Big Data has changed the daily operations of many businesses, government organizations and individuals, requiring them to be well-versed in the computer programs that have been created to process so much information. Data science is a field that spans disciplines and uses scientific methods, algorithms and other statistical methods to extract insight. Now, more people are needed to manage knowledge and data both online and through traditional resources like ledgers and receipts.
Why Data Science is Important
Big Data is large datasets that can’t be analyzed with traditional, non-computational, statistical methods. The data can be numbers, pictures, words and so on, and they are generated through several channels, such as comments on social media posts or medical records uploaded into a database. Companies are overwhelmed with information coming in varieties – and volumes – they hadn’t encountered before. With all the incoming feedback, it’s no surprise data science is at the top of companies’ hiring needs. Once they have the data, companies need someone to make sense of it.
Often, the datasets don’t come in a form that is “clean,” meaning there may be parts of the data that are corrupt or inaccurate or even logged incorrectly. According to Gil Press at Forbes, data scientists spend somewhere around 80 percent of their time cleaning and managing data.
Data science teams might be called upon to analyze whether Tweets sent to a company are positive or negative, or they might have to trace where sales are coming from and then the company can adjust their customer service or marketing campaigns accordingly.
The increase in Big Data has created a need for statisticians, analysts and developers that is outpacing your average employment numbers. The growth of online retailers, the digitization of medical records, and the increasing reliance on the GPS system and its location and time data are just some of the innovations that are fueling this need. In general, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in data science are expected to rise 19 percent by 2026.
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Data-Focused Jobs That Employ Analytic Thinking
The Harvard Business Review called data scientist “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” In that 2012 article, Thomas H. Davenport and D.J. Patil described a data scientist as a “hybrid of data hacker, analyst, communicator and trusted adviser.” They interpret the data, make it easier to understand and offer feedback to the decision-makers in their company about what it means.
There are data scientist jobs in both the private and public sectors. They may be working through a business problem or a civic one. Data scientists work for startups, big box stores like Walmart and Target, and even unexpected places like in the aviation industry. Competition for talent is fierce, and jobs for data scientists are lucrative. The median annual wage for computer and information research scientists was $114,520 in May 2017.
Most entry-level data scientists are expected to have at least a master’s degree. Further education, whether that’s a Ph.D., an MBA, or advanced certifications, could lead to greater responsibility in the department or on the team and a higher salary. Some data scientists could become the chief technical officer of their companies with time and experience.
The demand for statisticians is expected to increase 33 percent by 2026, according to the BLS. Jobs for statisticians are available in government, sports and higher education. Statisticians typically start their careers with a master’s degree. Ph.Ds. in statistics are available for professionals who want to advance in their department and take on management roles or more challenging projects.
The median annual wage for statisticians was $84,060 in May 2017.
Computer programmers write and test code for computer applications and software. It’s a fast-paced job that requires working well alone and as part of a team. Many computer programmers are self-employed and take on clients who need web pages built or apps designed. Others work for companies that have a continual need for programmers on staff, whether at a small tech company or a large organization with technology departments.
The median annual wage for computer programmers was $82,240 in May 2017.
Supply chain analysts study and enhance an organization’s system that moves a product from creation to consumer. Generally, a supply analyst streamlines and economizes the company’s logistics. Public sector supply analysts perform jobs like getting supplies to military stationed overseas. Supply analysts in the private sector might optimize the manufacturing of product for a big box store. A master’s degree in analytics is usually a requirement for entry-level supply analysts, and time and experience factor into promotions but no additional education would be required. This track can often lead to the role of chief operational officer (COO), but this position requires several years of experience.
The median annual wage for supply chain analysts was $74,590 in May 2017.
Why Choose a Career in Data Science?
Davenport’s and Patil’s poll of newly hired employees in the data science field found that pay was a substantial factor in their career choices. “A good data scientist will have many doors open to him or her, and salaries will be bid upward. Several data scientists working at startups commented that they’d demanded and (received) large stock option packages,” they wrote.
It wasn’t the only motivating factor among those polled. Innovation seemed to be a big attraction, as well. Davenport and Patil reported:
GE is already using data science to optimize the service contracts and maintenance intervals for industrial products. Google, of course, uses data scientists to refine its core search and ad-serving algorithms. Zynga uses data scientists to optimize the game experience for both long-term engagement and revenue. Netflix created the well-known Netflix Prize, given to the data science team that developed the best way to improve the company’s movie recommendation system. The test-preparation firm Kaplan uses its data scientists to uncover effective learning strategies.
Data scientists are leveraging their knowledge and experience to create meaningful change at older, established companies, like Kaplan and GE, and innovating at newer tech companies like Netflix and Google.
Davenport and Patil wrote, “Data scientists want to be in the thick of a developing situation, with real-time awareness of the evolving set of choices it presents.” In other words, they want to be “on the bridge,” like “Star Trek’s” Mr. Spock, who, as an early data scientist of sorts, was indispensable to Captain James T. Kirk.
Become In-Demand with an Online Degree in Analytics
Notre Dame of Maryland University can help you pursue a career in the growing field of data science. The University offers a fully online Master of Science in Analytics that can help you become an asset in your current role or prepare you for the jobs of the future. NDMU has strong networks with regional businesses, and 75 percent of graduates are applying their research projects directly to their jobs.