With 400,000+ job postings in 2016, it’s time to pay attention to the citizen data scientist

By Ben Wohl

Defining Data Analytics

EAB defines data analytics as the process of extracting, organizing, and modeling data to transform it into information for decision-making processes. This definition encompasses both the more technically sophisticated subfield of data science and the more applied subfield of business analytics.

EAB analyzed the skills required for data analytics jobs and determined that the skills combine three domains:

  1. Computing/Programming
  2. Statistics/Mathematics
  3. Business/Communication

The Emergence of the Citizen Data Scientist

The T-shaped professional concept proposes that the ideal employee possesses a set of universal skills (top of T) complemented by mastery in a skill or process (T-stem). Data analytics has historically been seen as the preserve of the T-stem: building mastery. However, as analytics becomes critical for decision making, most professionals will need a facility with analytics to advance their careers, shifting analytics to the top of the T.


The term citizen data scientists is used to describe professionals who use data analytics in their work, but whose job function is outside of the dedicated analytics specialists. A marketing manager is a prominent example of this type of job. For such working professionals, developing and maintaining analytical capabilities in the face of continuing technological advances involves lifelong learning, spurring demand for analytics credentials.

Over the last few years, the number of citizen data scientist job postings has increased significantly. As a generalist analytics role combining function-specific knowledge with analytics skills, citizen data scientists work in almost every industry with jobs distributed across a wide range of metropolitan areas.

Citizen Data Scientists: The New Marketing Manager as Archetype

Citizen Data Scientists

The advent of the citizen data scientist role is exemplified by marketing's transformation in the past years. From the era of Mad Men to iconic Super Bowl ads, marketing used to center on creative ideas.

Now, marketing is data-driven, employing analytics to inform, place, track and assess content. EAB analysis of job postings for marketing managers determined that career entry and advancement now necessitates a proficiency in analytics. This emphasis on analytics skills shows no signs of abating—a majority of global executives surveyed in Bain & Company’s Management Tools & Trends report agreed that "advanced analytics are transforming our marketing strategy."

How COE Units Can Best Serve Citizen Data Scientists

How COE Units Can Best Serve Citizen Data Scientists

EAB analysis highlighted there is a large aggregate number of “citizen data scientist” jobs available. But the jobs are dispersed over a wide assortment of positions. For instance, the top five most common derivatives of citizen data scientist job titles account for only 10% of the job postings.

Consequently, serving current and aspiring citizen data scientists entails accommodating this wide range of occupations. To do so effectively, COE units should offer an array of credentials.

By assessing the range of credentials available for citizen data scientist, EAB pinpointed two primary ways to serve this growing market:

COE Units
  1. Offer highly customizable certificates. This allows current or aspiring citizen data scientists to tailor short-term degrees to their particular career and skill-building objectives. Indiana University’s certificate exemplifies this approach, as seen above.

  2. Add analytics tracks within non-analytics graduate degrees. This improves the marketability of both the degrees and graduates. A wide range of programs from MBAs to computer science masters now include analytics tracks. For example, Northwestern University has added a sports analytics track within its existing Master’s in Sports Administration to attract aspiring sports business professionals who require a working knowledge of analytics to succeed.

Get More Insight on Citizen Data Scientists and Other Analytics Program Opportunities

EAB will release the study, Data Analytics: Capitalizing on Creative Disruption, in the next few months. It provides labor market analysis, perspective, and insight on the full range of credential opportunities that can serve both aspiring and current citizen data scientist and analytics specialists.

In the meantime, the next two expert insight pieces in our series will cover:

  • How to quickly test and fund new analytics electives and certificates.
  • How you can learn from bootcamps to adapt your analytics program’s curricula to continuous marketplace change.

Register for our upcoming webinar, Data Analytics: Maximizing the COE Opportunity

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How COE units can help close the skills gap

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