The job outlook for data scientists remains positive, in both the scholarly and corporate arenas. Not only does a career in data science require deep analytic and quantitative skills, but also the ability to communicate, leadership skills, curiosity, and a scientific turn of mind.
What can you expect from a career in data science? Opportunities abound, even in well-established companies, and while some data scientists work long hours, most can expect to achieve a good work-life balance. Salaries are high, even for those just starting out, and with a little experience, a six-figure income can be yours.
What to Expect in Data Science
Your daily duties as a data scientists will vary depending on what kind of company you work for and what your specific role is. If you choose to work with a start-up, you might analyze data to target trends or marketing strategies, but there’s a good chance your small company will sell that data to a larger firm. While that might not bother you in the slightest, a career in data science also offers you the opportunity to work with a more established firm, and hold direct sway over the design of products you use every day.
For example, The New York Times reports that many large companies are recruiting data scientists to help develop targeted marketing strategies and advertising campaigns. While start-up environments typically require a bigger time commitment from recruits, established companies allow data scientists to enjoy the work-life balance a 40-hour week affords. And because every company these days needs data scientists, there are plenty of opportunities. Attrition rates are high in data science, but that’s because these professionals are so often offered better opportunities elsewhere, not because they aren’t valued or don’t enjoy job security.
As a data scientist, you can expect to earn between $91,000 and $110,000 in your first year. Salaries go up from there; once you gain some experience and get your own team, you can expect to bring home more than $250,000. Salaries went up by eight percent in 2015 alone.
What It Takes to Work in Data Science
So, how can you land one of these well-paid, in-demand positions? You can start by earning an advanced degree in the field. To command the highest salary, you may want to plan on earning a doctorate degree, but a Master’s is a good place to start. A background in mathematics, statistics, or computer science is a good foundation.
You’ll need a bevy of hard skills to succeed in data science, including a mastery of basic programming languages like SQL or Python. If you’re comfortable working with algebra, calculus, and statistics, so much the better. A background in software engineering, machine learning, and data munging won’t go amiss.
However, you’ll need soft skills to succeed in data science, too. Communication skills are among the most important, since you’ll need to translate your complex analytical concepts into language that others can understand — whether you’re working in a corporate setting, or teaching data science at the university level. Since many data scientists end up in charge of a team, you’ll need the leadership skills necessary to manage people under you. You’ll be surprised at how much of your job will involve facilitating cooperation between disparate teams, especially in a corporate setting where technology, analytics, and business teams have to collude. But even if you remain in the public sector, teaching at the university level, leadership and management skills will help you keep your students on task in the classroom and your research team focused in the lab.
Of course, because you’ll be a scientist, you’ll also need to cultivate a sense of curiosity and a scientific frame of mind. Much of your time will be devoted to developing hypotheses, examining patterns, grappling with data, and evaluating impact. You’ll also need to document your processes and findings, both formally and informally, so that you and your team can keep track of where you are and so that you or others can repeat your experiments.
Data science is a thriving field with many opportunities for those with the right background and skills. As a data scientist, you could have the power to change the world from behind the scenes, by managing and interpreting the data upon which so many industries increasingly rely.