VCU offers new Master of Decision Analytics degree

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A new Master of Decision Analytics degree in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business will give students expertise in advanced statistical analysis, big-data information technology and state-of-the-practice analytics software.

Students will get experience using real — and sometimes messy — data to solve real problems for real clients. Classes start this fall.

The degree’s traditional track offers evening classes that can be taken full or part time. The professional track is a weekend cohort program specifically designed for working professionals who want to earn the advanced degree without interrupting their careers.

“Our goal is to produce professionals who not only have the technical abilities to create insight from data, but the interpersonal, communication and practical skills to be truly transformative for their organizations,” said Stephen Custer, Ph.D., director of the professional track. “We called the program ‘Decision Analytics’ because we are not doing analytics for the sake of analytics, but to use data to help organizations make better operational and strategic decisions.”

An advisory board comprising senior data scientists and executives from Capital One, SunTrust, Altria, Dominion Power, IBM, Bon Secours, McKesson Medical, Snagajob, Chmura Economics & Analytics, B&B Printing, Cardlytics and Havas Discovery helped shape the program and will assure it stays on the leading edge of analytics practices. The STEM program will emphasize communication, presentation and teamwork skills.

Guest speakers from the business community will join instructors from the VCU School of Business and College of Humanities and Sciences. In addition, faculty from the VCU Department of Theatre will lead classes in effective presentations, while outside consultants and coaches will work with students on teamwork and leadership skills.

There is a large and growing demand for professionals who can obtain valuable insight from data. Glassdoor, a technical recruiting company, recently ranked data scientist No. 1 of 25 technical jobs in both work-life balance and median salary. The demand is driven by the proliferation of big data as more organizations adopt data-driven decision making.

Applications for classes starting in fall 2016 and spring 2017 are now being accepted.

For more information on the program, contact Austen Gouldman at 804-828-4622, or visit