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How to Get Your First Job in Big Data

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Thanks to cloud computing, the rise in smartphone ownership and surge in demand for the “internet of things”, are expected to grow by 4.4 million by 2024, according to the .

Unlike other computer-based career paths, big data touches a wide range of sectors, from advertising to financial services and online shopping. The average salaries earned by graduates in this field are pretty eye-opening too, with in the US earning .

We spoke to the , just as they launched their new Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), for their insight into why big data is the go-to place for talented computer science graduates.

What’s big data?

Big data is the aggregation of datasets that are so big they are measured in exabytes (i.e. one quintillion bytes). Big data can include anything from cute animal videos on social media, to your medical history, to bad restaurant reviews on Yelp.

What does the job market look like in big data at the moment, and does it pay well?

In 2015, Forbes reported that more data had been created since 2013 than in the entire history of the human race. Why’s that? Because big data is exploding, and more than ever, we need to find new ways to store it, analyze it and use it - that is, narrow down large datasets to just usable information. So, it’s fair to say that prospects are looking good in this sector, with average salaries of US$91,000 in the US, US$46,000 in the UK and US$61,200 in Ireland, according to Payscale.

What does a data scientist do exactly?

Data scientists study big data using software and algorithms to detect trends and any usable information and decide what information to keep or scrap. Once that’s done, they create charts and graphs to summarize their findings to key stakeholders.

This means that data scientists may shape or dictate company policy, particularly if they work as chief data or information officers, or actually write the computer programs themselves as software developers.

Of course, businesses in every field need skilled workers to collect and analyze data for them so, you may end up working in a wide range of sectors, from marketing to healthcare, for example.

What vital skills do you need to work in big data?

To work in big data, you would need to learn programming languages like Java, C, Python, or Scala, as well as mathematical concepts like statistics, linear algebra and discrete mathematics.

Once you’ve done that, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with big data platforms like Apache Hadoop or Apache Spark as well as databases like NoSQL. You should be able to find a number of free tutorials for beginners on , but there are also a number of really good textbooks on the subject like 

In terms of “soft skills”, you would need to be an intuitive problem-solver and strong analytical thinker, so you’re able to think your way out of a difficult situation and think on your feet.

What training do you need?

Big data work can be very technical, and there’s a lack of skilled professionals with the right training. or a would be a huge asset and really help you access senior posts.

One final word of advice….

If you’re interested in working in big data, you should consider studying computer science at the  at  and/or  level.

They’ve recently launched their Institute for Intelligent Systems (IIS), a team of the world’s finest researchers in management, healthcare and computer sciences, all charged with the herculean task of finding new ways to use big data.

Among them is Professor Wang, an internationally renowned electrical engineering researcher who’s worked with UC Berkeley, Cambridge, and the Singaporean Ministry of Defence. His research focuses on two different projects: improving the scheduling of the local public transport system through the use of big data and creating a reliable and consistent flow of electricity through both coal-fired power stations and renewable electricity.

Experts like Professor Wang at the Institute strive to resolve Africa’s most pressing issues and facilitate development on the continent. Every day, they work with industry, government, local communities, as well as other research centers to develop patents, carry out groundbreaking new research and find solutions.

Do your future a favour.

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