Employers want practical data skills over data science degrees

A survey from the Data Literacy Project has revealed that global business leaders prefer practical data experience over academic qualifications

The Data Literacy Project has released results of a survey* this week highlighting the preference for practical skills over academic qualifications in data.

The survey was commissioned by data and analytics firm Qlik, a key partner in the Data Literacy Project, and covers attitudes from global business decision makers.


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Almost two-thirds (59%) of global enterprises surveyed identified prior job experience or case study interview – where a candidate is presented with a business problem they must solve – as the top indicator of the candidate’s data literacy.

Only 18% viewed a bachelor’s or even master’s or doctorate as a primary consideration when hiring.

What we look for are people who are curious and inquisitive, have a passion for doing the right thing, and are open to using data to find insights that support better business outcomes.
– Lee Raybould, Nationwide Building Society

Recruitment site Glassdoor identified a similar trend in 2018, finding that an increasing amount of tech companies were giving more weight to practical data skills over official qualifications.

Lee Raybould, chief data officer at Nationwide Building Society, said: “What we look for are people who are curious and inquisitive, have a passion for doing the right thing, and are open to using data to find insights that support better business outcomes.


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“The volume and variety of data is constantly growing, and the insight it can unlock to allow firms to be more successful is incredible, but you need people who are prepared to engage with data, and to gain an understanding of how to use and interpret it to support decision making no matter what their job role.”

*The responses came from 604 business decision makers from global publicly traded companies with at least 500 employees, and which represented a wide range of industries including banking and financial services, manufacturing, retail, transportation, healthcare, energy, construction, utilities, and communications. There were 200 respondents in the US, 200 in Europe, and 204 in Asia.