Getting Into Data Science: What You Need to Know
Ready to embark on an exciting and in-demand career? Here’s what you need to know about what a data scientist does—and how you can become competitive in this in-demand field.
By Susannah Bruck.
Look in any tech publication for the most in-demand career of the year, and nearly all will tell you the same thing: data scientist. It’s been called “the sexiest job of the 21st century” and named the best job of both 2016 and 2017 by Glassdoor. That’s a lot of hype surrounding one job, but it makes sense: it’s an interesting tech career path that pays handsomely and fits neatly into a variety of industries. What’s not to like?
With the incredible growth of big data in nearly every industry, companies are desperate to hire data scientists—yesterday. Ready to embark on an exciting and in-demand career? Here’s what you need to know about what a data scientist does—and how you can become competitive in this in-demand field.
What Does a Data Scientist Do?
There are many different roles that involve working with big data analytics. The term “data scientist” is sometimes used as a general term instead of to describe a specific role in the field. Data scientists often fulfill a number of responsibilities, and many companies have different names for the same role. In essence, however, a data scientist looks at large and complex data sets to gain insights that are valuable to a business’s goals.
Data scientists start with a specific question: How can we cut down on manufacturing time? How can we improve the customer experience? Then, they extract the data from different sources, discard irrelevant data, and analyze the usable data for trends, spotting weaknesses and attempting to answer their initial questions.
Aside from pure analytics, data scientists also find solutions to problems by creating algorithms and automation. An under-appreciated role of a data scientist is communication—scientists need to be able to rely their findings to management in an accurate and convincing manner.
Qualifications & Skills
Because the field is just a few years old, most data scientists don’t have much on-the-job experience, relying on education instead. About 76% have fewer than 4 years of experience, but 92% have either a master’s degree or a PhD. Some certification programs have become available that can help candidates secure jobs in the field, including:
- Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)
- Cloudera Certified Professional Data Scientist (CCP:DS)
- EMC: Data Science Associate (EMCDSA)
- SAS Certified Predictive Modeler Using SAS Enterprise Miner 7
Though a few data scientists get by with a bachelor’s degree, you should focus on your education if you are interested in entering the field. Necessary skills for data scientists include coding proficiency, machine learning/data mining knowledge, mathematics and statistics, big data platforms, structured and unstructured data, business knowledge, curiosity, and communication skills. Many data scientists wear many hats and need a wide range of skills to succeed.
What Does it Pay?
With the current shortage and demand for data scientists, starting salaries can be very attractive. Entry-level candidates can expect an average of $92,000 for a starting salary, climbing to $145,000 at a senior level.
The Industries Hiring Data Scientists
Amazon, Facebook, and Google couldn’t run without their data scientists. Tech (41%) and marketing (13%) make up the largest demand for data scientists, but almost every field has a growing need for this role.
From 2014 to 2024, the data scientist career path is expected to grow by 11%–4% faster than for all occupations. If you’re interested in following this career path, start looking into educational programs and consider moving to the coasts—65% of data scientist openings are concentrated in these areas. What do current data scientists recommend? Interact with others in your field, and start building your connections and knowledge.
Bio: Susannah Bruck is a freelance writer and editor with a special interests in technology, health, travel and business. You can find her at www.susannahbruck.com.
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