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Key competencies for big data analytics professions: a multimethod study

Ajax Persaud (Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 2 March 2020

Issue publication date: 22 January 2021




This study aims to identify the precise competencies that employers are seeking for big data analytics professions and whether higher education big data programs enable students to acquire the competencies.


This study utilizes a multimethod approach involving three data sources: online job postings, executive interviews and big data programs at universities and colleges. Text mining analysis guided by a holistic competency theoretical framework was used to derive insights into the required competencies.


We found that employers are seeking workers with strong functional and cognitive competencies in data analytics, computing and business combined with a range of social competencies and specific personality traits. The exact combination of competencies required varies with job levels and tasks. Executives clearly indicate that workers rarely possess the competencies and they have to provide additional training.

Research limitations/implications

A limitation is our inability to capture workers' perspectives to determine the extent to which they think they have the necessary competencies.

Practical implications

The findings can be used by higher educational institutions to design programs to better meet market demand. Job seekers can use it to focus on the types of competencies they need to advance their careers. Policymakers can use it to focus policies and investments to alleviate skills shortages. Industry and universities can use it to strengthen their collaborations.

Social implications

Much closer collaborations among public institutions, educational institutions, industry, and community organizations are needed to ensure training programs evolve with the evolving need for skills driven by dynamic technological changes.


This is the first study on this topic to adopt a multimethod approach incorporating the perspectives of the key stakeholders in the supply and demand of skilled workers. It is the first to employ text mining analysis guided by a holistic competency framework to derive unique insights.



This study was funded by research grants from the Ontario Human Capital Research and Innovation Fund (OHCRIF Grant# 490127) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Grant#: 231016 & 231061). Special thanks to Amir Abass Darbanibasmanj, Sevda Tohidi, Rahat Haque, Xinxin Zhang, Mohammed Qayem and Shannon Jackson for assisting with data collection.


Persaud, A. (2021), "Key competencies for big data analytics professions: a multimethod study", Information Technology & People, Vol. 34 No. 1, pp. 178-203.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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