Insights: How Big Data and Cloud Computing Are Changing the Job Market

Buzz terms such as "big data" and "the cloud" have evolved into everyday jargon for most tech professionals. In fact, the creation and collection of 90 percent of the world's online data has occurred in the last two years alone. This has resulted in a ground swell of demand for workers to analyze the data, and it's increasingly difficult for many employers to meet the demand.

Enter the business analyst. The Harvard Business Review calls the position the "sexiest job of the 21st century." The role of the business analyst is to utilize data in order to understand how one's organization can operate more efficiently and effectively. Understanding analytics has become an increasingly important skill for current and future tech employees across industries. Companies need talented workers who can break down the mountains of information and communicate how to best use key findings.

Demand for these analysts keeps rising, with a predicted 22-percent increase in job openings through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2018, the nation is expected to have a shortage of 1.5 million U.S. managers and analysts with the know-how to utilize big data to make effective decisions.

Gartner, Inc. Vice President Bill Hostmann was quoted earlier this year as saying, "Organizations that do not move analytics into the central part of both their IT strategy and business strategy are not going to meet their business objectives or even survive in the new world of realities we are facing."

Companies may be aware they need to focus more on business analytics, but, according to Gartner, many of them just don't know how to do it well. A 2012 survey by the Accenture SAS Analytics Group found 72 percent of companies planned to increase their spending in analytics; however, 60 percent of those same companies said they don't have the skills required to effectively use analytics.

To keep up with the demand and fill the talent void, colleges and universities are developing innovative master's degrees in business analytics that are ideal for recent undergraduates with a quantitative background (i.e. degrees in science, technology, engineering, math and business). Recently, higher-education consulting firm Eduvantis reported that in the past three years there have been more than 15 new master's-level degree programs centered on data analytics launched in North America.

This type of focused, business-meets-analytics program is called a Master of Science in Business Analytics or MS-BA program. Arizona State University is one of the few universities in the United States to offer a new, accelerated Master of Science in Business Analytics degree, which begins this fall and takes only nine months to complete. Other universities offering similar programs are North Carolina State, New York University, University of San Francisco and the Stevens Institute of Technology.

These degrees prepare graduates to be at the forefront of data-driven analysis, strategic decision-making and business-process optimization for Fortune 100 companies, government organizations, small businesses and nonprofits. Many of the programs offer a focus on experiential learning, and students work on actual companies' business problems to gain real-world experience. Further, the curriculum is often designed around skills companies specifically need. Students in these programs typically require zero to two years of work experience.

If you're a current college student or young professional in a tech-related field, consider this high-growth field of business analytics. An MS-BA degree will train you for this fast-changing industry and may help improve your chances of securing a business-analyst position.

Michael Goul currently serves as department chair and professor of information systems at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU), ranked top 30 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for both graduate and undergraduate business schools. With nearly 30 years experience at the W. P. Carey School, Goul is passionate about how the explosion of big data, cloud computing and the mobile/social Web affect the global economy. For additional information, please visit