Baylor School of Engineering and Computer Science Offers Degree in Data Science

June 10, 2020
Data Science graphic photo
Data scientist was ranked as the #1 job in the U.S. for 2019. With the tech industry growing rapidly, it couldn’t be a better time for Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) to launch its data science degree program.

The Department of Computer Science is adding a Data Science major to its Bachelor of Science in Informatics (BSI) degree program. The new major will begin in the Fall, 2020, and will join the existing BSI major in Bioinformatics.

Already a highly sought after group, 91 percent of Baylor’s May 2020 class of computer science graduates had full-time employment or graduate school lined up with an average starting salary of $77,775 before their graduation date.

“Given the COVID-19 situation, these numbers are simply incredible,” said Dr. Erich Baker, computer science department chair and professor of bioinformatics.

From employer testimonies, we know our Baylor computer science students are some of the best in the industry and stand strong behind the placement percentage. There’s another side to the placement rate too; it represents that computer science careers, specifically data science, are in high demand.

Glassdoor.com reported that in just one year, data science jobs increased by 29 percent between 2017 and 2018. Average base pay for an entry level data scientist is $104,995 annually.

With the surge in these job openings, Baylor’s data science degree program offers its students an incredible platform to enter a lucrative and growing field.

When Baker and his team began the journey of developing curriculum for the data science degree program, he knew the importance of getting input from industry experts to ensure that the program would be relevant in today’s workforce. One of the advisors he reached out to was Rick Seaney, CEO of 3Victors and ECS Board of Advocates member. Seaney’s background is in computer science and mathematics and he’s a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur.

“I was fortunate to participate on the ground floor of several multi-generational transitional startups including the adoption of supercomputers in oil and gas exploration and production in the early to mid-90s,” Seaney said.

Beyond that, he was involved in the move to the Internet in the late 90s, adoption of the Web in the early 2000s, transformation to e-commerce around 2005, and prominence of performance digital marketing and big data around 2008. More recently, Seaney had his hands in the foundation of the next generation data economy led by the adoption of mobile devices, internet of things (IOT) and cloud computing. Currently, he’s heading a recently funded venture by a big data artificial intelligence (AI) startup.

“Dr. Baker asked me to lay out my vision of a set of classes that would create an undergraduate ‘unicorn’ who I would instantly hire,” Seaney said. “It was clear to me there was a gap in tools and technology that wasn’t being addressed at the levels required to turn out a data science ‘Baylor-corn’ including top market share data science development platforms, cloud computing and big data architectures. I also wanted to add in storytelling into the mix including data visualization and presentation as a key part of the data science role is presenting the results that inspire trust from top decision makers.”

With Seaney and other industry experts’ feedback, Baker and computer science faculty worked together to develop the curriculum. It’s an education, Baker says, that can be applied in any field.

“There isn’t a single field that doesn’t rely on data. Computing, mathematics and statistics and be applied to all disciplines within the academy,” Baker said. “Because of that, we require a minor. We want students to take the knowledge of data science and apply it to an underlying domain. That’s what we’re driving at here, is to make those students and researchers-in-training confident in data science, but also bring that back to their domain of interest.”

Galen Swint, BSCS ‘00, managing director of data and technology at Limetree Marketing Group and Department of Computer Science Advisory Board member, agrees and has been a supporter of the new program like Seaney.

“Data scientists are in demand across most industries, from basic research to industry, to public policy,” Swint said. “Most businesses of significant size are generating data and trying to find and apply insights from it. I have experiences with data scientists who have worked to improve coal mine productivity, search and sift through academic research articles, forecast oil well production, and my own work to uncover embedded psychology within marketing.”

Seaney added that he wished he had a dime for every time he’s heard the phrase, “My data person says…”
“There is literally no limit to the number of jobs that are in dire need of quality data scientists and data engineers,” Seaney said.

Beyond just filling jobs, Baylor dedicates itself to pouring into the lives of each of its students to teach them about community, developing a worldwide perspective and Christian values.

“Data science solutions often call for judgment and interpretation. For society, more and more important decisions are being made on the basis of data science analysis and modeling,” Swint said. “There are many questions and interpretations for which Christians can provide a unique and impactful point of view.”

For more information on the Data Science degree program, view our website or check out the flowchart.

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