Platinum BlogWhat is a Data Scientist Worth?

What is the Salary of a Data Scientist in 2019? Let's have a look at some data to see how we can answer that question.

2019 has been an eventful year in analytics, data science, and machine learning. New trends, new tools, new outlooks... We recently put together a trilogy of articles with the insights of a few dozen experts in order to map out the key events of 2019, and to lay out predictions on where things are headed in 2020 (and likely beyond). These article approach the subject matter from the differing points of view of research, technology, and industry. If interested, you can find these here:

And in what has become somewhat of a tradition, friend of KDnuggets Xavier Amatriain has once again written up his end-of-year retrospective of advances in AI/ML, which you can find here.

What this article will do is take a snapshot of where we are in terms of data science and related salaries as we come to the end of another year. In order to find some single point of comparison, and try our best to find apples to compare to one another, we will be focusing on the role of a data scientist in the United States, but will also take a few related roles and a couple of additional countries into account further on.


What is the Salary of a Data Scientist?

To get an idea, let's have a look at Payscale, which reports (most recently updated Oct 22, 2019) that the median data scientist salary in the US is $91,260, with a range of $62k - $138k (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Median Data Scientist Salary


But base salary isn't everything. Payscale also reports that the median bonus is $8,042, with a range of $1k - $17k, along with a median profit sharing of $5139, and a range of $970 - $15k (see Figure 2).



Figure 2: Data Scientist Salary, Bonus, Profit Sharing Range


Generally, how much experience you have in any role correlates with compensation, which is based at least in part on sound reasoning. Figure 3 shows salary trends commensurate with years of experience.



Figure 3: Data Scientist Salary Commensurate with Years of Experience


With this regression line and binned years of experience labels, you can see both the upward trend as well as reasonable expected salaries based on experience at various intervals. Clearly a new data scientist should not be expecting the median in their first role (and neither should one with ten years of experience), and the above helps answer what a reasonable expectation would be.

See what Robert Half says about data scientist salaries, for a different perspective (Sep 10, 2019):


These IT professionals use their knowledge of statistics and modeling to make sense of complicated data from a variety of sources. To earn a midpoint salary of $125,250, data scientists need business savvy and communication skills in addition to statistics, mathematics and computer science expertise. Knowledge of programming languages such as Python or Java is often necessary for the job as well.


How does geographic location affect your salary? To help answer this question, Figure 4 shows Payscale's pay difference by location for a select few US cities.


Figure 4: Pay Difference by Location


To anyone with an understanding of the relative pull of technopoles and cost of living differences within the US, this should not come as much of a surprise. Additionally, a report by Indeed shows that data scientists have the highest overall salaries in the following 5 US cities (see Figure 5).



Figure 5: Top US Cities for Data Science Salaries


How does our understanding of data scientist salaries thus far stack up to related job salaries (or, "related" as per Payscale)? See Figure 6 below.



Figure 6: Related Job Salaries


There are clearly come issues with these "related" jobs, but a couple do offer some limited relevant comparison.

For some additional better insight on salary comparison by position, let's turn to the Stack Overflow Coding Salary Calculator (Oct 16, 2019). This report is an overview of the salary calculator, which "is based on the comprehensive data from the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, and this large, extensive survey data allows us to build an accurate model that reflects trends in how coding work is being compensated around the world."

Still focusing on the US, Figure 7 shows what Stack Overflow reports as the median salary for different types of developers.



Figure 7: Median Salaries for Different Types of Developers (US)


Data roles such as data scientists and data engineers sit very high atop the list of developers types in terms of salaries. Stack Overflow offers this observation:


[W]e have evidence here that high salaries for data scientists and data engineers can be accounted for by high education and high experience levels alone. Data scientists are highly paid, but not more so than a similarly educated developer doing other kinds of work. (Both bachelor’s degrees and even higher degrees are associated with significantly increased pay for people who code.) Over the past several years, data science and data engineering work have been moving away from an extreme outlier position into the mainstream of software work.


While thinking of data scientists as "developers" is somewhat problematic, there is undoubtedly a lot of crossover in the types of skills that a contemporary coding data scientist possesses and those which a developer does, on a technical level. That said, the comments on higher education acting as a primary (they allude to it being a sole) contributor to higher salaries for data scientists is not outlandish. However, these may be apples to oranges comparisons; we would need to have access to the raw data of the salaries of similarly highly educated data scientists as well as non-data scientist developers, otherwise normalized, in order to draw such conclusions.

Finally, let's use the Stack Overflow survey to bring an international aspect to our discussion. Figure 8 looks at the top salaries for different types of developers in 4 countries:


Figure 8: Median Salaries for Different Types of Developers (US, UK, Germany, India)


So, what is a data scientist salary in 2019? As it turns out, that's a really good question... without much of an answer. Of course, you probably knew coming into this that there would not be a single, magical number once we were finished. You do, however, now have some data to help make some reasonable forecasts as to what fair salaries would be under a variety of different circumstances. Let's see what 2020 brings to the data scientist salary discussion.