The first official graduating class of LSU’s Master of Science in Analytics (MSA) program is seeing some impressive job placement. Nearly all of the 16 students who graduated this spring received job offers before graduation and averaged two job offers per student. LSU offered a pilot program of 10 students in 2011-2012 and all of the students who were seeking jobs obtained employment in the analytics field within a few weeks of graduation.
These new grads don’t fear the employment crisis like other college students. That’s because of the real-world skills they learned in the MSA program at LSU.
Advanced analytics skills in demand
The program was created with support from SAS CEO Jim Goodnight to help with the growing demand for professionals with strong quantitative skills who can effectively and creatively apply knowledge to real business problems.
“Being the number one analytics company in the world we need to make sure that there are future users coming up through the universities,” said Goodnight. “This program at LSU gives students analytical skills that are in high demand.”
The MSA program at LSU is an intensive 12-month course of study. One of the key elements of the program is a project in which a team of students is “hired” by a customer to solve an actual analytics business problem.
“Our students aren’t just learning analytics, but how to apply them in the business world and work in a collaborative environment,” said Jim Van Scotter, Master of Science in Analytics Advisor at LSU. “Our goal is to provide business value and focus on results.”
Mel Lazo was an undergrad at LSU studying mathematics when Van Scotter encouraged him to apply to the program.
“What’s beneficial about this program is that it teaches you practical skills to get a job,” said Lazo. “We did a lot of team work in the class which taught us how to rely on people’s strengths to get the job done.”
The 21-year-old is leaving LSU with two degrees, including a SAS credential in base SAS and a job in analytics at Disney -- all in just four years.
“I sent out about 20 applications and got interviews with about half of the companies,” said Lazo. “I was surprised by how much demand there was in the job market for analytics skills.”
David Maradiaga also graduated from the MSA program and is finishing his PhD in agricultural economics at LSU.
“I joined the MSA program because I knew analytics and big-data are a booming industry and companies are looking specifically for people with these set of skills,” said Maradiaga.
Other graduates landed jobs at companies like Microsoft, GM Financial and other top organizations; about half of the students are staying in Louisiana to work for major local companies.
“We looked at job placement to judge the success of our program and this has been a great year for hiring,” said Ken Koonce, Professor of Experimental Statistics and Dean of the College of Agriculture at LSU. “We had several companies come to us looking for people, but we just didn’t have enough graduates to meet the demand right now. We strive to get there.”
In addition to financial support, SAS provides LSU with free training and educational materials.
“The funding from SAS allows us to do more at a time when budget cuts are hitting higher education,” said Helmut Schneider, Chair of the Information Systems and Decision Sciences Department at LSU. “The additional support has been extremely helpful getting our program on a good foundation and we’re now ahead of other universities working on an advanced analytics program.”
The future of the program
More than 120 students applied for entry into the 2014 class and 27 students were selected and entered the program last month. The overwhelming interest has faculty looking into creating an Analytics Institute and a PhD program in analytics.
“Like any new program, we had some challenges, but we were able to learn from them and complete a successful year,” said Schneider. “We’re looking forward to growing the program and getting the word out about what we’re doing here at LSU.”
LSU's program closely mirrors the Master of Science in Analytics at North Carolina State University, which worked with SAS to launch the nation’s first analytics master’s degree.
SAS, through its Global Academic Program, partners with universities around the world to create degree and joint certificate programs in analytics and related disciplines.
“We believe more universities are going to develop these types of programs that prepare students for careers in analytics,” said Jerry Oglesby, Global Academic Program Director at SAS. “I strongly believe the number of university programs will be quite large in the very near future. As the programs develop, we will continue to support the growth of new analytical talent.”