Data science has become one of the hottest and most valuable tools for businesses and scientists, whether it’s to help find a cure for diseases or figuring out what movie to watch next on Netflix.

Consequently, the data scientist — someone employed to analyze and interpret complex information for research or business — has become one of the most sought-after workers in the country. The number of available data science jobs jumped 29% in just the last year and 344% since 2013, according to job recruiting site, Indeed.com. And the median starting salary for a data scientist is $95,000, according to a 2018 study from job recruiting firm, Burtch Works Executive Recruiting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering.

Computer servers at the University of Utah’s Downtown Data Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

To address that skyrocketing need, the University of Utah’s School of Computing, which is under the College of Engineering, has developed a new bachelor’s of science degree in data science that addresses all aspects of compiling, organizing and analyzing data. It is one of only a handful of universities in America with an undergraduate degree in the discipline. Information about the new degree can be found here.

“There’s a clear demand for it in industry,” says University of Utah School of Computing associate professor Jeff Phillips, who developed the new degree. “Data scientist, data engineer, data analyst — these jobs are some of the best jobs in the U.S., and they’re extremely well paid. Companies are looking for more data scientists than there are available.”

The new degree requires at least 108 credit hours of study and involves studying four core areas related to data science: machine learning, data mining, databases and visualization for data science (presenting data through interactive or easy-to-understand methods).

Some of the classes taught in the curriculum include Data Wrangling (how to compile messy data sets efficiently), Algorithms, Foundations of Data Analysis, Natural Language Processing and even Ethics in Data Science. Another aspect to the curriculum highlights how data science is used in the research of other disciplines from science and engineering to health and medicine and the social sciences.

“Data science methods help reveal new insights about the world,” says U School of Computing assistant professor Marina Kogan. “It allows us to arrive at new and unexpected conclusions from hypotheses we might not have otherwise thought of testing.”

While the bachelor’s degree in data science is new, the University of Utah’s School of Computing already has graduate programs that emphasize the discipline. There is a master’s degree in computing with an emphasis in data management and analysis. The college also has a graduate certificate in Big Data that is for mostly non-traditional students such as full-time employees looking to boost their education.

The new undergraduate degree has the same “rigorous and advanced classes we have for graduates,” Phillips says, but “the degree gives them the most critical material to start their career.”

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Vincent Horiuchipublic relations associate, College of Engineering
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