"If you want to get a job quickly, figure out how to become a data scientist," says Jim Davis, executive vice president and CMO at SAS.
While said half in jest, Davis points to the growing gap in this skill set across the globe.
"That gap that I see today is we have IT organisations on this side, and we have analysts on the other. But over there, we have the business user and the line of business that have needs to be addressed."
The data scientist is someone who can sit in between and has the following skill sets, he says. "They have the appreciation for what technology can bring to bear, they know what analytics are available and possible, and number three, which is very important, is they have very good communication skills."
The latter is important so "they can bridge the gap between the two communities".
He says this was the reason why SAS started a master's of science in analytics at the North Carolina State University.
In addition, SAS has helped launch more than 30 master's degrees and 60 certificate programs in analytics and related disciplines. The past year saw new master's degree programs at Michigan State University, University of Maryland, University of Missouri, George Washington University, Shiv Nadar University, Indian Institute of Management and University of South Australia.
He says the master's degree is an intense program whose graduates come out with a highly sought skill set.
He says an average graduate of the program receives up to nine job offers on the day they graduate.
"My advice is, whatever you are studying, make sure you take into consideration what technology can do for your area of expertise.
"It does not mean you have to become a computer science major, but understand what is possible with data. Today, data and analytics have become so important and integral to decision making. If you want to succeed, you have got to have an understanding of what that means."
He says there is no shortage of organisations needing this skill.
Data and analytics have become so important and integral to decision making. If you want to succeed, you have got to have an understanding of what that means.
Jim Davis, SAS
"Unemployment is high in certain parts of the world, but there is negative unemployment for the data scientist, the one bridging the gap between the line of the business and the people on the data and analytics side."
The average starting salary for somebody coming out of the program exceeds that of the national average for an MBA graduate, he states.
Filling the 'persistent' skills gap
At the SAS Global Forum last week, the analytics software and services company reported on various programs it has started to reduce the "persistent" analytics skills gap.
An MIT Sloan Management study, The Talent Dividend, released during the conference reported technology is no longer the key inhibitor for organisations struggling to derive value from analytics, but the lack of analytical talent is.
To narrow the gap, SAS launched SAS Analytics U, a broad education initiative which includes university partnerships and engaging user communities that support the next generation of SAS users. This was launched last year and has had thousands of professors and learners of all ages across the globe, including Australia and New Zealand.
"We hear it every day from customers: They need people who can make sense of data and apply it to make better business decisions," said Emily Baranello, director of the SAS education practice.
"Budding data scientists and existing experts alike are flocking to SAS Analytics U to build and hone their skills. They'll be positioned to capture tremendous career opportunities."
SAS University Edition, which provides free access to SAS software quickly and easily for students, professors and independent learners, has been downloaded nearly 245,000 times since the launch last May.
In addition, nearly 34,000 professors, students and researchers are now using powerful, advanced analytics through free, cloud-based SAS OnDemand for Academics.
In the last year, learners accessed free SAS e-learning courses more than 45,000 times and viewed video tutorials nearly one million times. SAS certifications are up 8 per cent.
SAS says Australia and New Zealand learners are among the participants in the program. More than 3000 learners from Australia and New Zealand have taken advantage of the free access SAS University Edition.
In addition to accessing the free software, students and learners across Australia and New Zealand are upskilling with more than 1200 downloads of two fundamental e-Learning courses -- Programming 1 and Statistics 1, says SAS.
Since the start of the year, more than 250 teachers -- including university professors and lecturers -- have attended its workshops in Australia and New Zealand, according to SAS.
Divina Paredes attended the 2015 SAS Global Forum and Executive Conference as a guest of SAS