The sexiest job of the 21st century: data analyst

With interest in big data growing exponentially, many experts fear that US companies may not be able to compete with their international competitors. And educating workers about generous wages and work extras makes it harder to find truly qualified people.

“People add buzzwords to resumes and look for 50% or 100% more, and they get it,” said Scott Gnau, president of Teradata Data Lab. “There are a lot of people who can spell Hadoop and put it on their CVs and call themselves data scientists, and nothing could be further from the truth. We as an industry need to define that term. ”

While the title of “data scientist” is somewhat global now, Gnau expects three areas of specialty to emerge soon: technologists, who write the algorithms and code to process large amounts of data; statisticians and quantification experts; and artist-explorers, creatives who can navigate content and find something that others don’t see. Each area will require specific training.

“You go from managing slightly complex data sets and very structured volumes [today] to sort out the data Wild West, ”said Bearden. “It’s high speed. The volume is extraordinary. ”

(Read more: The most important name in Big Data)

While some universities, including Arizona State, Oklahoma State, and the University of Georgia, offer big data-focused programs, these students won’t enter the workforce for several years.

Some labor experts say it could be too long, given the deluge of big data opportunities now as well as the near-term horizon. Some present immigration reform as a potential silver bullet, but the problem remains a minefield.

“We are woefully unprepared for what is to come,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger Gray & Christmas, an outplacement company. “If we were smart, not only would we strive to encourage the best technologists in the school to take this path – with programs designed and encouraged – we will fight to become the place where the world’s brains want to come and live. instead, with our visa programs, we make it difficult. ”

This need for knowledgeable employees is part of the reason Facebook formed a political action committee to pressure Capitol Hill on the issue. But the case is unlikely to be settled anytime soon, so employers who need data scientists should look elsewhere.

(look: In the world of big data monitoring)

Sean N. Ayres