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  1. #1
    Warpnow is offline Registered User
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    Information Systems vs Data Science vs Business Analytics

    I currently work as a business analyst for a fortune 500 company. I work for a group of executives/managers as a layer between them and data analysts/dbas, advising them on how to access/retrieve data, manage visualizations, setup dashboards, etc. I write SQL queries and work with the microsoft BI stack. I plan to get the MCSA + MCSE BI certification over the next year.

    It is my goal to become an expert in all things data related from the business side, but with all the knowledge needed to be IT-competent, from databases themselves, to end user creations, understanding business need, and creating deliverables for business users using a variety of tools (Microsoft BI, Tableau, Qlikview, Cognos, etc). Eventually I could see myself being a consultant.

    I figure a masters degree will help me with this. I've been looking around. I'm looking primarily at online degrees as I am not fond of most of the local offerings (I'm in Dallas, by the way).

    First thing I noticed are these "data science" degrees popping up. Wow, are they expensive! Most of them seem to be $40-$60k for a 1-2 year program.

    Then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have Dakota State, Minot State, Fort Hayes, etc, who offer programs where the entire completion is $9-$12k for a masters in Information Systems . In the case of Dakota State, it looks like you could also get the doctoral version for an extra $20k or so and three years of study. Not sure if I'd ever want to do that, but nice to have the option.

    At the same time, Georgia Tech's offering will become very interesting once the pilot is over. A $7k degree from Georgia Tech.

    I'm fairly technical, despite that my undergraduate degree is in economics . I have a firm math foundation, and the idea of programming does not frighten me. I have rudimentary knowledge of C, and can do most basic tasks in Python. Two years ago or so I was offered a programming job based on a proctored programming test which used visual basic. I turned it down though as it was a major relocation and didn't fit very well with my long term plan (and I hate visual basic).

    So, these myriad of "information" degrees is confusing.

    Part of me says: Do Minot State...it'll be pretty easy. Done in a year or so. Cost $9k...great on the resume, right? Its a state university, so will look legitimate even if not super high end. I think Dakota State is more difficult, slightly more expensive, yet seems like I might get more out of it.

    And then the other part of me wants to go all out for one of the high end $60k "Big Data" degrees. But in the end, If I drop that much on a degree, I will be very upset if it doesn't pay off in a big way.

    Anyone else given these degrees much though, or have any insight?

  2. #2
    airtorn is offline Moderator
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    $9K -vs- $60K is a very easy decision for me.

    I can think of a lot of things to do with the remaining $51K.

  3. #3
    mcjon77 is offline Registered User
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    Let me throw a couple of ideas out there.

    First, the field of "Data Science" is still in a little flux. We have just now hit the point where it is a hot term and universities are starting to create programs for it. However, the bulk of the people who work in DS have degrees in statistics heavy (including areas like econometrics) or programming heavy fields. It reminds me a lot of how the term "bioinformatics" was the hottest thing since sliced bread about 10 years ago.

    Also, make sure that it is "Data Science" that you are interested in. There have been so many new buzzwords that it is hard to keep them straight. Are you interested in Data Science, or Data Analytics, or Predictive Analytics, or Data Mining (older term), or Big Data, etc? Here are a few articles expounding on the possible differences between data science and data analytics.

    Data Science vs. Data Analytics | Venu Anuganti Blog
    Data Analytics vs Data Science: Two Separate, but Interconnected Disciplines « Data Scientist Insights

    If you just want the knowledge, you can use the MOOCs and a few other FREE dl courses at other universities (Harvard has the materials for their Data Science and Visualization courses online for free) to create an informal data science background that is as strong as any formal degree program that I have seen.

    My preferred strategy would be to get the cheap masters and buttress that with either informal data science/analytics training through MOOCs, or certificates. This way you have the tech masters that HR can check off, AND you have the actual up to date knowledge that will help you land and keep the job. If you pick a cheap masters program that ALSO has some data science/analytics related courses, all the better. For example, Dakota State offers two data mining courses and a predictive analytics course.

    The Georgia Tech MOOC based masters looks very interesting, but I would do a few of the courses before hand, just to make sure that you have the requisite CS background.

    I was actually debating taking on a second masters in the field (namely Northwestern's MS in Predictive Analytics). The conclusion that I came to was that FOR ME, it wasn't worth the extra $42K over my current master's degree (then again, I change my mind about whether to pursue another degree every other week). Right now, you don't need a degree SPECIFICALLY in Data Science or Data Analytics to get a job in the field. That may change in 5 or 10 years, but I doubt it. In the bioinformatics field, the majority of people doing bioinformatics don't have degrees specifically in bioinformatics.

    In addition, I would probably avoid the expensive programs UNLESS I lived in the city where that university was located AND they had EXCELLENT job placement services for my major. I WOULD NOT take on any of those expensive MS programs until the first few classes had graduated AND we are able to see what kind of support the university offers with regard to finding employment. When you are paying for these expensive degrees, a huge part of what you are buying is access to their network. If their network sucks OR they won't let you access it, the degree loses a lot of its value.
    ALM, Harvard University
    AB, Georgetown University

  4. #4
    SteveFoerster is offline Resident Gadfly
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    Were I in your situation, I'd consider waiting for the Georgia Tech program to open up. It's the right combination of a well known and well regarded school and a cost that's not needlessly high.

    Alternatively, if you live in a metropolitan area with a good public university, I'd consider that, since that would combine in-state tuition with better professional networking possibilities, which you'll definitely need if you plan to be a consultant.
    BS, Info Sys concentration, Charter Oak State College
    MA in Educational Tech, George Washington University
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  5. #5
    spmoran is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by Warpnow View Post
    It is my goal to become an expert in all things data related from the business side, but with all the knowledge needed to be IT-competent, from databases themselves, to end user creations, understanding business need, and creating deliverables for business users using a variety of tools (Microsoft BI, Tableau, Qlikview, Cognos, etc). Eventually I could see myself being a consultant.
    I worked in as a consultant in industry for 20 years, using most of the tools you mentioned in your post, plus many more. I also was just accepted to the Minot State program, and I teach database technologies at my local community college, as well as object oriented programming , systems analysis and design , business analysis and the rest. Everything but OS and networking .

    The Minot program does not seem to be a technical program at all, which was part of my reason for pursuing it. In fact, I have not yet seen any online graduate program that will let anyone become an "expert" in the field through course work. When my students are finished with a 2 year course of study, I think of them as simply having enough knowledge to enter the field where the real learning begins. Expertise take much more trial and error than a 10 week course can possibly provide to become an expert in anything.

    I am not going to recommend anything to you, but I will say that commercial training courses from the best training companies (not bootcamps!) can help one begin the journey. Study with certification in mind is also important. I'm a natural test-passer, so I don't put too much stock in certifications (I passed the Comptia Security+ with no security background and no study, and have no idea what I was tested on) Many community colleges also offer hands-on programs in database design and development, and these are more likely to provide technical training than what I have seen in most graduate programs I looked into.

    I hear all the time that an associates is the new masters. I don't agree with that, but I do know that many CC's provide hands on training in database technologies that are much harder to find and less expensive than anywhere else.
    Last edited by spmoran; 12-02-2013 at 05:24 PM.
    Sean Moran
    B.S. Business Information Systems - Bellevue University
    M.S. Information Systems - Minot State University

  6. #6
    Warpnow is offline Registered User
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    I've been really thinking over alot of the responses. I had decided almost squarely on Georgia Tech's program. I don't like the MIS degree because it has a negative reputation I'm finding, as an easy to get graduate degree. Plus, with an economics degree, my business understanding far outstrips business majors (who seem to understand business worst of all...), so I feel I need a more technical program to pair well with my economics degree.

    Then, I read about CUNY's program...under $15k all in, MS in Data Analytics...

    Online Master's Degree in Data Analytics (M.S.) Curriculum | CUNY School of Professional Studies

    Hard choice between the two. GA Tech's degree is far more versatile, versus the CUNY degree, which is highly specific. But specific can be good sometimes.

    So now I'm not sure anymore!

  7. #7
    instant000 is offline Registered User
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    Of those two choices, computer science would be better.
    MS, Information Security and Assurance, Western Governor's University, 2013
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