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New research degree fuels demand for data analysts

by Monica Smith

Aug 09, 2021, 10:00 AM.

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FIU, designated an R1 university for highest research activity, launches a new fully online M.S. in Research Design and Analysis in the spring 2022 semester.

For every organization, research and data are vital for success. Market research and data satisfy the great need for answers, provide a path forward, and a way to understand the impact of decisions large and small. Despite the need for individuals versed in research to interpret big data, medium data and little data, there remains a shortage of professionals who can crunch information and provide sound direction, states Mido Chang, professor of counseling, recreation and school psychology for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS), Occupational Outlook Handbook affirms Chang’s assertion as it reports that employment of research methodologists is projected to grow 35 percent by 2029, much faster than the average for other occupations. These figures also confirm FIU’s resolve as a top (R1) research university to provide students with degrees that fill a need in research.

Degree with distinction

Chang makes clear several unique distinctions about her brainchild, the new M.S. in Research Design and Analysis degree, and underscores that the program directly responds to this growth and demand—it’s fully online, one of a kind in the nation, focuses on framework for research, takes just 12 months to complete and the ultimate goal is for students to get their research published in peer-reviewed journals.

“It’s not a math degree—we don’t do that in the RDA program,” she offers and describes the sophisticated software availability to students using the FIU eLabs. Online students have remote access to research software through a multiplatform system.

“This degree helps students understand how to create a framework for research to determine what data is telling us,” says Chang who insists that the degree can universally relate to any organization whether it’s product research, marketing analysis, academia or consumer sentiment.

Solving real-world issues

“We’re training students to be data masters who can apply their skill set to any area,” she adds. “We’re giving them the tools to be able to accomplish real problem solving in the real world.”

The entire program is geared toward developing a final project that examines an area of the student’s choosing. It could be about a business practice, a product, an educational standard—the idea is students create their research pathway and analysis based on their own interests.

Each student is assigned a faculty member who will work with them to encourage avenues of thought and progression toward the final project. The courses within the program help students design cutting-edge data collection methods, analysis data for practical solutions and devise rigorous research techniques.

“We want students to explore their interests as they develop these valuable tools—tools they can apply in innumerable ways to decipher data—both quantitatively and qualitatively,” explains Chang. “This is essential for anyone in any industry and academia and represents the foundation of knowledge—it’s a scientific method to provide information.”

Mentoring and support

Students are encouraged through one-on-one “coaching” that will assist them with their final project, which is a critical feature of the program, describes Chang. The individual mentoring system is designed to monitor each student’s academic motivation and career aspirations. She stresses the applicability of the degree:

“Our RDA faculty will assist students entering the program by providing information on RDA careers, mentoring them on how to build the knowledge base of RDA, how to interpret data and apply it to select fields,” Chang points out and explains that the college has partnerships with several organizations that can provide students with internships.

As a final note, Chang mentions the encouraging national data on jobs and stresses the importance of providing educational opportunities for an era that is data-driven.

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