Career alert: A Master of analytics degree is the ticket -- if you can get into class

As demand for data degrees rise, acceptance rates fall

The toughest part about earning a Master of Science in Analytics at North Carolina State University (NCSU) may be deciding which job to accept.

The 75 students in the class of 2014, which is nearing graduation, received, in total, 246 job offers from 55 employers.

Added together, the starting salaries and bonuses offered to grads of the university's Institute of Advanced Analytics reached $22.5 million, which is 24% higher than last year's combined offers. (This is an analytics program, after all; they keep track of these things.)

This meant that lot of employers went home unhappy, unable to get the candidate they were after, despite offering nearly six-figure salaries on average -- and bonuses as well.

High demand by employers is also boosting applications, and that's reducing acceptance rates.

The university received close to 800 applications for its next class, three times the number of just two years ago, when it doubled enrollment to 85. The school will offer admission to 99 or 100 students, for an acceptance rate of just 12.5%.

"We will turn away quite a large number of applicants this year and a fair number of them are otherwise qualified," said Michael Rappa, the founding director of the institute, which in 2007 became the first in the nation to offer a Master of analytics program. NCSU isn't alone in turning away qualified applicants.

Northwestern University's Master of Science in Analytics, at the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, received 600 applications for 30 openings its September class, its third class since launching the program. That's an acceptance rate of 6%, according to a spokesperson at the university.

There's much demand for businesses quantitative skills, and nationally, Rappa says universities need to add capacity to meet demand for these skills.

MBA programs dominate business training, but Rappa believes the salary offers for rthe analytics grads of his program are on par with MBA grads at elite schools.

The average starting salary for these students, after completing the 10-month full-time program, was $96,500. Last year, the average was $95,700, and the year before that, it was $89,100.

Signing bonuses average $12,000, and range from $5,000 to $20,000.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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