Data is driving all industries, from corporations to the government to healthcare. While data has become a precious commodity for growing your business, it\u2019s also become unwieldy and unmanageable. Couple that with a lack of educational programs focused on data science and a skills gap emerges.\nThe University of Wisconsin (UW) has stepped up to address this need with its graduate program in data science, which students can complete online. The program will be offered through the Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning (CEOEL) division of the University of Wisconsin Extension, which includes 26 UW System campuses in the U.S., but students from around the world can apply.\nThe business side of big data\nUW\u2019s data science program is aimed at helping students get prepared for a career in big data by combining both the analytical side with the business side of data science. \u201cPart of the program is obviously, helping students know the technology and be well-versed on the technical side but it\u2019s also being able to do the business side of data science,\u201d says David Schejbal, dean of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning at University of Wisconsin-Extension.\n[Related: Booz Allen takes data science training online ] \nFor students looking to get into data science, the field can also be a lucrative path. To chart the outlook of the role of data scientist, UW compares it to the similar role of operations research analyst, which has an average yearly salary of $73,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And it also predicts jobs in this field could grow as much as 27 percent by 2022, when comparing to the role of operations research analyst. While the program is open to the entire world, students from Wisconsin can benefit from the program as well. \u201cJobs requiring the skills taught in the Masters of Data Science program are in demand now with nearly 1,200 people hired monthly in Wisconsin alone,\u201d according to a press release.\nWhat makes this program unique, says Missy Wittmann, Wisconsin DAMA Chapter president, is that the curriculum was largely influenced by actual businesses seeking data scientists. In a focus group, nearly all of the companies asked said that they had a pressing need for more data scientist workers. By figuring out what companies needed from employees in terms of big data, UW developed a curriculum that will make graduating students appealing to hiring companies.\nData science isn\u2019t only important to tech-heavy areas like Silicon Valley, it\u2019s becoming increasingly important to businesses everywhere. Nearly all the participants expressed a need for \u201cMore people with analytical skills people, who could really start digging into predictive analytics and looking at data,\u201d says Wittmann, \u201cPeople have all this information and don\u2019t know what to do with it and that\u2019s the kind of talent they were looking for.\u201d\nThe benefits of online courses\nAlthough the program takes place across the various UW extension campuses, students will be participating in the same program. However, they get the added benefit of learning from qualified professors from all the various locations. \u201cWe marshal the resources across the entire UW system and when we develop new degree programs like this one, we work with the various campuses and really utilize the campuses with the greatest faculty strengths in these areas,\u201d says Schejbal.\n[ Related: 4 ways to beat the Big Data talent shortage ]\nOnline programs not only offer convenience for students located in other states, but it makes it easy for participants to work around their busy schedules. That is especially true for students that work full time; the online platform allows them to complete coursework on their own time.\nUW started accepting applications about a month ago, and in that short time it already has 50 students with completed applications and another 30 in the process of being completed. The program is slated to begin in September, with the first class of students going through the master\u2019s program.