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Futureproof Your Career: How to Become a Data Scientist

Oct 12, 2018

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The global job market is transforming at incredible speed. How can you keep up?

In the latest of our Futureproof series, we take a look at another career that looks set to become a staple of the working world.

As we reported in our last article, the technological boom has led to drastic improvements in robotics and artificial intelligence. Quicker, more powerful and easier to maintain than us pesky humans, AI is expected to become commonplace in the global workforce.

In fact, a 2017 study by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that as many as 800 million jobs could be lost worldwide to automation. And while that technology will also create new jobs, it’s down to us to be ready for what the future holds.

So what sets data science apart?

Well, according to LinkedIn, ‘data scientist’ is one of the fastest growing jobs in the global economy, second only to machine learning engineer. With incredible growth in recent years, the future looks bright for data science.

But how can you become a data scientist? Let’s take a look.

What is a Data Scientist?

Big data. It’s something we hear a lot nowadays. But what is it?

In a high-tech world, every company, from charities to multinationals, collects huge amounts of information. But processing all that data into something useful (and profitable) isn’t easy.

That’s where data scientists come in.

They are specially trained to gather, organise and analyse data into concrete insights.

And here’s the kicker:

While they may not have existed 10 years ago, they are quickly becoming one of the most sought-after of experts. Able to understand complex ideas from the worlds of mathematics and business, their level of expertise can help businesses thrive. 

What Do Data Scientists Do?

As they are a relatively new breed, the duties of a data scientist aren’t set in stone. But in any data scientist job, there are a few key tasks they would be expected to complete.

Collecting Data

It’s up to a data scientist to amass data from websites, social media platforms and customer profiles and curate it into usable information. Think of it like writing Shakespeare with alphabetti spaghetti. 

Utilising Statistics to Solve Problems

Many data scientists began their careers as statisticians. And it’s easy to see why. Data scientists need to be able to apply sets of data to real-time problems in their industry.

Staying Up to Date

As technology develops, so must data scientists. That’s why they’re expected to stay on top of analytical techniques like machine learning and text mining.

How Much do Data Scientists Make? 

In a word, lots.

As companies wake up to the importance of data scientists, wages have boomed. In fact data scientists earn well above the national average, with a mean salary of £57,000.

What’s more, experts with nine years of experience can command in excess of £100,000 while data science managers can expect even more.

Are Data Scientists Futureproof?

It’s not just the strong earning potential that marks out a career in data science as futureproof.

Often labelled as ‘the sexiest job of the 21st century’, demand for data scientists has grown steadily. And while there are more qualified data scientists than ever before, the number of jobs available in data science is expected to surge.

In fact, IBM forecasts that the number of data scientists will rise by 28% by 2020, while in America the demand for data scientists is 50% higher than that of software engineers and data analysts.

Not only have the number of data scientists doubled over the last four years, some estimate the growth to be close to 300%.

As the amount of data will only increase, data scientists are here to stay.

What Qualifications do You Need?

Here’s the thing.

Data scientists are highly trained and exceptionally skilled. That’s why launching a career in data science requires a great set of credentials. Here’s how to become a data scientist, step by step.

Get a Degree

To be a data scientist, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree. And while there are a range of undergraduate qualifications available in data science itself, degrees in computer science, physics, maths or even business studies are all applicable.

Get a Master’s

It doesn’t stop there. The best candidates will need to demonstrate a formidable understanding of data. That’s why data science Master’s programmes are highly competitive but incredibly useful.

Get a PhD 

To become the best of the best, you’ll need a PhD. Forbes studies show data scientists with doctorates earn higher base salaries than those holding Master’s. 

Let’s not beat around the bush.

Data scientist degree requirements are tough but as we’ve mentioned the role demands excellent mathematical and business acumen.

While becoming a data scientist without a degree is possible, a strong education goes a long way.

How to Start Your Career as a Data Scientist?

Tertiary education will equip you with a lot of the skills necessary to start your career as a data scientist (problem solving, coding, AI and machine learning etc) but entry-level jobs will want to see candidates who can demonstrate applied skills.

Cue a great portfolio.

There are some great data science sites that can help you here. Kaggle is the world’s largest community of data scientists and gives you the chance to solve real-life problems, meaning you can sharpen your skills before entering the workplace.

Alternatively, try picking a skill (say, coding or text mining) and create a short demo video or tutorial. Then share it on any of your professional profiles or social media accounts. It will demonstrate your abilities to potential employers.

What’s more, there are a host of internships, graduate schemes and entry level jobs available in data science. And while a relevant degree may get you an interview, real-life examples will help you stand out. 

For the latest data science opportunities make sure you visit our jobs board.

So is Data Science for Me?

With alluring wages, varied projects and strong job security, it’s no wonder that jobs in data science are becoming more popular. And with the AI revolution on its way, no one is better placed to manage potentially life changing algorithms than data scientists.

But remember, data science isn’t just a numbers game. It’s about extracting clear messages from masses of information. That’s why the best data scientists will demonstrate curiosity and creativity as well as technical expertise.

And with a shortage of qualified candidates, now is the perfect time to invest in a future in data science.  

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