The Asian Institute of Management launched last November 8 its pioneering Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program, the first of its kind in the Philippines and one of the first in Asia. It began accepting applications for the inaugural class that starts in March 2018 and ends 14 months later in February 2019.
Despite the full-time nature of the program and the hefty $26,500 tuition fee, the program has already attracted over 40 applicants, including the top PhD physics graduate of one of the country’s best universities, medical doctors and even lawyers, according to Erika Fille T. Legara, the academic director of the MSDS program. Legara, a PhD physicist herself, used to work with the Singapore government’s premiere research institution, Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) until she was hired by AIM early this year.
Christopher Monterola, the head of the AIM’s School of Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship (SITE), which hosts the MSDS program, said the school will hold roadshows in different parts of the country and the region to attract more high-quality applicants from which they can choose the best participants for the inaugural class. “We want to get as many as 250 applicants,” said the former head of Complex Systems Capability Group at Singapore’s A*STAR who was also hired by AIM just this year.
SITE is the AIM’s fourth and newest school that offers three of the institute’s six graduate degree programs.
“Data science is the fastest-growing and most sought-after specialization worldwide, and we at AIM are proud to launch the Master of Science in Data Science program in the Philippines,” said AIM President and Dean Jikyeong Kang. “This is our most thought-through, most intelligent and most appropriate response to prepare for the changes and challenges digitalization throws at us,” Kang said.
The 14-month-long MSDS program will include 10 core data science modules, at least four business management modules, two electives and a capstone project that requires students to work with real-world problems. The AIM MSDS curriculum, crafted by experienced scientists and international practitioners, guarantees that students will be immersed in the different techniques and technologies used in the field of advanced analytics.
A recent report by PwC, one of world’s biggest accounting and professional services firms, estimates demand for analytic roles will reach 2.9 million jobs in the United States by 2018 from 2.3 million in 2015. And demand seems to be getting ahead of supply. Data science jobs in information technology are taking twice as long to fill than the national benchmark average, according to PwC.
Not surprisingly, PwC says that average pay for data science and analytics jobs range from $70,000 to $94,000, based on advertised postings, reaffirming the Harvard Business Review’s description of data science as “the sexiest job of the 21st century” in 2012.
Rising demand for data science jobs is also true in Asia. Malaysia, for example, is projecting it will need 12,000 Big Data scientists in the next five years to spur the country’s data-driven economy, according to AIM.
The Philippines is also seen to need “an army of data scientists,” according to business leaders. However, this is not yet evident from postings on popular online job sites such as JobStreet.com or LinkedIn, where there are just a couple of dozen advertisements for data science jobs in the Philippines in each platform. The advertised pay for these jobs are also rather modest, making it likely that the initial graduates of the AIM’s MSDS program will probably find lucrative work outside the country.
Because of the hefty tuition fee for the MSDS program, many of the students, especially if they are employed by large companies, will likely be sponsored by their employers. “Some companies have requested us to accommodate 4-5 of their employees but we're getting only a maximum of two per company,” said Monterola. “We value diversity.”
AIM wants to make sure that not just large companies but even employees of small and medium enterprises participate in the program. Maria Elena B. Herrera, head of AIM’s Master in Entrepreneurship program, said it’s not the size of the company that will determine whether it will benefit or not from data science but rather its growth potential.
“Do I have what I believe now is a winning business model for which I need to make decisions concerning growth?” she explained, defining a criteria for companies that can use data science. “If I'm looking to grow, to replicate the current business model and need to make decisions concerning markets, which locations, which particular products should I focus on, so anytime I have to make decisions across multiple alternatives, one should really seriously consider data science. It's not so much where you are right now but where you want to go, what decisions you need to make.”