New Data Science Program Meets Growing Workforce Demand

data science
March 14, 2016

The explosion of data in today’s world is rapidly shaping the landscape of our lives. GW’s new, interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Data Sciences program was created to help meet the need for specialists with the skills to process, interpret and extract actionable insights from the vast amounts of data being produced. The curriculum draws on techniques and theories from statistics, computer science and mathematics, then focuses these techniques on the skills necessary for effective analysis and use of large data. The Certificate will be offered at GW’s Virginia Science and Technology Campus starting in the summer of 2016.  

Data science is recognized as one of eight top R & D needs in information technology by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). In their August 2015 report they note, “Large data collections and data-centric computing play a central role in the vitality of the public and private sectors and will continue to be critical in science and engineering, commerce, health care, government services, and national security.”

Furthermore, “The McKinsey Global Institute, the business and economics research arm of McKinsey & Co., has predicted that by 2018 the United States could face a shortage of between 140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills, as well as a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts who know how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions.” 

“We’re thrilled about the expansion of our Data Science Program beyond the Foggy Bottom Campus and into Virginia’s technology corridor,” said Ben Vinson, dean of GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. “The demand for specialists skilled in data analysis is ever-growing, crossing every sector of our economy. Through this expansion, GW is helping to meet this need.”

GW’s Columbian College has responded to the clear demand for trained professionals by developing a unique interdisciplinary program as a collaborative effort among the Departments of Statistics, Physics, Economics, Mathematics, Geography and Political Science. Students benefit from this cross-curricular approach – it helps them to understand data and contribute important insights that will change the way all of us live, work and communicate. The nature of the growing data science workforce requires innovative curriculums, and a team based approach to projects and learning, to prepare students for the reality of the challenges they will face.

“We have carefully designed a complete set of data science courses, rather than combining existing courses from other departments, so that we have an efficient and effective program that meets the learning goals for professional data scientists,” according to Larry Medsker, Data Science program director and research professor of physics. “The curriculum combines the components of other disciplines, such as math, statistics, and computer science, which are essential for data science.”

The certificate requires the completion of four Data Science courses in total, composed of two core courses and two electives. “We concur with the growing consensus that data scientists need strong and deep data analytical knowledge and skills *plus* content knowledge. Thus we require two elective courses in which students apply data science technology to their choice from a wide range of areas such as economics, astrophysics, political science, bioinformatics and GIS,” said Medsker.

In addition to the new graduate certificate in Data Science being offered in Ashburn, prospective students can also pursue a full master’s degree in Data Science, currently offered at GW’s Campus in Foggy Bottom. The credits earned from the Certificate are stackable towards the master’s degree.

For more information about the Programs visit the Data Science website