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How to Become a Data Scientist

CAREER GUIDE

How to Become a Data Scientist

If you’re new to the tech world, you’re probably wondering why everybody is talking about data science. What is data science? How do you become a data scientist? What do data scientists make? These are excellent questions, and we have the answers for you here. Here’s everything you need to know about a career in data science. 

Here are some key facts about careers in the information sciences field: 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 16% increase in data science jobs by 2028; much higher than the national average of 5.2%.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the average salary for information science professionals is $116,370 per year.

Data science career paths include data analytics, business analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and more.

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Data science is part of the information sciences field. These professionals deal with large volumes of data. Everything from search queries to location data is valuable in the information age, and data scientists are tasked with managing and making sense of it all.

Data science is a recent addition to the tech industry. Previously, many people performed data science tasks but had different titles. The term originated around 2008—since then, tens of thousands of specialized data science and data-related careers have emerged. Big data, a key point-of-interest for data scientists, is a driving factor behind recent job growth. There’s more data out there than ever, and companies can’t manage or make good use out of it without professional data scientists.

Data scientists manage and interpret large data sets using databases, algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and other tools. Data scientists also use programming languages during the course of their careers. Data science is a highly technical career path and requires keen attention to detail.

Data Science Job Description

Data scientists perform a wide variety of tasks. Primarily, data scientists work with databases of all kinds. The job requires a keen understanding of how data works and what makes it worthwhile. Here are the most common attributes of data science jobs:

Managing databases

Interpreting large data sets

Analyzing data and turning it into useful information

Data mining

Database expansion, maintenance, and modernization

Staying up-to-date on the latest big data and tech industry breakthroughs

Data science is a challenging yet rewarding career field. Anybody with the right amount of motivation can become a data scientist. The most important key to success is a willingness to learn, adapt, and modify yourself as the industry advances. 

Data science is a highly technical field that requires lots of well-refined skills. You need to approach your education with intentionality and planning to succeed in the field. Here are the most important skills required for a career in data science:

Math and statistics

Data scientists rely heavily on math and statistics, especially for analysis and modeling. Professionals in the field should be reasonably proficient in these subjects. Data science isn’t as mathematically demanding as statistics, but it’s still important to understand.

Tools, frameworks, and programming languages

Data science, data analytics, and machine learning also rely on programming languages. The most popular coding languages for the field are Python and R, but frameworks and tools such as Hadoop, TensorFlow, SQL, Scikit-Learn, and NumPy are also common.

Analytical and logic skills

Analytics is a big part of data science. Unsurprisingly, data professionals need to develop a keen sense of pattern recognition, along with strong analytical skills. If critical thinking is your strong suit, you’re already ahead of the game.

Interpersonal skills

As a data scientist, you’ll probably work with professionals and managers who don’t understand what you do. You’ll need strong interpersonal skills to help them understand the results of your work and to keep everyone on the same page.

Data science is one of the most lucrative professions out there, and entry-level salaries are impressive. According to Glassdoor, entry-level data scientists earn an average salary of $73,645 per year, but many professionals start off earning six figures. The average salary across the board is much higher at $116,370 per year.

CityAverage SalaryEntry-Level SalaryMid-Career SalaryLate-Career Salary
Atlanta, GA$101,183$79k$101k$131k
Boston, MA$110,373$86k$110k$143k
Chicago, IL$102,543$80k$103k$133k
Cleveland, OH$93,282$72k$93k$121k
Dallas, TX$100,556$79k$101k$130k
Los Angeles, CA$116,447$91k$116k$150k
Miami, FL$100,699$79k$101k$131k
Milwaukee, WI$95,749$71k$96k$124k
Minneapolis, MN$95,558$74k$96k$124k
New York, NY$113,156$88k$113k$147k
Philadelphia, PA$97,921$76k$98k$127k
Phoenix, AZ$102,489$80k$102k$133k
Portland, OR$120,664$95k$121k$155k
San Francisco, CA$140,897$111k$141k$179k
Seattle, WA$125,692$99k$126k$161k

Data science is a complex field that requires a high level of technical skill. Predictably, the field offers high salaries to anyone willing to put in the work and learn the trade.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $124,567
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2018-28): 16%
  • Number of People Employed: 140,000

Data scientists use programming languages, statistical skills, and algorithms to manage and interpret large data sets.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $62,435
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2018-28): 26%
  • Number of People Employed: 109,000

Business administration requires a healthy level of analysis. Among all job titles, none serve this need better than business analysts. These professionals solve business problems, and serve the role of ‘trend finders’ within a company.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $114,121
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2018-28): 16%
  • Number of People Employed: 31,000

Machine learning engineers use algorithms, engineering principles, and programming languages to build artificial intelligence systems.

  • Mean Annual Salary: $62,435
  • Projected Job Growth Outlook (2018-28): 26%
  • Number of People Employed: 109,000

Data analysts use coding languages, frameworks, and data visualization tools to transform large volumes of non-descript data into useful and actionable information.

PositionSalary
Entry Level (0-4 Years)$80,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years)$125,000
Experienced (10-20 Years)$150,000
Late-Career (20+ Years)$200,000

Generally speaking, data scientists earn an impressive salary, especially when bonuses and additional cash compensation count with the total. Today, data scientists earn an average total income of $146,937, with some professionals grossing nearly $200,000 per year.

The Types of Data Scientists

Data science is an umbrella term that refers to several distinct career paths. And while positions for ‘data science’ are common, the field is still quite new so there’s still room for interpretation when it comes to job responsibilities and titles. Here are the most common and well-established data science career paths:

Data Analyst

Data analysts use tools, statistical methods, and algorithms to interpret large data sets. Put simply, data analysts are responsible for making sense of data and converting it into useful and actionable information.

Data Engineer

Data engineers are responsible for creating and optimizing the efficiency of algorithms, systems, and other programs for data analysts. In turn, data analysts use these systems to turn random data into structured and useful information.

Data Scientist

Data scientists are responsible for everything previously mentioned, along with numerous administrative tasks. Data science requires a wide set of skills, among which are attention to detail and analytical abilities.

Data science is a new career field. As a part of the tech industry, it’s also a performance-centered career field with unpredictable barriers to entry. That means that data scientists come from numerous educational and experience backgrounds. Here are the most reliable ways to become a data scientist:

College or University

Colleges and universities are a go-to choice for aspiring data science professionals, though degree options can be confusing. Today, universities offering dedicated ‘data science’ degrees are rare. Instead, students major in computer science, software engineering, and similar fields.

Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamps are fast-paced, information-dense tech training programs designed to help students land a job. These programs are for beginners and advanced students. Many bootcamps offer job placement guarantees and deferred tuition programs.

MOST COMMON

Coding Bootcamps

Bootcamps strike a balance. While they will not provide the same comprehensive education that a four year degree will, they will provide you with on the ground, practical training to get you into software engineering as quickly as possible.  Coding bootcamps cost an average of $13,600 for a full-time education. These programs run between 3 months and 1 year, but schedules vary widely. Full-time programs are available, as are part-time and online programs in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, students can attend bootcamps for other tech careers including web development, data science, cybersecurity, and more. Software engineering is an amazing career. Getting to design entire complex systems that function in unison with other systems like cogs in a giant machine is deeply appealing to many. If it’s appealing to you then don’t wait. Start learning now, and enter a field where cutting edge is the norm.  

  • Duration: 1 to 5 years
  • Cost: $0 (or minimal)
  • Average Base Salary: Unknown
  • Duration: 3 to 12 months
  • Cost: Avg. $13,600
  • Average Base Salary: $70,700
  • Duration: 4 to 6 years
  • Cost: Avg. $34,740 (4 years)
  • Average Base Salary: $65,900
  • Duration: 1.5 to 2 years (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
  • Cost: Avg. $30,000 to $100,000 (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
  • Average Base Salary: $114,000
  • Duration: 4 to 8 years (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
  • Cost: Avg. $50,000+ (in addition to Bachelor’s Degree)
  • Average Base Salary: $124,000

Coding Bootcamp

Coding bootcamp is a new arrival to the world of higher education. These career training programs are designed to cover the curriculum students need for a software engineering career, without the additional classes or added expense levied by university. Bootcamps are a proven way into tech, with some programs reporting job placement rates in excess of 90%. Bootcamps generally run between three months and a year, and are available full-time, part-time, and online.

College/University

College is the traditional route into a software engineering career. Students often receive a bachelor’s degree in computer science or software engineering (where available). These students sometimes go onto graduate school and attain higher degrees, though it’s not necessary to enter the industry. College, while once the primary route into a software engineering career, isn’t the only way to get in. These days, other programs such as coding bootcamps now offer a fairly direct path into the same jobs once held exclusively by college graduates.

Self-Study

Some software engineers are self-taught, learning how to code online and from books. For some people, this method works—but often requires a hefty portfolio to prove that the candidate can do what they claim to. Thankfully, freelance positions and personal projects are a good way to demonstrate abilities

FAQ

Will coding bootcamp help me get a job?

Absolutely! Coding bootcamp is a proven way to train for a job in tech. Many coding bootcamps offer job guarantees, and some refund tuition if graduates can’t find a job in the field they trained for. In fact, coding bootcamp teaches skills that many college computer science graduates lack.

How much do coding bootcamps cost?

Coding bootcamp tuition varies. Coding bootcamps in New York City cost around $10,000 to $20,000. However, many scholarships and tuition deferment programs are available, so what you see doesn’t have to be what you pay.

What are income share agreements?

Income share agreements, or ISAs, are a new way to pay for education. These programs defer tuition until after students graduate and find a job in the industry. Once students are employed and making above a certain income threshold (usually $40-60,000 per year) they begin paying a fixed percent of their income, often for around 2 years. If students can’t find a job, many bootcamps waive the cost of tuition.

Do I have to learn coding to work in the tech industry?

You don’t have to learn coding to work in the tech industry. In fact, there are several non-coding bootcamps in New York City. These programs train you for a position in tech sales, marketing, or product management–all of which are well-paid positions with plenty of advancement opportunity.

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