Carving Out a Career in Big Data

Everywhere you turn nowadays it seems clearer than ever that Big Data is here to stay in the job market.  At one-time career hopefuls could have been forgiven for dismissing the trending job titles as just another phase, but whether it’s the hot news story of the morning or career networking websites, big data is the phrase on everyone’s lips.  Here we delve into the whats whys and how your career can end up benefiting from knowing all there is to know about Big Data.

What is Big Data?

Big Data is an overly broad term used to define the types of information collected on technology users by, well, everyone.  From your clicking habits, while browsing Facebook to how long you pause over a given picture on Instagram, companies are collecting information on those who utilize their services.

Online retail establishments do this also, capturing keywords searched, items clicked on and shopping cart to checkout ratios, all in order to better improve the customer experience and ultimately sales.  The information is then attached to your user login or a “cookie” placed on your computer that, over time, creates a detailed picture of your entire internet and technology usage habits. This accumulative information, collected by a variety of sources, is analyzed, sold, resold and reused by retail, social media, marketing, and even political groups, all vying for the most effective way to capture the attention of their target audience.

What Types of Jobs Are There For Big Data?

As you can imagine, the breadth of information and the sheer quantity of bytes collected has given birth to an entire career field dedicated to dealing with Big Data.  Information needs gathering from Engineers, Software Designers, and Data Mining Specialists. Once you have the info, Analysts, Data Analytics Engineers or Data Architects are typically needed to help interpret the random pieces and work them into a valuable research tool.  

Finally, with the uptick in collecting Big Data comes the corresponding public outcry for privacy and compliance concerns.  Compliance and Data Privacy positions dealing exclusively with Big Data are one of the hottest and fastest growing fields as the U.S. races to catch up to countries in Europe who are already developing national policies on what can be done with Big Data gathered information and when.

What Skills Are Needed?

The market for big data is, well, BIG, and the number of jobs associated with the field is always growing.  While this information may be helpful if you’re a job seeker looking to bust into the field, it’s often difficult to know just where to begin when it comes to acquiring the necessary skills to score a role in the up-and-coming industry.

The good news for indecisive types is there isn’t one specific education path to qualifying for a job in big data.  Overall, familiarity with computers and a high level of attention to detail will serve you well, but from there its a wide-open world for education, expertise or specific skill sets.  

That doesn’t mean there aren’t specific skills or training necessary to some of the more technical positions within the big data world.  For a near-guaranteed hire, knowledge in the following areas will certainly help give you the leg up:

  • Data mining and machine learning techniques
  • Data visualization tools
  • Data warehousing
  • ETL (extract, translate, load)
  • Hadoop (Hadoop is an Apache project to provide an open-source implementation of frameworks for reliable, scalable, distributed computing and data storage.)
  • Predictive modeling
  • Statistical modeling with tools such as R, SAS, or SPSS
  • Structured and unstructured databases
  • Industry best practices for data protection
  • Rules and regulations regarding the protection of confidential or sensitive personal information

Where to Acquire These Skills

While some of our readers may have been lucky enough to acquire a background in these areas while in college or another secondary schooling, the rest of us may need to pick certain skills up on the fly.  A great place to start your learning for the field is Big Data University.  This intensive course is designed to provide candidates with the fundamental skills they need to strike out on their own in a job field where knowledge is key.

In addition to independent online or physical courses, many software vendors in the world of big data offer online training courses and independent certifications.  Having these notches in your expertise belt can not only provide you with new skills, they can also set you apart from the crowd in a highly competitive role help make you an even more attractive prospect for big data job recruiters.

Mold an Existing Analytics Job into a Big Data Analytics Job

One of the most exciting aspects of having a career in a cutting-edge field is the opportunity for advancement and improvisation.  If your company or role already requires collection and analysis of data from numerous sources, why not develop a proposal for upping the game when it comes to utilizing the information.  Start by picking the desired outcome, such as increased sales, customer retention or outreach, and then crafting a plan that shows how the data you already collect can help achieve those ends with just a few tweaks.  Not only will you help your company’s overall performance, you’ll also help boost your reputation as a go-getter and innovator, opening new pathways within your position.

The Big Data Bottom Line

Whether it’s a topic on your news feed or nightly news desk fix, big data and their corresponding careers, are here to stay.  Identifying the trend is a great place to start for those looking to strike out on the big data career path. If you’re already in a position that utilizes this vital information, look to see how you can make a name for yourself with advanced certifications, acquiring skills or implementing new plans for your company.  Finally, don’t forget the peripheral or complementary fields that big data has to offer. Ethics, privacy and the responsible use of big data will continue to be a hot-button issue for employers and individuals alike. Much like the information itself, the key to getting ahead in big data is flexibility and adaptation.  With these skills, you too can make your name in this up and coming career niche.

Article Updated from the Original on March 26, 2008