Job postings for this career rose 75 percent from January 2015 to January 2018 on Indeed.com, according to Bloomberg. Searches for data scientist jobs increased by 65 percent.
What data scientists do
This might be one of those job titles you hear and think, "OK, but what does this person actually do?"
As we're flooded with data in today's world, the challenge lies in how to best utilize that information. Data scientists, according to Forbes, use statistics and modeling to convert data in a way that helps organizations and companies do everything from developing products to retaining customers.
In practical terms, Atlanta-based Equifax Inc. gave Cornell University data that was scrubbed of personally identifiable information with the goal of determining how customers prioritized paying bills. The company wanted to know whether people placed a high priority on paying a mortgage, car payment or cell phone bill. Data scientists helped them mine and convert that data.
Data scientists can also be involved in a growing specialty known as "sentiment analysis," or finding a way to quantify how many tweets are praising your company versus complaining about it.
Even entry-level data scientists can expect to make six-figure salaries. The average salary for beginners in this field is $115,785 a year, according to Glassdoor.com. The average pay for senior data scientists is $141,257 per year.
Some data scientists who have Ph.D.s can earn as much as $300,000 or more.
Skills you need
Data scientists need technical, analytical and presentation skills, including the following:
- Ability to program
- Intense curiosity
- Scientific background
- Understanding of statistics and applied mathematics
- Ability to design experiments to test hypotheses
- Computational and analytical skills
- Ability to communicate findings through visualizations and stories
Education and experience
Becoming a data scientist requires a good bit of education and practical experience. The following are some common pathways to landing a position:
Complete a degree – Majors such as statistics, mathematics, economics, operations research or computer science can be helpful.
Enroll in a master's program – Georgia State University and Georgia Tech offer Master of Science in Analytics programs.
Consider a doctorate – Kennesaw State University offers a Ph.D. in Analytics and Data Science.
Utilize MOOCs (massive open online courses) – Coursera, for example, has a 10-course data science series from Johns Hopkins University.
Participate in a boot camp – These accelerated learning programs have projects built into the experience. Georgia Tech's Data Science and Analytics Boot Camp is a 24-week, part-time program with evening and weekend hours, so you can enroll even if you're employed or in school.