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Careers in Big Data

In this age of rapid technological change, being able to extract the meaningful patterns from the noise of "big data" is an increasingly valuable skill. We've developed the ability to collect, store and analyze vast quantities of information, but what exactly is big data, and what are some related careers on the rise?

Forbes explains that big data emerges from both traditional and digital sources, both inside and outside companies, and is a source for ongoing discovery and analyses. Traditional data sources include product transactions and financial records, whereas digital sources comprise web behavior and social network interactions.

Big data is often described in terms of volume, velocity and variety and has several functions. It can:

  • Make information more transparent and useful
  • Provide feedback to organizations for performance enhancement
  • Expose various segmentations of customers for better-tailored products and services
  • Inform decision-making
  • Augment the development of future products and services

Mobile devices in particular have rapidly changed the applications of big data across industries by allowing organizations to cross-reference data, track customer behavior and gather volunteered data, especially in social media. As companies better understand the behavior of their client base, they're able to make customized advertisements and appeals for user engagement. Considering CNN's recent estimate that there will be 5 billion mobile device users globally by 2018, these are very significant developments.

In a 2014 report, McKinsey & Company projected the potential value of using big data to various companies and organizations:

  • $149 billion in savings by developed European economies in efficiency improvements
  • $300 billion in savings to the American healthcare system with two-thirds coming from an 8 percent reduction in expenditures
  • $600 billion in savings from a consumer surplus captured by using personal location data

This level of data analysis requires specialized skills such as mathematics, statistics and coding, all skills embodied by data scientists, or people who work to understand the massive data gathered by organizations and industries.

Please consult the visual below for a full list of sources and an exploration of the emergent field of data science.

Careers in Big Data infographic

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