What is Big Data Analytics and Why is it Important?

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By DeVry University

November 6, 2020
5 min read

If you’re interested in the tech world, you've probably heard the term “big data” and know that “big data analytics” refers to a career field. However, you might still have questions about what big data is and what kind of jobs you can pursue in this industry. So what is big data analytics and how can you tell if a degree in it may be right for you? Let’s break it down.

What Is Big Data?

Before we can discuss big data analytics, we need to understand what it means. So exactly what is big data? The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) defines big data as datasets that are so large, they can’t be analyzed through traditional statistical processes. You may be familiar with megabytes of data (one million bytes) or even gigabytes (one billion bytes). But big data is measured in exabytes (one quintillion bytes).

Big data can consist of numbers, words, phrases, pictures, videos and any other types of data. It can be structured, consisting of words and numbers that are easy to categorize. Or it may be unstructured, made up of complex natural language that cannot be easily sorted, such as social media comments or customer reviews.

Why Is Big Data Important?

At its heart, big data can help companies run more efficiently. How it’s used varies by field, from urban planners studying traffic patterns and finance professionals searching for security breaches to healthcare analysts tracking disease outbreaks in real-time. Regardless of the field, though, big data can help improve the customer experience and assist businesses in making decisions that boost productivity and increase their bottom line.

What Kinds of Careers Are Available in Big Data?

Depending on your education, experience and location, you may have access to a range of career options in big data. With a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area of study, you might choose to become a Data Scientist, Business Intelligence Analyst or Big Data Engineer. If your interests run more to the software side, a Database Administrator or Data Architect role might be a good fit. With relevant work or education experience, earning a graduate certificate or an MBA (Master's of Business Administration) may open up management opportunities, including roles such as Marketing Manager or Business Intelligence Manager.

The skills learned while earning a big data degree may be applicable to various roles outside of technology as well. Healthcare, science, telecommunications, social media, government, finance and even politics are just a few fields that now employ specialists in big data. Whether you like to solve logistics problems or want to work in particle physics, whether you picture yourself running a political campaign or inventing the next big social network, advancing your education in big data may help you prepare to get there.

How Can I Advance My Skills in Big Data?

If you want to pursue a future in big data, there are a few approaches you can take. You can get your feet wet with a complimentary one-hour video known as Data Analytics with Power BI, which can help you determine whether big data is right for you. Then, if you are more software-minded, move on to a Bachelor’s in Software Development with a Specialization in Big Data and Analytics. If your interests are more business-focused, consider a Specialization in Business Intelligence and Analytics Management.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you might want to consider going on to graduate school. You could pursue an MBA in Business Intelligence and Analytics Management. Another option is a Graduate Certificate in Big Data and Analytics. You can earn your certificate in a fraction of the time that a full MBA takes, and then transfer your qualifying credits to an MBA program later if you decide to pursue that degree.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Big Data Degree?

How long it takes to get your big data degree depends on which program you choose, the flexibility of your program, and whether you attend classes part-time or full-time. Full-time students can often complete their bachelor’s degree in either Software Development with a Specialization in Big Data and Analytics or Business with a Specialization in Business Intelligence and Analytics Management in less than three years1. The time to complete your program might be even shorter if you have qualifying transfer credits or work or military experience that can be converted to course waivers2 or transfer credit.

A Graduate Certificate in Big Data and Analytics typically takes one year to complete1 with full-time enrollment or less with qualifying transfer credits or course waivers. An MBA requires a minimum of 48 credit hours and can generally be completed in less than three years1, however, if you have an undergraduate degree in business you may qualify to waive up to three courses. If you choose to start with a Graduate Certificate in Big Data and Analytics at Keller, your 18 credit hours earned can directly transfer to our MBA program, leaving you just 30 credit hours to complete.

Who Should Pursue Big Data Analytics?

Big data analytics is a rapidly growing field3 with exciting prospects for the future. It is still relatively new, so those who choose this field may have the opportunity to, in many ways, help to define it. You’ll need a mathematical mind along with such key skills as intellectual curiosity, collaboration and the ability to communicate with nontechnical coworkers. Above all, you need to be a creative thinker who enjoys problem-solving and is unafraid of taking on new challenges.

If this sounds like you, big data analytics can help you pursue a future in many areas of interest, from government and finance to science. As big data continues to expand, you may even be able to chart your own path in a way that people with more field-specific degrees cannot.

Are you ready to jump-start your preparation for a career in big data analytics? Learn more about our flexible online programs and contact us to get started today.

1Not including breaks. Assumes year-round, full-time enrollment.
2Eligibility and application of course waivers varies based on the type of course waiver credit earned, the student’s enrolled location and/or the student’s state of residence. For more information, please refer to the Course Waiver section of the Keller academic catalog.
3According to the BLS, Employment of mathematical science occupations are projected to grow, on a national level, 27.9 percent from 2016 to 2026. Local growth will vary by location. https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-7/big-data-adds-up.htm

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