How to Become a Data Scientist 02 Jun 2015

How to Become a Data Scientist?

The specialized field of data science involves saving a company money and uncovering new business opportunities by identifying hidden patterns in data. With the growth of “Big Data” and new data management challenges, the demand for data scientists is expanding — often with demand exceeding supply. The data science field involves multiple skills that are often hard to obtain through a traditional educational and employment route. What are the primary qualifications for a data scientist? In this article, Research Optimus describes how to become a data scientist.

Who Is a Data Scientist?

A data scientist analyzes both old and new data types and then uses statistical inference and experimental design techniques to build models that represent data relationships. Data scientists excel at helping businesses to gain a competitive advantage by analyzing the large amounts of data produced in a “Big Data” world — especially by transforming data sets so that statistical evidence can be communicated in writing to company executives and other team members.

Data Scientist Job Description

If you are interested in knowing more about a data scientist at work, here are some detailed excerpts from actual job descriptions:

  1. Integrates data by examining relationships and patterns among different types of data such as online consumer buying behavior and media consumption
  2. Creates data visualizations that communicate results from data analysis
  3. Interacts with individuals and teams, often on a cross-functional basis
  4. Supports project needs by exhibiting commitment to quality, tenacity and sense of urgency to complete assignments in a timely manner
  5. Proposes actionable plans after identifying relationships via statistical analyses
  6. Conducts analyses by writing SAS code and then interprets findings
  7. Identifies a research approach to problem-solving with statistical, qualitative and quantitative techniques

Data Scientist Skills

For anyone interested in pursuing a career as a data scientist, you should anticipate a need for multiple specialized skills. Due to the increasing relevance of the Internet and advanced technology, domain knowledge and specific data skills are usually mandatory — examples can include Python, R analysis, C++, Java, Hadoop and HBase.

Prospective data scientist employers typically have high skill expectations involving both “hard” and “soft” skill sets — innovation, visualization, statistics, mathematics, problem-solving, curiosity and communication. Additional business skills include strategic thinking and collaboration.

Becoming a Data Scientist

Advanced degrees are common in the data science field — 46 percent of data scientists have PhDs and 88 percent have a Master’s degree. Helpful data science degrees include engineering, applied mathematics, computer science, statistics, physics and econometrics. It is not unusual for hiring companies to require some work experience (although not necessarily in the data science field) along with an MS from either a one-year or two-year program in a quantitative field. For example, 100 percent of the data scientists at Research Optimus have an MS, MBA or PhD degree.

Salary of a Data Scientist

In considering data science career options, the data scientist salary opportunities can vary widely based upon location and specific company needs. Here are some representative averages:

  • United States — $95,000 annually (2015 data from
  • United Kingdom — £40,000 annually (2015 data from
  • Australia — $A200,000 annually (second annual IAPA Skills and Salary Survey)

Data Analyst vs Data Scientist

In many cases, a data analyst is an appropriate “entry point” for a data scientist career path. As a “junior data scientist,” a data analyst will often have the same mission as a more seasoned data scientist — but the data scientist will usually be expected to exhibit more advanced skills and perform specialized data analysis tasks.

The Data Revolution – Hiring Data Scientists

If your company needs data scientists, there are two practical options — build your own team or outsource your data science needs to data management experts like Research Optimus. For employers seeking to hire a data scientist, good luck! There is a growing shortage of qualified data scientists in many locations.

For example, searches for data scientists at grew by 73 percent during the first quarter of 2015 in comparison to the same period in 2014. Actual job postings are typically an excellent indicator of “supply and demand” factors at work in various professions — the chief economist at, Dr. Tara Sinclair, reports that data scientist job postings in early 2015 are 57 percent higher than postings a year earlier.

Please share your experiences with data science by leaving a comment below and then passing along your thoughts by using the provided social media buttons.

– Research Optimus

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