Find Your Degree is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

What Does a Data Scientist Actually Do?

Most people are familiar with the terms data and science. Many people are even familiar with data science as an emerging field of increasing importance. The majority of people are still in the dark about exactly what data scientists do. Here are some key duties and characteristics of a professional data scientist.

Related resource: 20 Best Data Science Bachelor’s Degree Programs

Collect Data

First and foremost, data scientists gather information. The first step is to accurately identify which types of information they need by assessing problems that need solving and gaps in the currently available knowledge. They conduct surveys to gather opinions and stories from individuals, comb through reports to gather numbers, and make countless observations of both people and things. While they are always seeking specific information based on the people are institution they are working for, a data scientist must remain open-minded and unbiased about what they observe. This task is far more complicated than just collecting and relaying all raw information. Data scientists must know how to clean and validate the data in order to present an accurate picture of a situation or phenomenon.

Analyze Data

With the world becoming more technical and digital every day, data collection and analysis is an everyday part of most businesses and organizations. This means that data scientists have a wide variety of professional environments available to work in. Most simply stated, data scientists analyze data for trends and patterns. The nature of the results, and what they mean, vary widely from one source to another. For example, data scientists working in education might investigate trends in student academic success and school attendance. Data scientists working in the healthcare field might look for relationships between treatments and symptoms. The list is practically endless, giving data scientists the freedom to combine their data science careers with other interests and passions.

Data Implementation

There is no point in collecting and identifying trends in data if people are not going to put that knowledge to use. Data scientists are therefore also responsible for guiding people in the processing of applying the results found in the data. The purpose of collecting and analyzing data is to make improvements within a business or system. Learning what keeps students in school and facilitates academic achievement allows schools to provide quality education to more students. Understanding how different patients respond to different treatments for various disorders leads to healthier communities. Data scientists also help businesses and organizations understand and improve their financial circumstances.

Skills and Qualifications

Not everyone can become a successful data scientist. It takes an ideal combination of skills and qualifications. Some can be learned, while others are personality-driven. Data scientists must have a strong academic background in statistics and programming. As implied by the word scientist, they must possess excellent critical thinking abilities. Given that the results of their work must be properly implemented by a wide variety of other people, data scientists also have to be fantastic written and verbal communicators. Forbes offers an excellent overview of the difference between a data scientist and an expert data scientist.

Data scientists strive to make every product and service the best that it can be. This means that, whether they realize it or not, all people are impacted by the work that they do. Data science is also one of the fastest growing fields in the world. It is valuable to have at least this basic understanding of what data scientists actually do.