications dilemma in “A2 Academy: Degrees, Certificates, Jobs” on All Analytics, sponsored by SAS.


Sue Talley*, EdD, Dean of Technology in the School of Business and Technology at Capella University, will discuss “Colleges and Companies Address the Talent Gap” as part of All Analytics Academy month-long series on how to build a successful analytics team.

From November 5-19, All Analytics, a SAS-sponsored community for data management, business intelligence, and analytics professionals, is hosting five hour-long presentations that will provide insight into the hiring and management of analytics professionals. Register now to attend the Academy, and tune in November 17 to see Dr. Talley’s presentation, followed by a Tweetchat (#A2dataskills).


*Interviewee Sue Talley retired in 2016.


Capella offers the following certificate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs in big data: