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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Lerner April 11, 2019

The demand for experts in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) is on the rise, which means that organizations are looking for skilled workers to meet these needs. The current job market is in need of candidates who can speak both the languages of business and data science. Data is defining the 21st century.

A recent report predicted a potential shortage of 1.1 million workers in STEM occupations in the U.S. by 2024 if current trends continue. The report concludes that the heavy use of data across the global economy and industries has given rise to one of the most booming and in-demand industries today.

“Data is both transforming businesses and shifting workforce demands everywhere,” said Xiao Fang, professor of management information systems (MIS) at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. “Companies are searching for qualified candidates who understand both the mechanics of data analytics and how to identify the insights that influence the best business decisions.”

“Recent demand has changed the way business is done,” added Ruma Beldona, senior assistant dean for Lerner’s Graduate Programs Services. “This is why, as a program and directorates, we constantly review the curricula for our programs to better prepare our students for today’s competitive marketplace.”

The STEM-designated masters and doctoral programs at UD’s Lerner College provide interdisciplinary courses in technical and mathematical modeling, as well as courses focused on helping to solve complex issues and navigate changes in business. These programs are a natural choice for professionals who are looking to leverage advanced analytics and project management skills.

What is a STEM master’s designation?

The Lerner College offers 10 specialized master’s programs, four of which are STEM-designated. Lerner’s STEM-designated master’s and doctoral programs fulfill the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) criteria for STEM education programs.

The Lerner master of science in information systems and technology management (ISTM), as well as the economics and applied econometrics programs, achieved STEM eligibility six years ago. More recently, the college gained STEM eligibility for its programs in financial services analytics (Ph.D.) and its MBA in business analytics.

“We were one of the very first universities on the east coast, and possibly nationwide, that has an MBA with a STEM-approved major in business analytics,” said Beldona. “And that, for us, as a program, is a premier advantage.”

With analytically focused 15-credit modules and faculty with extensive analytical experience, the quantitative business track makes the Lerner College more competitive and adaptive to the evolving demands of data-focused industries. The STEM concentrations help students to learn advanced modeling techniques and data analytics, which can be applied to businesses and markets in general. The breadth and depth of instruction enables students to apply for analytical jobs in corporate finance, asset management and investment banking.

Beldona noted, “Our business analytics major was added to our series of majors because of the huge demand in data sciences, analytics, big data, etc. There’s so much going on in that industry and sadly there aren’t enough people trained in that particular area. That is why our ISTM and business analytics majors integrate IT, quantitative methods and data analysis skills that are absolutely invaluable in those fields.”

Who would benefit from the STEM-designated degree?

“The Lerner STEM-designated master’s education is designed for everyone,” said Beldona. “Anyone from any background can both learn and understand it. The workforce is growing in this field and qualified candidates will be entering challenging and rewarding careers. They will be equipped to drive innovation, creativity and advancements in virtually every industry and whatever their desired field of work may be.”

She continued, “Whether in banking, management consulting, healthcare, marketing or sales, etc. these positions require sharp decision-making skills. Analytics is now quickly settling into many job descriptions and roles. So, individuals who would thrive in today’s business world must develop these skill sets.”

Although potential candidates don’t necessarily need to have acquired a robust technical background to qualify for the STEM-classified master’s programs, Beldona clarified that this quant-heavy program requires that they have sound quantitative and statistical skills.

How does the STEM-designated master’s degree benefit international students?

In recent years, international students have had a tough time with visa regulations. Immigration policies have been a factor discouraging many from applying to programs in the U.S. The STEM-designated master’s programs from the Lerner College, on the other hand, offer hope. Lerner international students in the STEM programs can now benefit from the post-graduate work opportunity through the extended Optional Practical Training (OPT) programs.

“This opportunity was created by the U.S. government for distinguished international students who graduate in STEM-designated program degrees”, explained Janica Cimo, associate director of the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at UD. Cimo added that the opportunity allows eligible students to apply for a 24-month STEM-extension to their 12-month OPT.

Lerner international graduate students from STEM-eligible programs can stay in the U.S. and work in on-the-job training within a STEM field on a student visa for up to 36 months after graduation, without any additional paperwork.

Cimo further explained that, “This is a positive signal to prospective employers, as it provides them the flexibilities of hiring international STEM graduates, without bearing any burdens of visa sponsorships or H1-B visa applications.”

“We very deliberately worked to have our STEM-eligible programs classified as STEM programs, as we felt that it is important to allow our international students to benefit from this golden opportunity that the OPT extension offers,” Beldona said.

“The STEM-classification master’s programs at the Lerner College have continued to attract the best international students,” Beldona continued. She noted that applications to the Lerner master’s in ISTM and MBA in business analytics have increased up to 45 percent over the last year.

The author of this piece, Queen Agboye, is a second-year MBA student at the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and a graduate intern for the Lerner College Communications Office.