IT job spotlight: Data scientist

Data scientists are in demand and handsomely paid. Here's what you need to know about this hot IT job.

tips for hiring data scientists
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It’s a great time to be a data scientist.

These professionals are responsible for helping gather and manage an organization’s data in a way that’s meaningful to business decision makers. The right candidates have experience working with major database platforms, are experienced coders and must have strong analytical, quantitive and problem-solving abilities.

They’re also in high demand -- and generously compensated -- with data scientist claiming the top spot on Glassdoor's best job of 2017 and Robert Half Technology's tech jobs to watch list.

Data scientists earn between $110,000 and $163,500, and the field is growing at a rate that is faster than average for other occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which expects the profession to grow a whopping 19 percent from 2014 to 2024. (The BLS places the profession in the “market research analyst” category.)

“There has been consistent growth in demand, and therefore salaries, for skilled data scientists,” says John Reed, senior executive director at Robert Half Technology. “In fact, for 2017, salaries have been projected to grow over six percent for data scientists, which means that business leaders are still seeking out this talent for their organizations. Now is a wonderful time for professionals who are thinking about pursuing a career [in this field].”

For a closer look at this hot IT job, Reed answers three questions.

Career Consultant: What is driving the need for data scientists today?

John Reed: The amount of data collected has grown significantly, and as a result, the data scientist role has been shifting and evolving. In addition to gathering and managing data, these professionals are also responsible for interpreting and communicating their findings throughout the organization. While a few years back there was mostly a need for data scientists to gather and collect the information, now [data scientists] are even more important in helping interpret customer behavior. These professionals are being looked to in order to provide recommendations that will improve business processes.

CC: What should people know about a data scientist’s skill set?

JR: In a recent survey of CIOs on hiring plans for the first half of 2017, 35 percent said that cloud computing skills are in demand for their IT department. In addition to the math and analytical skills that are highly sought-after, soft skills are especially important for good data scientists. Technology leaders are seeking data professionals who can understand the business and the way the data impacts it while also being able to provide effective recommendations to leaders and stakeholders.

CC: What is worth noting about the data scientist position that might surprise job candidates?

JR: Cloud initiatives will likely continue to expand over the next one to two years. As these projects become more mainstream across organizations, and as there are more cloud-based offerings and options for businesses to become more productive or successful, it will increase the need for professionals to help manage these projects.

Computerworld's IT Salary Survey 2017 results
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