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Data scientists play an important role within an organization. They apply technical skills and theoretical knowledge to identify and solve complex problems in data infrastructures and information systems. They are part computer scientists, part mathematicians and part trend-spotters. Since they work in both IT and business worlds, their services are usually in high demand.

Data scientists are a sign of the changing times. They were not popular some years back because businesses didn’t see any need to leverage big data to improve their processes and sales. Today, businesses think of big data more than anything else. They are willing to channel a lot of resources to mine, analyze and implement the unstructured information big data provides to gain more business insights. This is where data scientists come in. They unearth unstructured information from big data, analyze it, restructure it and use it to provide new business insights.

Data Scientist Salary

Data scientists earn decent salaries, thanks to the complex and highly important nature of their work. Their average income is $91,527 per year, with some earning up to $160,000.

Beginning Salary

The beginning salary for data scientists is $60,000. This is very lucrative for someone who has just started their career.

Key Responsibilities of a Data Scientist

Data scientists have many responsibilities. They include the following;

  • Work with the management and staff to identify business data requirements and expected outcome.
  • Use machine learning techniques to select features, build and optimize classifiers.
  • Employ state-of-the art techniques to mine and process data.
  • Create automatic anomaly detection systems to prevent data manipulation and theft.
  • Conduct ad-hoc analysis and present results in a clear and concise manner.

Necessary Skills

There are a few skills data scientists must have to perform effectively at work. They must have knowledge of at least one programming language and a database querying language such as SQL. They should be familiar with statistical tests, maximum likelihood estimators and distributions. Those who work for companies who handle huge amounts of data may have to be familiar with machine learning techniques. Other key competencies include knowledge of linear algebra and multi-variable calculus, strong analytical skills and ability to visualize data and communicate well.

Degree and Educational Requirements for Data Scientists

There are three educational options for aspiring data scientists. The first involves obtaining a degree and a graduate certificate. The second one involves self-guided learning courses. The third one involves boot camps.

We recommend you choose the degree and graduate certificate path. The reason is that self-guided courses and boot camps do not allow maximum exposure to all data facets. A degree in information technology, computer science or statistics will set you on the right path to becoming a highly skilled and competent data scientist. These degrees take about four years to complete and cover topics such as system analysis, data management and data security. You will also be required to complete your final year project and go for an internship. We recommend you do a project that is directly related to data to increase your chances of getting employed faster.

Pros and Cons of Working as a Data Scientist

The first advantage of working as a data scientist involves the salary you will get. Data scientist are some of the highest-paid professionals. They not only get monthly wages, but they also benefit from huge periodic bonuses. Unlike other professions, data science has some form of job security. The need for data is growing at a rapid rate, and companies will most likely demand more people instead of conducting retrenchments.

Another benefit of working as a data scientist is that you get to work with different forms of data under different conditions. This expands your skills set and makes your more knowledgeable.

However, working in data science does not make you are immune to challenges. There are several data mining challenges you will face. Low quality data, missing values, inadequate data and poor data sampling can make it difficult for you to meet your objectives. You may also have problems assembling and analyzing data from multiple sources.

Getting Started

Obtaining a degree is not enough to make you qualify for a decent job. You need to have a little bit of exposure in data analytics. Most employers require at least three years of exposure in a big company.

You also need to acquire certain certifications to improve your prospects. Consider applying for Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) or Cloudera Certified Professional (CCP). In order to qualify for the CAP certification, you must have at least three years of work experience in an analytics-related field and sign an agreement to adhere to the set codes of ethics. To qualify for the CCP certification, you must pass the Descriptive and Inferential Statistics, Supervised Learning Machine and Unsupervised Learning Machine exams. The CAP and CPP certifications are targeted towards individuals who can demonstrate advanced skills in handling big data.

Career Outlook

There is current shortage of data scientists all over the world. This shortage means the employment prospects for those who want to specialize in data science is good. The shortage is already causing serious constraints in some sectors. Research institutions like IBM have predicted the demand for data scientists to grow by 39 percent by 2020. This trend has already begun to play out in the number of job openings being advertised. Around 10, 000 new job positions were advertised in 2016, representing a 50 percent increase within a period of one year. The increasing demand will continue as long as companies use the internet to facilitate their operations. New job openings will be more prevalent in sectors such as healthcare, transportation, warehousing, communication, science, retail, marketing, insurance, finance and government.

Choosing to work as a data scientist is a potentially rewarding decision. Data scientists are highly respected and earn good salaries. They also enjoy job stability more than any other professional. The profile discussed above will provide you with all the information you need to know about data scientists.

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