This growing field offers stability – and strong salary potential – for people with the right blend of education and skills

The amount of stored, electronic data is rapidly increasing. According to one projection, the amount of electronic data is going to more than double every two years between now and 2020.

“From 2013 to 2020, the digital universe will grow by a factor of 10 – from 4.4 trillion gigabytes to 44 trillion,” according to a report from the International Data Corporation (IDC).

Because big data is accumulating quickly, employers are looking to hire data scientists who can sift through information and analyze data. The number of people trained, however, is not enough to satisfy the need for data analysts. The McKinsey Global Institute recently noted that, by 2018, the United States could be short 140,000 to 190,000 workers who have “deep analytical skills,” as reported by the Harvard Extension School. Thus trained individuals who have strong analytical skills are in high-demand.

Data Scientist Salary

Data Scientist Salary and Career Options

What Do Data Scientists Do?

Big data, compiled from almost every source obtainable, can be used to predict consumer behavior and to make business decisions. Data scientists explore electronic information from a variety of angles and communicate those findings to businesses.

Harvard Extension School notes that commercial companies are not the only ones who can benefit from applying big data.  Today, big data is also proving to be useful in the fields of academia, government, medicine and public health. Subsequently, organizations can use this information, explained by data scientists, to make business decisions in order to increase sales or reduce spending. Thus data scientists are needed in most sectors, and a wide range of companies want to hire data scientists.


Earnings Potential and Education for Data Scientists

Since there is a high demand for data scientists, professionals in this field have a high earnings potential. According to the 2016 Burtch Works’ Salaries for Big Data Professionals Report, the median staff salary for data scientists range from $97,000 at level 1 to $152,000 at level 3, whereas the median management salary for data scientists range from $140,000 at level 1, to $240,000 at level 3.

Data scientists typically have a graduate degree. According to a study completed by Burtch Works, 92% of data scientists have an advanced degree, with 44% having at least a master’s degree, and 48% hold a Ph.D.

Also, 28% of data scientists hold a degree in statistics or mathematics, 18% have an engineering degree, and 17% hold a computer science degree.

Educational programs help students learn the technical skills they need to become data scientists, including analytical skills, knowledge of analytic tools, and principles of computer science.

Some important non-technical skills are having intellectual curiosity and communication skills, as noted by Burtch Works. Data scientists should also be able to understand organizations’ goals and be able to prioritize information. Additionally, IBM states that data scientists should be creative, asking the right questions and finding solutions.