From education to employment

Businesses shun data science degrees in favour of practical skills

Source: Data Literacy Index, PSB Research business decision maker survey

Global enterprises hiring practical data skills over data science degrees 

Global study, commissioned by Qlik on behalf of the Data Literacy Project, highlights immense career opportunity of upskilling to understand and work with data

Job seekers with demonstratable experience of data might soon overtake those with data science degrees when it comes to the candidates global enterprises are seeking, according to a major survey of global business decision makers commissioned by data and analytics firm Qlik, on behalf of the Data Literacy Project.

Almost two-thirds (59%) of global enterprises surveyed ranked prior job experience or a case study interview, where a candidate is presented with and must solve an example business problem to demonstrate their data skills, as the top indicator of a candidate’s data literacy. By contrast, only 18% viewed a Bachelor or Master degree in science – let along data science – or even a Doctorate degree as its primary consideration when hiring.

This means that the opportunity to take advantage of the improved career prospects and salaries associated with data literacy is not limited to those with degrees in data science or STEM subjects. This follows a wider trend identified by Glassdoor ranking that an increasing amount of technology companies are ditching the degree in favor of these skills to help candidates get their foot in the door.

Actively seeking data decision makers

Most businesses (63% globally, 68% in Europe) are actively looking for candidates that can demonstrate their ability to use, work with and analyse data in all parts of their organisation – presenting a good opportunity for those who can demonstrate these valuable skills. Indeed, data-driven decision makers that have a foundational understanding of data and analytics will account for one-third of the job market for those with data skills, with a projected increase of  110,000 position by 2020 – that equates a 14% increase since 2015, according to IBM.

This is perhaps unsurprising given the massive growth opportunities for data literate businesses (those with higher levels of individual data skills, data dispersion across the enterprise, and data decision making). Qlik’s Data Literacy Index revealed large enterprises that are more data literate experience a 3 to 5% higher enterprise value (the total market value of the business), which represented an additional £262-$438 million for the surveyed organisations.

But DSM (Data Science and Analytics) professions – which includes all data-informed roles from data scientists and data analysts, to business analysts and data-enabled marketing managers -are the hardest to fill in the entire market, typically remaining open for 45 days.

With a crisis affecting the entire data skills spectrum, with notably just 24% of the global employees confident in their data literacy skills, these highly sought-after skills can help people become valuable to their employers and translate into higher personal income.

While not all business leaders surveyed were aware of how their firm remunerates data literate employees, Qlik’s survey revealed that 75% of those up to speed on their company’s policy reported paying higher salaries to employees with that have the ability to read, work with, analyze and argue with data.

Companies lagging on investing in their own workforce

However, despite recognising the value of on-the-job experience and data certifications, 50% of companies said they don’t provide data literacy training to their own employees, with only 34% of decision makers stating they have programs in place. This is despite 78% of global employees saying they would be willing to invest more time and energy into improving their data skill sets.*

Those individuals motivated to pursue their own upskilling have the opportunity to supercharge their career and unlock new opportunities – particularly as data grows in importance across all enterprises.

Eighteen percent (18%) of business decision makers said that a data-skills certification – something that can be earned well after college or formal education – was the best indicator of a candidate’s data literacy and demonstrated the ability to use the techniques most required today.

This means anyone that invests in improving their data skills – no matter what existing qualifications – can access more career opportunities associated with data literacy.

“What we look for are people who are curious and inquisitive, have a passion for doing the right thing, and are open to using data to find insights that support better business outcomes”, said Lee Raybould, Chief Data Officer at Nationwide Building Society.

“The volume and variety of data is constantly growing, and the insight it can unlock to allow firms to be more successful is incredible, but, you need people who are prepared to engage with data, and to gain an understanding of how to use and interpret it to support decision making no matter what their job role. That why, in my view, democratizing data in an easily consumable way and encouraging people in all parts of your firm to upskill and feel comfortable with data will be key to future success.”

“Making decisions on the right data at the right time is critical to providing the right care programs and ensuring all our patients receive the same standard and quality of treatment. We need our doctors, nurses and hospital managers to all be able to use data to make decisions – and we certainly couldn’t expect them all to have data science degrees on top of their medical qualifications. We’d have no team! Instead, we look for people with previous experience with data or the desire to understand how using data could help them. With our Citizen Developer and Analyst program, including our Data Swagger education sessions, we can support them in developing those skills and applying those skills to their work,” commented Rishi Muchhala, Manager of Enterprise Intelligence at Nemours Children’s Health System

Jordan Morrow, Head of Data Literacy at Qlik and Chair of the Data Literacy Project, commented:

“The study’s findings are unmistakable – the career benefits associated with data literacy are a universal opportunity. Organisations are increasingly understanding the value is not in having data, but transforming their data into value to make better decisions – and we’re seeing this increased appreciation translating into greater opportunities for data-literate individuals.”

“We hope these findings will encourage those at every stage of their career to embark upon learning or improving their own data skills so they can start reaping its rewards,” he continued.

To support those individuals that want to expand and evidence their data literacy skills, Qlik offers an Academic Program to drive data literacy amongst students, before they enter the world of work. It also recently launched a first-of-its-kind e-learning program for non-experts that awards a certification in data literacy.

Qlik has made key elements of this program available free of charge via the Data Literacy Project, the global community dedicated to igniting richer discussion and developing the tools we need to shape a confident and successful data literate society.

About the research

Business decision maker survey – The survey was conducted by PSB Research in the period of June 27 through July 18, 2018. Business decision makers were selected from global publicly traded companies, with at least 500 employees and which represented a wide range of industries including banking and financial services, manufacturing, retail, transportation, healthcare, energy, construction, utilities, and communications. The total number of interviews conducted was 604: 200 in US and Europe, 204 in Asia.

Corporate Data Literacy scores – The measure of corporate data literacy was established by IHS Markit and a Professor from the Wharton School. It lies on a continuum based on (1) the data skills of the employees (human capital) (2) data-driven decision making and (3) data skill dispersion (how widespread is the use of data throughout the organization). A survey was designed to measure the three dimensions of corporate data literacy. For each question a scale was developed from the categorical responses and the z-score computed to standardize responses across all indicators in order to aggregate them. The overall corporate data literacy score is computed as the sum of the three pillar scores. For the global sample, the distribution of CDL scores range from a low of 0 to a high of 100.

Measures of Firm Performance – The corporate value can be interpreted as the percentage difference in enterprise value of the organization for a one standard deviation difference in the corporate data literacy score, holding fixed all other assets of the firm. The analysis of performance was completed using public financial data for the surveyed companies. The result is statistically significant at conventional levels, and consistent with estimates from the performance regressions using other performance variables.

* Source: How to Drive Data Literacy within the Enterprise

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