Big Data skills

A student asked me: “What skills do I need to work in the Big Data area?” “Where can I learn these skills?” Please advice.

Answer: Big Data is an emerging area of Information Technology (IT) that deals with building “data products” based on complex algorithms. It is a combination of computing technology, mathematics, and data management areas. Big Data Skills are often taught in a Master’s degree program (Master in Computer Science that specialize in Big Data or Master in Information Technology in Data Analytics etc.).

As a Master’s degree, it requires that you have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering or Information System Management to apply. That also means that you must have a strong programming skills in Java, C++ or Python, have good knowledge of data structures and algorithms, and understand software development lifecycle, especially for software that perform complex tasks.

In this program you will take a few courses in Artificial Intelligence (AI) such as Machine Learning and Statistics to develop algorithms that deal with large datasets. You will learn about several algorithms used in machine learning, which problems they solve, and how they are implemented. (i.e., recommendation engines, decision trees, Natural Language Processing etc.) You also take several courses in modeling tools such as R or Matlab or SAS. These statistical analysis and visualization tools are very important in Big Data works to perform regression analysis, clustering analysis, and data classification.

To deal with large datasets, you also need to take courses to learn about Hadoop, MapReduce, NonSQL, Pig and Hive and Mahout.

Big Data is new and is still evolving. You have to learn a lot of technical skills and put into practice to gain experience. Therefore to develop Big Data skills, it will take time, effort to work as a Data Specialist or Data Scientist. Today Big Data is one of the area that has highest demand with the highest paid in the industry because there is a critical shortage of these skills.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University