Which Data Profession Has The Highest Job Satisfaction?

KDnuggets poll compares Machine Learning Engineer, Researcher, Data Scientist and other professions and identifies one with the highest job satisfaction. Job satisfaction usually starts high, but drops significantly after 4 years on the job.

Data Scientist is probably no longer the "sexiest" profession, displaced by its younger and more exciting cousin, Machine Learning Engineer - those seems to be the results of a recent KDnuggets poll.

A recent LinkedIn study says that Machine Learning Engineer, Data Scientist are top US emerging jobs and Glassdoor says that Data Scientist is the best job in America, 3 years in a row.

However, a recent post Why so many data scientists are leaving their jobs by Jonny Brooks seems to have touched a nerve and brought a lot of dissatisfaction to the surface.

This post prompted previous KDnuggets Poll which asked our readers about their current job satisfaction, how long in their current job, their job role/position, and industry.

The results, based on 635 voters, are very interesting and suggest that while Data Scientist may no longer be the sexiest profession, it is still very satisfying.

First, we converted the job satisfaction choices to numbers
(2 : Very satisfied, 1 : Somewhat satisfied, 0 : Neutral, -1 : Somewhat unsatisfied, -2 : Very unsatisfied) .

The jobs with the highest satisfaction are Machine Learning Engineer, Researcher/ Professor, and Data Scientist - see Fig. 1. Software developers in this poll had negative job satisfaction - perhaps they wanted to become Machine Learning Engineers? The data is in Table 1 at the end of the post.

Poll Job Satisfaction By Position
Fig. 1: Avg. Job Satisfaction by position
Bar width corresponds to the number of respondents.

Next, we examined the changes in job satisfaction with years on the job. We see that the satisfaction (green line) drops with time, becoming close to zero after 4 years and staying low between 4 and 16, and rising sharply for the few people with over 16 years on the job.

Poll Job Satisfaction Vs Years
Fig. 2: Avg. Job Satisfaction vs Years on the Job
Green line is the avg job satisfaction (left vertical axis).
Blue bars correspond to the count of respondents (right vertical axis).

Since we only had 9 respondents with 16 or more years on the job, we merged this group with 8 or more years on the job for the following analysis.

We also found that job satisfaction changes differently for different positions - see Fig. 3, which shows results for the 4 most common positions (at least 40 respondents).

Poll Job Satisfaction By Position By Years
Fig. 3: Avg. Job Satisfaction by position and years on the job, for 4 most common titles
Bar height and the number above it correspond to job satisfaction, bar width to the number of respondents. Color is green for more positive job satisfaction, red for more negative one.

We note that "Data Scientist/Statistician" job satisfaction drops relatively slowly with time, unlike Data / BI Analysts who become unhappy after 2 years on the job, and Software developers who are mostly unhappy.

Participation by employment type was
  • Industry/Self-employed, 75%, 0.49 avg. job satisfaction
  • Academia/University, 9.4%, 0.37 avg. job satisfaction
  • Government/Non-profit, 7.9%, 0.40 avg. job satisfaction
  • Other, 7.7%, 0.10 avg. job satisfaction
Regional participation was
  • US/Canada, 39%
  • Europe, 33%
  • Asia, 17%
  • Latin America, 5.0%
  • Australia/NZ, 3.5%
  • Africa/Middle East, 2.8%
Fig. 4 shows job satisfaction by region, with Africa/Middle East and Australia leading. Asia had low job satisfaction, and Latin America avg. job satisfaction was zero (Neutral).

Poll Job Satisfaction By Region
Fig. 4: Avg. Job Satisfaction by Region

Next table shows details by position.

Table 1: Job Satisfaction by Position

PositionAvg. Job SatisfactionCount
Machine Learning Engineer1.1135 (5.5%)
Researcher / Professor0.7232 (5.0%)
Data Scientist/Statistician0.71217 (34%)
Manager/Director0.4457 (9.0%)
Data / BI Analyst0.40129 (20%)
Data Engineer0.3923 (3.6%)
Student0.0932 (5.0%)
Software Developer-0.2446 (7.2%)
Other position-0.2764 (10%)

What do you think?