We collected every email and every tweet from the 2020 Democratic primary. Here's what we found...

How to Become a Data Scientist (Skills + Qualifications)

Izabelle Hundrev
Izabelle Hundrev  |  November 26, 2019

Technology is showing no signs of slowing down. As a result, tech careers are also growing in demand across all industries.

In the world of information technology, one of the most sought-after titles is that of a data scientist. According to Business Insider, a career in data science boasts high levels of satisfaction among current employees and a high annual salary.

As with any high-paying job, the path to getting there isn’t always easy. Becoming a data scientist requires many years of education, as well as work experience and additional certifications. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and have a passion for the field, this career path can be incredibly rewarding in the long run.

In this article, we’ll share exactly what steps are necessary to take in order to secure a career in data science, as well as education requirements and salary information.

If you’d like to skip ahead, feel free to do so using the links below:
Education requirements
Job duties and responsibilities
Necessary skills
Salary information

What is a data scientist?

A data scientist is responsible for analyzing and evaluating large data sets to form conclusions that help reach desirable business outcomes. Data scientists can work throughout multiple facets of a business including product development, sales, marketing, or customer service. They primarily use data mining and analysis methods to derive meaning from numbers and drive results.

A career in data science can prove to be both long and rewarding. As an added plus, the field doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. In a report published by Indeed, the number of job postings for data scientist positions have grown 256% - nearly tripling since 2019. If there’s a time to hop on the data science bandwagon, it’s now.

Data scientist education requirements

In comparison to other jobs in the IT field, a data science career path requires more years of education. According to Indeed, 75% of data scientists have either a master’s degree or Ph.D. Although this doesn’t mean that a graduate degree is a requirement to secure a full-time job, it is highly recommended.

At the undergraduate level, a bachelor’s degree in computer science, math, statistics or a related field will suffice. Many colleges don’t yet offer programs that are specific to data science. For this reason, many data scientists come from a variety of educational backgrounds. As long as the degree is in a quantitative subject, it’s relevant.

TIP: In addition to schooling, there are a variety of certification courses available to data scientists. A certification isn’t a substitute for an advanced degree, but it can give you a competitive edge during the job-hunting process.

Data scientist job duties

Since data science is a relatively new job field, the role can look a bit different from one company to the next. Despite changes across companies and levels of experience, there are a handful of duties that most data scientist roles require:

  • Collect and analyze structured and unstructured data sets to identify trends and patterns.
  • Collaborate cross-functionally across different teams to understand business needs and strategize possible solutions.
  • Develop and fine-tune predictive modeling, data mining, and machine learning processes to improve and influence business outcomes.
  • Research and develop statistical analysis methodologies.
  • Document and report results and solutions to internal stakeholders, often through data visualization methods.

Organizing, managing, and analyzing big data is the bread and butter of a data scientist - but they don’t do it without help. Discover the best big data analytics software tools that automate the workload and help them get the job done faster.

See the Easiest-to-Use Big Data Analytics Software →

Top skills for a data scientist

A combination of hard and soft skills are necessary to tackle all of the responsibilities of the job. The best candidate for a data science role has a wealth of technical knowledge, coupled with strong business acumen and problem-solving skills.

top skills for a data scientist
Below, we break down each skill set a bit more in-depth and explain how it pertains to a data science role, specifically.

Technical knowledge

A strong foundation in technical knowledge is essential to the data scientist role. To qualify, a job candidate needs an extensive background in the following:

  • Data visualization
  • Machine learning
  • Data mining
  • Statistical analysis
  • Predictive modeling
  • Programming languages, most commonly SQL, Java, or Python

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is at the very core of what data scientists are required to do on a daily basis. Often times, the problem itself won’t be neatly defined. Instead, it’s the data scientist’s job to identify problems as they arise and evaluate which steps will be necessary in order to solve them.

Interpersonal skills

Aside from the technical aspects, a career in data science requires a lot of collaboration and face-to-face interaction. Excellent interpersonal skills are a necessity. A data scientist has to be able to articulate their findings and feel comfortable presenting them to different teams and executive leadership.

Data scientist salary

As mentioned previously, one desirable aspect of the data science profession is the possibility of a high annual salary. According to salary.com, the average annual salary for an entry-level data scientist position is $62,735. As years of experience and level of education goes up, so does pay. A data scientist with over 10 years of experience that has an advanced graduate degree earns an average annual salary of $149,057.

Note: Salary averages can fluctuate significantly based on a variety of factors such as geographic location, skills, and years of experience. The numbers listed above are industry averages.

Over to you

It’s easy to see that a career in data science is not for everyone. But if you have an analytical mindset, enjoy working with complex data, and have a knack for numbers and problem-solving, then this could prove to be the right fit for you. If you choose to pursue a career as a data scientist, you can rest assured that your future is filled with countless opportunities for professional development and a lucrative salary.

Izabelle Hundrev
Author

Izabelle Hundrev

Izabelle is a Content Marketing Associate who joined G2 in April 2018. After earning a degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri, Izabelle moved back to her hometown of Chicago in pursuit of a career and deep dish pizza. Outside of work, she is passionate about all things pop culture, food, and travel. (she/her/hers)