Data Scientists: A New Field, A New Job

It seems recently the only thing on everyone’s mind is Big Data. How can they get it, and once they have it, what can they learn from it? The Strata Conference 2012 has shown how Business analytics have become more important than ever.  Approaches like Hadoop allow companies to analyze Big Data sets that were not considered navigable. Now that they are, a new field has sprung up from the chaos. Over the past year, job listings for “data scientists” or people capable of working with Big Data sets have grown astronomically.

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Big Data is potentially worth millions of dollars in profit for companies that know how to use it. It takes someone with a special talent and knowledge to navigate these murky waters. Hence, the growing need for data scientists. They are able to formulate the right types of questions that will produce information from huge amounts of data. They are pros at data mining and analysis. What they learn from these data sets can be used to help businesses gain a competitive edge.

Hillary Mason, a bit.ly data scientist, discussed the importance of Big Data to search engines.  Bit.ly is developing a program that can help filter search results to better fit what someone wants to find.  It does this by examining which links are being followed and shared.  This is a job that can only be filled by data scientists.  EMC is also recognizing the importance of this industry.  This company is in the process of making a name for itself in the world of Big Data.

There is no doubt the demand for people to fill these types of jobs is out there. McKinsey Global Institute suspects the United States will need to fill 140,000 to 190,000 jobs for people with strong analytic skills. That’s not including the 1.5 million data-literate managers that will either need to be retrained or hired. Even the United States government is jumping on the bandwagon. President Obama’s administration has devoted $200 million to the development of Big Data tools, techniques, and education. This is known as the Big Data Research and Development Initiative and it spans across six federal departments and agencies.

 

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What exactly does one need to know in order to obtain a job in this growing field?   According to Mason, a data scientist must be knowledgeable of advanced mathematics, computer science, statistics, and hacking.  While knowledge of computer programs and algorithms is a must, one does not necessarily have to have a Computer Science degree.  Data scientists need skills that go beyond the ability to use technology and mathematics.  Some argue that a Physics degree is more fitting. Physicists have the computer and mathematical skills, but, almost more importantly, they have the ability to see the big picture. This attribute allows them the gift to ask the appropriate questions in order to make sense of the data. Knowledge of the field of the business one wants to work for and communication skills are also necessary. A person with these skills can expect salaries ranging from $60,000 to $115,000 per year working as a data scientist.

The field of Big Data is growing. Therefore the workforce is growing too. Do you have the skills to be a Data Scientist?

 

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