Analytics Degree offered months after approval

Photo by Brenda Lin

Shortly after the Board of Regents’ approval in May, Tech’s new Masters in Analytics program had its first class this semester with forty students.

Analytics is a field which combines various aspects of business, computing and industrial engineering. The first such program was offered seven years ago at North Carolina State. Tech’s program, which was conceived this past spring, was quickly approved by the board of regents. This was thanks in part to strong industry backing, according to Professor Joel Sokol, the director of the program.

According to Sokol, there was some concern over whether they would have a sufficient number of applicants to have a class start this year. The program was approved by the Board on May 20th, applications were online approximately a week later and applications were due in mid-June. Due to the quick development of the program, the majority of the applicants to the program were students that had not applied elsewhere or were waiting to accept other offers, according to Sokol.

“We were hoping for twenty good students. That was the goal,” Sokol said.

Applications were only open for approximately one month, yet they received roughly 70 applications for the program, 45 of which were accepted. Of those, 40 have enrolled in the program for this academic year.

“I honestly can’t tell you how we got so many quality applicants,” Sokol said.

According to Sokol, the incoming class is very qualified for the program. They come from diverse backgrounds, ranging from anthropology to computer science to religion. The median GPA was a 3.7, and the GRE and GMAT median scores were in the 93rd percentile. 15 enrolled students have masters’ degrees, five have PhDs or MDs and one quarter of the class has more than ten years’ worth of work experience.

The analytics degree is offered as a one-year masters program. The program consists of three tracks: Analytical Tools, Business Analytics and Computational Data Analytics.

“They’re not quite as specialized as the threads in the College of Computing, but they do streamline the student’s route to a particular field,” Sokol explained.

The Analytical tools track focuses primarily on quantitative methodology, including how to build, analyze and solve statistical models. The Business track leans  more towards the applications of analytics in industry and the Computational Data track deals with management of large amounts of data.

“The interesting thing about our program is that the degree is interdisciplinary,” Sokol said.

A motivating factor for the decision to make the course interdisciplinary was the fact that Tech’s programs of Computing, ISYE and Business are ranked as the top 9th, 1st and 7th in the nation, respectively according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Interdisciplinary knowledge is also highly valued by the industry, according to Sokol.

“We’ve already had a bunch of companies ask how to… hire them after they graduate, how to  get involved… how to give our students internships, how to hire them for full time jobs at the end—there really is a lot of interest,” Sokol said.

Industry representatives were also greatly involved in the approval process for the program.

“We got a lot of support from industry just when we were proposing it,” Sokol said. “We asked about a dozen companies, and they said [they’d] be happy to give you a letter of support…. We kind of had to cut it off and say, ‘okay we don’t want to bombard the Board of Regents with letters’…”

Next year, Tech looks to have more marketing for the program to reach all interested students. Because of the short turnaround between Board of Regents Approval and the start of the semester, Tech was not able to mount a full marketing campaign.