Mu Sigma Rolls Out ‘Decision Science’ Certification

by   |   May 7, 2013 5:52 pm   |   0 Comments

Faced with an anticipated shortage of data scientists, a number of analytics software and services vendors have begun offering certification programs to both increase the number of qualified analysts and set standards of competency.

The latest is Chicago-based Mu Sigma, which on May 6 announced a certification program for what the company calls “decision scientists.”

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However, unlike certification programs such as IBM’s Big Data University, Cloudera University or EMC’s data science course (see sidebar), Mu Sigma’s is restricted to its own employees.

It’s no surprise that Mu Sigma is taking skills training into its own hands—it’s trying to keep up with client demands for analytical talent. And the company, which has 2,500 analytics professionals on its roster, already has an educational structure in place in Mu Sigma University, which has graduated more than 3,500 from a three-month program that teaches data modeling, applied math and economics.

But some analytics consultants say enterprises must do more to develop in-house talent, and many have done so by either hiring consultants to teach employees about data science or paying to have employees take classes run by universities and vendors. In that regard, Mu Sigma’s new certification program mirrors a trend toward training to meet the analytical needs of enterprises, rather than rely merely on recruiting.

Mu Sigma’s spin is to emphasize not data analysis, but data-driven decision making, hence the specific certification.

“Decision scientists are not just number crunchers,” Dhiraj Rajaram, CEO of Mu Sigma, said in a statement. “They are individuals who require an interdisciplinary approach that helps turn data into context-specific, objective insights that can foster better, quicker decision making throughout an organization. This is where real value exists. We hope that our Decision Scientist Certification will become widely accepted as a standard across the industry.”

The Decision Sciences Certification Program will be run Mu Sigma University, which at any given time has 150 to 200 students. The certification is intended to validate that graduates – who will go on to consult Mu Sigma clients—have demonstrated sufficient skill in business, applied math, technology and behavioral sciences.

Mu Sigma is not the only consultancy to tout its training programs. Fractal Analytics, a firm based in Mumbai, has established a training program that recruits economics, statistics and management graduates from large Indian universities. IT services firm Information Control Corp., works with universities near its headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, to build a bench of analytics talent.

A Growing List 

Professional organizations, technology vendors, universities and online academies offer a range of certifications. Among them:

  • INFORMS, the association of operations research and analytics professionals, runs an exam program for certified analytics professionals.
  • University of California at Irvine last year established a program leading to an online certificate in predictive analytics.
  • EMC programs include courses in data science and analytics toward earning a data scientist associate certification.
  • Cloudera University offers training and certification in managing Hadoop systems.
  • The Institute for Statistics Education at offers online courses designed for working professionals. Students who complete the program receive a certificate in analytics and statistical studies.

Such partnerships go the other way, too. A number of university programs offering degrees in analytics-related subjects have corporate partners that offer internship experiences and opportunities to train using software tools from IBM and SAS.

Mu Sigma said it designed the certification program to address “several industry deficiencies,” particularly “the lack of standard qualification criteria for analytics and decision science professionals in terms of the requisite interdisciplinary skills and experience and the lack of defined career paths for decision science professionals.”

The Mu Sigma certification will have three decision scientist levels: Beginner (minimum 18 months of classroom and field experience, plus other criteria), Practitioner (minimum 33 months experience), and  Manager (minimum 42 months experience).

In February, Mu Sigma announced a partnership with MasterCard, a deal which included the financial services company’s taking an undisclosed financial stake in the consulting firm.

Contributing Editor Christopher Nerney ( is a freelance writer in upstate New York. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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