Ten Government Agencies Hiring Data Scientists
- United States Census Bureau
- Defense Intelligence Agency
- United States Department of Transportation
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Department of Homeland Security
- Food and Drug Administration
Data science is a global and rapidly growing industry. From nursing and public health to marketing and law enforcement, data science has infiltrated every industry – resulting in a tremendous demand for well-trained data scientists. Government data science jobs are available in most of the departments and agencies of the federal government.
Forbes shares how government agencies frequently hire data scientists for a wide variety of job functions. Here are five government agencies that hire data scientists.
The Central Intelligence Agency is one of the most challenging government agencies to work for, but provides data scientists ample opportunity to shape the outcome of local, national, and global events. From political stability analysis to terrorism prevention, data scientists working at the CIA are presented with significant challenges in their day to day duties, and must often work quickly to analyze data and issue findings to make recommendations to other agencies, including other law enforcement agencies. The CIA offers generous compensation and benefits, including a government pension.
Data scientists working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation are presented with tremendous and often highly challenging opportunities to utilize their skills. Data scientists working in law enforcement analyze and quantify large amounts of data on everything from white-collar crime to child kidnapping rings. As with most government agencies, data scientists working with and for the FBI are well-compensated, and typically given excellent benefits and pension options.
An excellent choice for data scientists with a passion for the physical sciences, NASA employs data scientists who work with data on a wide variety of projects. In addition to astronomy-based work, NASA also compiles and analyzes atmospheric, oceanographic, and forestry data. Data scientists working for NASA may also analyze data relating to technology projects and programming. Data scientists at NASA may look at the images and data from satellites and use the information to create maps and models used for exploration and research initiatives. They may also examine information about rainfall patterns and how they relate to other weather and climate phenomena, such as volcanic eruptions. For example, a recent NASA data science study looked at the cause of the 2018 Mount Kilauea eruption and determined that it was triggered by a large rainfall event. NASA’s data scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories used information and innovative engineering to fabricate a new type of ventilator for the COVID-19 response.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration compiles and analyzes data on weather, water, and atmospheric systems worldwide. Data scientists are critical to NOAA’s work, which also makes recommendations to national and global government agencies on disaster and famine prevention due to weather systems and climate change. Data scientists at NOAA may also develop modeling for severe weather events. They may analyze the results from different models and update algorithms as new information becomes available. Their analysis may impact planning and preparedness efforts for other agencies of the federal government, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Transportation.
The NOAA is an excellent choice for data scientists who are interested in applying data science to earth and physical science topics and problems, and who are interested in making a global impact in the age of climate change.
United States Census Bureau
The United States Census Bureau compiles and assesses data not only on the number of people living in the United States, but on population density, population problems based on density or sparsity, and makes recommendations to agencies funding public programs and services for budgets. The Census Bureau’s data is key to funding schools, water systems, and sanitation, infrastructure and road maintenance, and public universities via tax revenue at the local, state, and national levels. Data scientists at the United States Census Bureau may look at the allocation of resources based on a location’s population size. They are also responsible for creating maps for the House of Representatives, based on where people live. Their analyses provide critical information to the distribution of federal funding for education, transportation, healthcare, and infrastructure. Data scientists at the United States Census Bureau also examine disparities by race, age, income, and other factors.
Defense Intelligence Agency
The Defense Intelligence Agency is part of the Department of Defense. It supports the collection of intelligence for military combat and non-combat operations. The agency also analyzes and disseminates the information it collects. A data scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s purpose is to get foreign intelligence and use it for military operations, which is different from the Central Intelligence Agency’s mission to collect foreign intelligence for the President of the United States and their cabinet. Some of the job duties of a data scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency might include collecting and analyzing information for the agency’s machine-assisted analysis rapid-repositories system (MARS) program. This could include setting up databases and analyzing the information contained in them. Data scientists at the agency may also be responsible for preparing intelligence reports, verifying details, and confirming sources of information. They may need to test analytic programs, identify errors in data analysis, and update information as new details become available. They often work as part of an intelligence-gathering team across multiple agencies within the Department of Defense.
United States Department of Transportation
The United States Department of Transportation hires data scientists to develop and support databases that are in line with the agency’s mission. Expert-level knowledge in geographic information systems (GIS) is required for most of the agency’s data scientist positions. The job duties of a data scientist at the Department of Transportation may include performing updates and data analysis within existing databases. These individuals may also be responsible for spatial and non-spatial data development and modeling related to transportation. They may look at aspects of transportation including the interstate system, water transportation, and railway freight. Department of Transportation data scientists may also design and automate programs for geo-spatial analysis using specific software programs. Data scientists at the agency may need to travel for their jobs and work with state and local transportation coordinators on specific projects.
Environmental Protection Agency
The Environmental Protection Agency also hires data scientists. A data scientist within the agency is likely to be assigned to a particular program or area, such as the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Office of Research and Development, or Office of Water. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the mission is to protect human health and the environment. To that end, a data scientist at the agency may analyze information about pollutants in groundwater and compare them to human health problems in the area. They may conduct a cohort study or case-control study in order to find out if levels of a particular contaminant are associated with an increased risk of morbidity or mortality. Data scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency may also analyze the sources of pollutants and the possibility of exposures. The scientists may collect data from Superfund sites in order to make sure that implemented measures are working. Data scientists may also build, test, and modify databases and clean and analyze information collected by those databases.
United States Department of Homeland Security
The United States Department of Homeland Security was established after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Its mission is to secure the United States’ homeland from internal and external threats. Many existing agencies were brought under its umbrella after the Department was established. The Department of Homeland Security handles cybersecurity threats, domestic terrorism, emergency response, and more. It coordinates with other departments and agencies, including the FBI, CIA, and Department of Transportation in order to collect information and identify threats. Data scientists at the Department of Homeland Security may work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where they analyze the data from mitigation and response efforts. They may also work at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, where they would administer databases and analyze information related to security threats at ports of entry, land border crossings, and airports.
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration protects the health of Americans and animals by ensuring that all additives, foods, medications, and devices are safe. The agency regulates vaccines, medical devices, products that emit radiation, biologics, cosmetics, tobacco products, beverages, and human and animal food. Data scientists who work at the Food and Drug Administration might be assigned to a particular division or project. For example, a data scientist might be working on one of the Food and Drug Administration‘s current studies related to whether or not convalescent plasma could be used as an effective treatment for COVID-19. Data scientists at the Food and Drug Administration may also track reports of injuries, adverse reactions, and contaminants in or caused by consumer goods.
Training for Data Scientists
Data science requires a lot of education. Indeed, seven in eight data scientists have a master’s degree, and nearly half have doctorates. Computers are improving faster than textbooks can keep up, so data scientists must be not only on-point with their applied knowledge but also creative in their applications of that knowledge.
Data scientists don’t only study computers and their data applications. Many study probability and statistics and other fields in mathematics. Others are social scientists who apply math to the tracking of trends. Still others, particularly those who work for the intelligence or law enforcement branches, track and study the patterns of criminal behavior in an effort to predict the outcome of various strategies to curtail or even to prevent crime.
Those who focus on computer applications generally rely on the programming language called “R.” It’s a specially designed language for data scientists, who must be familiar with its processes and applications no matter their focus. The duties of most government data science jobs also require data scientists to be familiar with Hadoop and Python. Python is an additional programming language, and Hadoop is a platform that lets data scientists move data around a system to places where sufficient memory exists to store it when someone runs out elsewhere.
Necessary General Skills
To go along with the necessary creativity, data scientists should also either have or develop a healthy curiosity about how things work. Albert Einstein used to say that he wasn’t talented at all. He was just very curious. Seeking new data to support existing processes is part of the job description of the data scientist.
Being well-versed in business is also important for government data science jobs. A lot of the data that the government uses is crucial in understanding the workings of the economy as a whole. That understanding is the linchpin of economic policy, particularly when staving off disasters like the housing debacle of 2008 and the effects of the pandemic on the country.
To paraphrase an old saying, “No one is an island.” No matter how smart, how creative, how forward-thinking, or how business-savvy a data scientist is, there will be things that that person misses. That’s why data science is a “team event.” Extra pairs of eyes are essential to success. Vanderbilt University and others are beginning to teach group dynamics and to use group learning in their other classes too. There are massive open online courses set up to help smart loners learn how to be team players. Perspicacious data scientists will avail themselves of these classes even after earning advanced degrees in their chosen fields.
For data scientists interested in sociology, anthropology, and other social science fields – and for those interested in making a positive impact on the lives of everyday nationals – the Census Bureau offers ample opportunity to apply data science to these arenas.
Government agencies offer a myriad array of work opportunities to data scientists. Data analysis fuels a tremendous variety of government projects, from food subsidies and housing assistance to agriculture and space discovery. As the field of data science continues to grow, so too will the importance of having data scientists on government payrolls – resulting in excellent government-based employment opportunities to those working in data science. The government data science jobs at these agencies provide opportunities for personal growth and professional advancement.
Those people wishing to be data scientists can strengthen their skill sets by continually educating themselves. There are always MOOCs available to teach new skills or to reinforce old ones. There are plenty of available certificates to earn, too, such as certified analytics professional, Google professional data engineer, and senior data scientist of the Data Science Council of America. All of these are good choices for boosting a data science career.