Data Scientist: Education, Skills & Training

The field of data science is a relatively new one that may be an attractive option for individuals who are skilled in the areas of data analysis, computer programming and mathematics. Learn more about the job duties and requirements.

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Career Definition and Educational Requirements of a Data Scientist

Data scientists are a relatively new type of computer scientist who focus heavily on solving problems by using their skills in statistics, computer programming, and machine learning to analyze very large data sets. These professionals are in charge of trying to identify different trends and patterns in the data in order to draw some type of conclusion. They then share these conclusions with whatever business or organization they work for, who then can create new products, content, and strategies to reflect the data scientist's findings.

Though the skills necessary to be an effective data scientist are based in computer science and programming and mathematics, data scientists work in a very wide number of fields, since data science can be used to accomplish many different tasks. For example, some data scientists may work in politics and use their skills to predict election outcomes. Others may work for different social media companies and use data science to understand user habits and suggest posts and content that users may like.

Educational Requirements Bachelor's or master's degree
Job Skills Proficiency in various computer programming languages; high level of mathematical ability in probability, algebra and statistics; organizational skills
Median Salary (2017)* $91,791 (for IT data scientists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)** 19% (for all computer and information scientists)

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education & Training

Data scientists could potentially have a number of different educational and professional backgrounds, as long as they have the necessary skills to be successful. However, pursuing a bachelor's degree directly in data science or in a related field such as computer science would likely help you acquire these skills. Some individuals may be interested in also obtaining a master's degree to further specialize and hone their skillsets.

Required Skills

Individuals who want to work as data scientists will need to be highly proficient in a number of computer programming languages, like R, Python, and Matlab. You will use these programming languages extensively as a data scientist in order to properly analyze and visualize data sets. They also are used for machine learning. Mathematical skills are also important in this field, especially in the areas of statistics, linear algebra, and probability. In addition to these skills, data scientists often work with large amounts of data, necessitating an ability to stay organized.

Career and Salary Outlook

In 2017, the median salary for IT data scientists was $91,791, according to PayScale.com. However, individuals who worked as IT data scientists earned a wide range of salaries, from just over $60,000 to almost $160,000. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the field of computer and information scientists, which would include data scientists, is expected to experience 19% job growth between 2016 and 2026, which is much higher than the expected growth rate of 7% across all occupations.

Related Careers

For individuals who are considering pursuing a career as a data scientist, there are a few other similar careers that may be of interest. The jobs discussed in the articles linked below also utilize computer science skills and analysis skills.

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