Quants: supply & demand

Peter Horner, editor

Welcome to another special issue of OR/MS Today dedicated to innovative education. As with all of the previous such special issues, the goal is to shine the spotlight on departments, programs, courses, initiatives, trends, surveys and best practices that are moving the educational dial and enhancing the education of students who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders in the O.R./analytics field.

As we’ve mentioned in this space many times as have countless other media outlets, the demand for “data scientists” (however you care to define the term) is expected to far outpace the number of qualified candidates going forward. The often-quoted 2011 McKinsey study predicted that by 2018, the gap will approach 300,000.
If you’re a recently minted quant grad looking for an industry position, that’s the good news. If you earned your degree from one of the top O.R./analytics programs in the country, your toughest decision might be deciding which of multiple offers to accept.

So everything is rainbows and ponies for quants in the job market, right? Well, not exactly. We can’t ignore a little thing called supply and demand; the job marketplace wants to level out over time. Does that apply to data scientists and analytics professionals of all persuasions? We shall see. In response to the marketplace, we’ve already seen dozens if not hundreds of analytics master’s degree programs crop up at universities throughout the United States and around the world in just the past decade. Certainly the ramped up production of analytics professionals will close the gap between supply and demand. Will it be enough to meet the demand? Time will tell.

At the very least, as more and more analytics grads enter the job market, the competition for choice jobs will increase, forcing job seekers to step up their game and differentiate themselves from their peers. Likewise, universities offering analytics programs and the professors who teach the courses will have to step up their games to remain competitive and attractive to students with ever-growing expectations.

If you happen to be a STEM Ph.D. interested in an academia gig, you already know – or will soon find out – that the competition is fierce. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the supply of STEM Ph.D.s looking for tenure-track professor positions far exceeds the demand. The article quotes Richard Larson, an O.R. professor at MIT and a former president of INFORMS, who says the engineering school at MIT often gets 400 applicants for every open assistant professor job. But that’s a story for another day.

Meanwhile, back to the good news. This issue is packed with informative feature articles, columns and opinion pieces on the state of O.R/analytics education that should be of interest to students and professors alike, no matter what track they’re on.

The coverage ranges from a personal, inside look at the Naval Postgraduate School’s O.R. program (page 24) to Mongolia’s efforts to emphasize analytics in its education system (page 44). In between, you’ll hear from a business school professor who defines analytics through the eyes of his EMBA students (page 28), learn how to communicate with decision-makers (page 32), read best teaching practices from a trio of UPS Prize finalists (page 36) and consider a mandate for STEM educators (page 40).