Making Sense of Big Data - New undergraduate Data Science program

Posted on Wednesday, December 4, 2019

New undergraduate Data Science program at uOttawa to address the growing need for organizations to make sense of big data.

A recent study by the McKinsey Global Institute has revealed that the demand for data scientists is already exceeding the supply in many sectors, and that the shortage will only increase in the years to come. has also reported an increase of 128% in job postings for data scientists from 2015 to 2018. For this reason, uOttawa created a highly specialized and intensive undergraduate program in Data Science in order to provide future students with a solid foundation to succeed in this emerging field.

Why is there such a pressing need for data scientists in industry?

In the Internet era, the term Big Data is frequently making headlines, though not everyone is sure what it means exactly. Initially, Big Data simply referred to an amount of data too big to be analyzed by humans, so that a computer had to be used. But nowadays, the amounts of data produced everyday by businesses, governments, science research (and of course, web and mobile devices) requires specialized expertise.

With amounts of data that big, there comes a huge potential for the generation of new knowledge. At a small scale, that knowledge could help organizations be more efficient and better address society’s needs. At a larger scale, big data holds answers that could significantly improve climate change, world-wide health, and our understanding of human behavior. And while analyzing data to identify patterns has been around for a long time, it is now possible for machines to use it to make predictions (this is called Machine Learning), and even to make decisions (a concept of Artificial Intelligence).

97.2% of organizations have invested in big data and AI initiatives according to a survey with sixty Fortune 1000 companies.

However, Big Data means nothing without experts to make sense of this voluminous amount of data. And as more and more data are created, the need for experts to derive meaning from that data keeps increasing. This is where data scientists come in.

New Data Science program

Data scientists need a particular combination of mathematical and statistical knowledge, as well as computer science skills. There was a significant need to create a new program that would respond to the interest of students and to the expectations of graduate schools and employers. As emphasized by Marcel Turcotte, Professor at the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: "In order to stay relevant, you have to have a deep understanding of the theory behind algorithms; this is precisely the aim of our data science program. We have created the undergraduate program that we all would have taken."

What to expect from uOttawa’s Data Science program:

  • Dual degree in both Mathematics and Computer Science over the length of 5 years
  • Extra year allows for students to receive a highly specialized and intensive training in Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science all at once
  • Specific courses to the Data Science program, such as a brand new Machine Learning class
  • Hands-on experience from the first year of study to the last, through various projects and a Data Science Lab.
Out of 200 career paths, Data Scientist is ranked the #1 job on CareerCast's 2019 jobs Rated Report.

Ultimately, this new program will train students to become highly skilled data scientists, which has proven to come with many benefits. Because of the growing need for organizations to make sense of big data, the average salary for data scientists in Canada is currently $103,808. Consequently, ranked Data Scientists #4 for the best jobs in Canada this year, while CareerCast put them #5 in their list of the top 200 career paths to follow.

See program details: Data Science

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