Online Master’s Degree in Big Data Analytics for IoT

Penn State sees this as the era of big data with the future of IoT devices and social media.

Pennsylvania State University is labelling this the era of big data. Who can blame them? Between smartphones, social media, connected sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), the amount of data created every day is daunting. Unfortunately, the amount of people that can crunch those numbers is limited.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, in the near future, the United States will need 190,000 people with analysis expertise and 1.5 million managers that can use big data to formulate their decisions. Additionally, PTC’s CEO Jim Heppelmann estimates that more than 50 billion IoT-connected devices will be operational by 2020. It therefore isn’t surprising that PTC has invested more than $500 million on IoT, with ThingWorx, and big data analytics, with ColdLight.

Clearly, the industry is growing, and Penn State World Campus is looking to meet the growing demand for experts with an online master’s degree in big data. The 30 credit hour master of professional studies (MPS) in data analytics program will focus on both data analytics and business analytics.

“As a society, we’re seeing data being generated at rates like never before, and the data [is] being stored in formats we’re not used to using, such as Twitter feeds or web profiles,” said Colin Neill, an associate professor of software and systems engineering and director of engineering programs at Penn State. “Our new program aims to help solve the onslaught of big data by training the people who can create the infrastructure necessary to mine this vast amount of information.”

The master’s will have a strong engineering influence, as much of its content will be produced and taught by faculty from the Penn State College of Engineering. For instance, the curriculum will cover data management technologies and predictive, prescriptive and descriptive analytics. A business analytics option will also be available, focussing on using big data to drive business.

“The data analytics program was designed to help the students become experts in handling large and complex data sets so they can take advantage of the forecasted career growth in this field,” said David Sylvia, director of academic affairs for graduate programs at Penn State. “They can accomplish this goal with the convenience of balancing their education with their work and family commitments.”

With an industry growing as fast as big data and the IoT, it isn’t surprising to see other universities capitalize on the topic. For example, Johns Hopkins University has added some big data education into their online master’s in computer science.

Thomas Longstaff, program chair at Johns Hopkins, noted how young concepts like big data could quickly become important in academics. He said that a few years ago, it would have been hard to create a big data course that contained more information than hand waving.

Longstaff has a point. Big data is still in an infancy stage, and some students might be apprehensive to spend full tuition rates for such a degree. Therefore, for those looking for a more economical education on big data, MIT’s Online X platform is an option. Online X offers professional courses in STEM, including topics like big data.

For those interested in being an early adopter of Penn State master’s degree, however, applications are open with admission starting in spring 2016. A nine-credit graduate certificate is also available with an option to expand into a full master’s degree.

Written by

Shawn Wasserman

For over 10 years, Shawn Wasserman has informed, inspired and engaged the engineering community through online content. As a senior writer at WTWH media, he produces branded content to help engineers streamline their operations via new tools, technologies and software. While a senior editor at, Shawn wrote stories about CAE, simulation, PLM, CAD, IoT, AI and more. During his time as the blog manager at Ansys, Shawn produced content featuring stories, tips, tricks and interesting use cases for CAE technologies. Shawn holds a master’s degree in Bioengineering from the University of Guelph and an undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo.