28 January 2015


I quite often receive questions about the IT4BI program: my CV is on the program's website, and people see my email there and write me. Also, I get quite a lot of questions from social networks. I usually try my best to give answers to all of them, but many questions repeat again and again, so it's a good idea to create a FAQ and make the answers are available to everybody, so I don't have to repeat myself. A fairly large part of the questions are about the admission process, and I already addressed some of them in IT4BI: How To.

Important: Before rushing into sending me a message by email or LinkedIn, please do read this FAQ and other pages about IT4BI on this blog! Also, instead of contacting me directly, please use the IT4BI tag on Quora.

I divided the questions into several categories: application, organization, work and studies.

Application Questions

Q: How do I apply? How is the selection process organized?
A: Just read the website, everything is there. Also have a look at our post here.

Q: What are the strict prerequisites for me to get accepted?
A: You can find them at the official admission page of the program, the "Eligibility Criteria" section.

Q: I sent something, but they don't reply, what should I do?
A: There's nothing I can do, sorry. Try to send it one more time, or find them on social networks such as Twitter or Facebook.

Q: I don't have perfect grades. Should I apply anyway?
A: By all means! There are many other factors that are evaluated: e.g. your motivation, your work experience, etc. See the program website and a post here to learn more about evaluation.

Q: If I apply earlier, does it increase my chances of getting selected?
A: No, I highly doubt that the application date has any impact on the selection decision, as long as you meet the deadline.

Q: What is your average mark in your diploma?
A: Even though my average mark is quite high, don't let it discourage you, just apply.

Q: How important is to have a good IELTS/TOEFL score?
A: I don't think it's crucial: it looks to me as a pass/fail criterion, so you have to be above the threshold. Also I know that some of my classmates were admitted conditionally without a certificate, on condition that they would provide it afterwards. But, of course, the higher your score is, the better.

Q: What is your IELTS/TOEFL score?
A: As I wrote, I don't think it matters a lot, but if you are really interested in my and my classmates IELTS and TOEFLs scores, you can check our CVs at the IT4BI website - many of us have the score on CVs.

Q: My IELTS/TOEFL score is lower than the threshold. Should I apply?
A: You may try, and as far as I know you might be accepted conditionally: on condition that you will retake the test and get the needed score.

Q: How long did it take to prepare all the application documents?
A: A couple of months: taking IELTS, translating all the documents to English and writing a motivation letter takes a lot of time.

Q: I'm still doing my bachelor's. Can I apply?
A: Yes, provided that you'll have received your bachelor diploma by the end of this academic year.

Q: What to write in Motivation Letter and CV? What my references should write in Recommendation Letter?
A: Check IT4BI: How To.

Q: I'm on the Waiting List!
A: No worries, it doesn't mean that you are not going to get in with certainty, it just means that there could be a delay in getting it. It happened to me as well, yet I'm here. But of course, it doesn't mean that you'll get it, so prepare some alternative options.

Q: Did you apply to other programs or just to IT4BI?
A: Yes, I applied to other programs as well. You can read about the programs I applied to in European Master Programs in Data Analysis.

Q: What if you hadn't been offered a scholarship?
A: I had other nice programs to select from, so I would have chosen another one.

Q: Can you check my Motivation Letter, CV, IELTS Essays, etc?
A: Sorry, but no, I will not do this.

Selection Procedure

Q: Is there an interview?
A: No, there is no interview. At least there was no interview when I applied.

Q: What's the main reason you were selected?
A: Honestly, no idea. I graduated from a very small and not famous university in Far East of Russia, and compared to some other people in my group, I don't have strong BI professional background. Even though I did have some software engineering working experience, many people in my group didn't, so again I don't think it was very important. If I have to hazard a guess, I'd say that my motivation was the reason, and maybe all the rest (recommendations, education, work experience, etc) just reinforced it.

Q: Did you have working experience? What kind of working experience did you have when applying?
A: Yes, as I wrote, I did have some working experience: about 3 years of software development (mostly Java) at not even remotely BI-related positions.

Q: I have no working experience. Should I apply?
A: Of course you should. Many people who study with me have no industrial working experience, and yet they were selected.

Q: I have a lot of working experience. Should I apply?
A: I don't see how this may be a problem, especially if the experience is CS/BI related. To me, it's the opposite: I believe it's a great advantage and you should use it.

Q: I already got a Master degree. Is it an advantage or disadvantage?
A: Even the website says that it's an advantage, so no worries. I even heard that for some programs (not IT4BI) people with PhD degrees got scholarships. I once read a forum post of one Russian lady who was genuinely surprised about getting selected: she thought she was overqualified for a scholarship and was planning to pay money for her studies. So, just be sure to mention your previous degree in the cover letter and give a motivation why you think you need a second master.

Q: I have some publications. Is it a plus? Should I mention them?
A: Yes, I definitely think it's a plus and you should mention them in your motivation letter and CV.

Q: I tried to apply to IT4BI last year and I got rejected. Should I try this year?
A: There is no harm in trying it one more time. But I wouldn't send just the same application as previously, and instead I'd rework the motivation letter and include all the achievements over the past year.

Q: What do you think I should do in one year before applying to improve my chances of getting a scholarship?
A: I would start learning things I'm interested in myself: there are plenty of MOOCs and other free resources, so begin using them now. And don't forget to mention this in your motivation letter when you write it: I believe it will show that you want to achieve your goals no matter what. And even if at the end you don't get accepted, you will already be moving towards your aim.

Logistics / Organization

Q: Can I go with my wife/husband?
A: Yes, you can, although the process of getting visas for each country is very hard, it's not impossible: my wife joined me in my studies from the very beginning and she and I are both not European. The coordinating university (ULB) helped us a lot with all the bureaucracy and paperwork for getting to Belgium and it was quite an undertaking. Once we were in Belgium, getting a French visa is way easier. After that, getting a German visa is little bit trickier, but it's also possible. For Spain, from what I heard, it's quite harder, but I think nothing can be more difficult than Belgium.

Q: Do they provide housing? Is it good?
A: Yes they do provide. One year ago I would answer no, the housing in Brussels is not very good, but now, to my knowledge, the 3rd generation had quite nice rooms. However, I should add that if you're going to live with your partner (husband/wife), then in France they won't allow you to live in a student residence, so in our case, we had to find an apartment on our own. But we had no problems with housing in Belgium and Germany and the universities were very helpful. In any way, if need be, finding a flat is not that difficult.

Working as a Student

Q: Can I work while studying?
A: If you are a self-funded student, then yes, you can work officially. If you're not a self-funded student and you receive a scholarship, it's possible to work unofficially, but keep in mind that the workload is sometimes pretty dense. See more information about workload below. Also, if you take the specialization at TU Berlin, it is possible to work part time at the university.

Q: Can I have internship during studies? Will they find me some internship?
A: Yes, you certainly can, and it's even encouraged. However, very few of us (students of 2nd generation) had an internship, even though we could. Also I know that some people worked during the summer break (including me), but wasn't an internship, it was just usual work. The IT4BI committee will not find you internships, but they may give you some useful advice on how to get it.

IT4BI Program, Studies

Q: Are all classes in English?
A: Yes, all classes are in English, maybe apart from the language classes.

Q: Do you like the program? Have you learned a lot?
A: Yes, I do like the program. Not everything was perfect, not everything met the expectations and I didn't like some things, but in retrospect, yes, I think this is a very good program. I met many new interesting people and I learned quite a lot of new and interesting stuff. I would sometimes disagree with the choice of some of the courses that we had, but at the end I just concentrated on things I like and didn't pay lots of attention to things I don't like. You can read what we studied during the first year in IT4BI First Year: Business Intelligence Fundamentals, and during my specialization at TU Berlin in IT4BI: Distributed and Large-Scale Business Intelligence.

Q: Is it easy?
A: It's not. Maybe it's just my poor time management, but for me the workload was sometimes pretty high, and it felt especially dense during the 2nd semester because of countless project presentations. The first semester was not as hard as second, but still towards the end of the semester it was quite heavy. However, the 3rd semester is more relaxed as we have more independent type work at TU Berlin like reading papers, coding some algorithms and the like (you can read about it here). But if you feel that it's not enough for you, then go take the Machine Learning classes by professor Muller, or challenge yourself in some other way.

Q: Is it more practical or theoretical? Is there a lot of programming?
A: It's more practical and we did a lot of things, but during the 1st year few of them involved programming: it was mostly BI-related things like creating Data Warehouses, modeling Business Processes or creating Data Mining flows. However, the semester at TU Berlin is quite the opposite - here we code a lot! There is only one class that doesn't involve programming, and it's about reading a scientific paper and presenting it to your classmates.

Q: What should I know to be successful in the program? Do I need to be proficient at programming? What about math?
A: Yes, I believe that good programming skills are necessary to get the most out of the program. We mostly used Java, so some familiarity with the language should be helpful. On the other hand, I don't think you'd need a lot of math for IT4BI classes, just basic Calculus and Probability should be sufficient. Also some Linear Algebra wouldn't hurt.

Q: Is it a data science program?
A: To some extent, yes, it is, depending on how you define "data science". It definitely has a lot to do with data analysis, but I would say that the 1st year is more devoted to "enterprise data"-oriented analysis, i.e. Business Intelligence. To make it a real "Data Science" program, I would exclude a couple of courses in favor of more Data Science ones. For example, I'd include Machine Learning classes from TU Berlin (the ones that we actually can attend, but for no credit), Advanced Statistics and the like. However there are many classes that do cover Data Science related things - specifically, Information Retrieval, Data Mining, Scalable Data Mining, etc. Additionally, although many remaining coursers are not "Data Science" per se, they are still related: e.g. Data Warehousing, Decision Engineering, Database Systems Architecture, etc.
And actually, I recently attended a talk by Professor V. Markl, the head of the DIMA group at TU Berlin, and he mentioned that "it's important to teach future data scientists" when we was talking about their contribution to the IT4BI program. So, from his point of view, we are "data scientists", whatever he meant by that.

After Graduation

Q: What are career prospects for IT4BI graduates?
A: For me it's too early to say about the impact on my future career and how different it would be if not the program, but for sure I can say that all IT4BI students of the 1st generation who I have in my LinkedIn network already work: they graduated in September 2014, and now it's January 2015.
Update: It's August 2015 now, just one month before our graduation, and I know that out of 8 people who decided to go to TU Berlin, 6 are in Berlin and all 6 have already found jobs. So in Berlin there are a lot of opportunities and IT4BI graduates are welcome here. Also, many of us are not EU citizens, yet there were no problems with finding a job.

Q: Can I get a job seeker visa after graduating?
A: Yes, if you graduate from a German university, for Germany you can get a job seeker visa for 18 months. If you graduated from other university outside of Germany, if this university is recognized by the German ministry of education, you can get a similar visa for 6 months. I am no aware of similar visas in France and Spain. Also note that none of us (those who chose the TUB specialization) actually needed this kind visa, we all found a job before graduating.

Other Questions

Q: Can you recommend me any other data analysis related Master programs?
A: Yes, I can, please have a look at European Master Programs in Data Analysis. I am not aware of other Master programs in this field, sorry. I also don't know anything about programs in the USA.

Q: How can I become a data scientist?
A: First of all, consider applying to IT4BI or some other program in data analysis (for example, in one of the programs described in this post). Also there are so much material out there available online for free, so make use of it! I may try to address it in some later posts, so stay tuned.

Q: I have more questions about IT4BI, how I can ask them?
A: There's an IT4BI tag that I follow at Quora, so you're welcome to ask any questions there, just be sure to tag them and ask me to answer. Alternatively, you can try to find my email and ask me directly. But it would be better to do it publicly so other people will also benefit from the answer. So please do use the tag instead of contacting me personally.

Last update: 18.04.2016


  1. Hello, I have couple of questions. could you please respond?

    1) Part-time course: I am already full-time working professional in BI domain but I would like to do this course on a part-time basis as I think it may add value to my profession? Do they allow for it? if yes, how exactly classes could happen like Weekends, evening classes or 1 day in a week etc?

    2) Salary: What could be the exacted salary package (atleast average number) in Belgium (mainly) or Germany or other European countries?


    1. 1) No, they don't, it's a full-time master program
      2) It mainly depends on your prior experience, and hard to say for certain. In any way, I'm sure the salary should be enough to maintain a decent standard of life and maybe even save some money.