Data Science at Houghton

Data Science Vocation WheelWHAT IS DATA SCIENCE?

Data Science is a new field designed to fill the demand for data-savvy professionals in virtually every part of the economy. While there is no one definition for Data Science, it is most often referred to as the art of turning data into action or extracting meaning from numbers.

Data science combines elements of mathematics, statistics, computer science, social sciences, and design to turn data into insight. In virtually all areas of commerce, politics, civil society and humanities, data scientists are developing powerful new approaches to managing and using vast amounts of data.

“This hot new field promises to revolutionize industries from business to government, health care to academia.”

The New York Times


Simply put, data scientists obtain and manipulate data, understand what the data are saying and communicate insights so that others can understand and take action. Data scientists most often work in teams mentored by those with specialized skill and experience.  Good data scientists know what questions to ask that can create the most impact for an organization. These skills can be used to solve problems in a number of sectors.

Business leaders rely on data scientists to improve how they acquire data, determine its value, analyze it and build algorithms for the ultimate purpose of improving how they do business.  For example, used data science to build tailored recommendations for its customers. Their “Frequently bought together” and “Customers also bought” approach generated 20% more revenue using this method. 

In healthcare, data scientists are using tools to map patients’ genes, resulting in personalized medicine.  Patients diagnosed with cancer will no longer have to rely on guesswork for therapy when they can receive medication that is tailored to their individual genes. 

Municipalities use data science to operate smarter and benefit the climate.  The city of Portland, Oregon used technology to optimize the timing of its traffic signals and was able to eliminate more than 157,000 metric tons of CO2 emission in just six years.  Since the Memphis Police Department started using predictive software, it has been able to reduce serious crime by 30%. 

Professional sports teams are turning to data science like never before to reduce risk, improve performance and make a profit.  New data science tools are emerging in a broad range of areas such as performance engineering, injury prevention, in-game decision making and the fan experience. 

Colleges and universities are using data science to identify at-risk students who can receive personalized learning to achieve success.  Learning analytics are being used successfully in other aspects of campus life including targeting for recruitment and fund-raising.


Data scientists are a hot commodity in today’s data-abundant world.

According to FICO, there was a 15,000% increase in job postings for Data Scientists between 2011 and 2012. By 2018, the U.S. will experience a shortage of 1.5 million data literate managers, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report.

Salaries can range from average entry level compensation of $52,000 up to $250,000 per year for top level management positions.

 Data Science salaries


Houghton College prepares students for data science careers by offering a bachelor of science degree in data science.  This degree provides the flexibility to customize with courses in a variety of applied areas such as biology, economics, psychology, business, political science, mathematics, communications and computer science.  This degree also focuses on helping students develop the ethical and critical thinking skills needed to deal with complex situations that arise when handling data in the world at large.

In Houghton’s liberal arts environment students, exposed to a diversity of academic disciplines, are challenged to think critically and are encouraged to be creative problem solvers. Houghton graduates know how to ask good questions and have a broad base of knowledge from which they can make comparisons and inferences. These are the skills employers are looking for in data science teams.

“Houghton College is an ideal environment to create students who are creative, curious, open-minded

problem solvers, with a moral compass and the ability to communicate across a variety of disciplines…all of which are essential skills of a good data scientist.”

Carmen McKell ‘87
President, BaseMetrics Inc.


Hands-on experience is paramount in preparing for a career in data science.  At Houghton, students do this by participating in data science internships both locally and in nearby urban centers. Houghton is strategically located close to one of the largest data science communities in New York City. Through Houghton’s new Vocational Opportunities and Career Advisement Center, a continuous supply of internship opportunities are being explored with companies like Yahoo Labs, SAS, Google, Microsoft and Facebook.

The future belongs to those who understand data


The Center for Data Science Analytics (CDSA) is a non-profit, academic organization bringing together students, faculty, alumni, and industry to create an environment of multidisciplinary collaboration and innovation. It will develop co-curricular programs to support the next generation of data scientists; establish new corporate and alumni partnerships for support; and, through our student-led consulting program, generate data solutions serving our region and the world. The CDSA will parallel Data Science curriculum with focus on Data Science for Business, Data Science for Healthcare, Sports Analytics, and Data Science for Social Good.


For more information on preparing for a career in data science at Houghton College please contact Brandon Hoffman.

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