What job was recently listed as the most promising in the United States by LinkedIn and the sexiest job of the 21st century by the Harvard Business Review? Data scientist. Why? Attribute it to the combination of high demand, excellent compensation, and a high level of job satisfaction.
What does it take to become a data scientist, and what are the roles and responsibilities of the position? Let’s take a look at that now.
What is a Data Scientist?
The thought of becoming a data scientist for a government agency, startup, or Fortune 500 company may be intriguing. After all, who doesn’t want to be in a position where you’re in high demand, make an excellent salary, and love what you do? But before you sign up for a data science curriculum, you’re best served to see what, exactly, a data scientist does. Then you can determine if it’s a job that’s up your alley.
A data scientist collaborates with business stakeholders to pinpoint their goals. Once they know those goals, they figure out how data can be used to achieve them.
In order to extract the data a business needs, a data scientist will create data modeling processes, algorithms, and predictive models. Once they have that data, they will analyze it and share their findings.
That’s what a data scientist does in a nutshell. A more detailed explanation begins with the discovery process, where the scientist asks the stakeholder questions. With a clear objective in mind, the scientist moves to acquire, process, and clean the data. Data integration and storage come next, followed by an initial data investigation and exploratory analysis.
At this point, the data scientist must choose models and algorithms. Then, they apply data science techniques like statistical modeling, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Results are measured and improved, and the final result is presented to stakeholders.
The stakeholders then offer feedback, which allows the data scientist to make adjustments to algorithms and data queries. Lastly, they repeat the process to solve any new problems.
Data Scientist Skills
A data scientist will lean on various skills to complete their daily tasks. Core data scientist skills include the following:
- Programming – A data scientist must be well-versed in writing code for such languages as SQL, Java, Python, and R. They will need this skill to develop computer programs that can analyze massive datasets that will help them solve complex problems.
- Computer science – The ability to apply principles of software engineering, database systems, numerical analysis, artificial intelligence, human/computer interaction, etc.
- Statistical analysis – Being able to detect patterns and anomalies in data.
- Data storytelling – Knowing how to share data-driven, actionable insights with non-technical audiences.
- Machine learning – Using statistical models and algorithms to help computers automatically learn from data.
Those are the core skills of a data scientist. But since they must collaborate with stakeholders who may not be as technically proficient, data scientists will need a particular set of soft skills too, such as:
- Interpersonal skills – Communicating with diverse audiences.
- Critical thinking – Analyzing facts before arriving at a conclusion.
- Analytical thinking – Finding solutions to abstract business problems.
- Inquisitiveness – Finding trends and solutions inside data by looking beneath the surface.
- Business intuition – Fully understanding problems stakeholders have.
How to Become a Data Scientist
Now that you see what’s involved in being a data scientist and the necessary skills, let’s delve into what it takes to become one.
To get hired by an employer seeking a data scientist, your best bet is to have an advanced degree. Getting a Master of Science in Data Science should be your end goal, which you can arrive at by first studying math or computer science.
Once you get into a graduate-level program, you can expect to study such topics as big data, predictive analytics, enterprise analytics, data visualization, statistical modeling, data mining applications, and more.
After completing your studies in data science, you can fill one of the following roles:
- Data scientist
- Data engineer
- Data architect
- Data analyst
- Business intelligence specialist
Data Scientist Salary
The amount of money you’ll make as a data scientist will depend on various factors like your location, industry, etc. According to Robert Half Technology’s 2020 Salary Guide, the average salary ranges from around $105,000 to $180,000. Those numbers can increase as you move up the ladder from data scientist to senior data scientist, data science manager, and data science director. And with demand for data scientists expected to soar for the next decade, don’t be surprised if those salaries grow even higher.