How to nab a data scientist job

It's a whole new ballgame for traditional data analysts, as training focuses on deep knowledge of statistics and computer science.

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However, he adds, "data science skills are not necessarily industry-transferrable" because the volume and complexity of data varies from industry to industry. "We're dealing with orders-of-magnitude greater volumes, but the really important part is that the data is much more rich and complex," Williams says.

Training Options

The optimal place to gain domain expertise is on the job. But for people interested in improving their technical skills, there are options beyond university programs.

"There are a lot of good math and statistics courses online, and many computer science courses online, too," says NYU's Lowrance. Additionally, vendors in the big data market, such as Cloudera, are developing extensive training programs for would-be big data professionals.

Cloudera offers instructor-led training both in classrooms and online. The training is segmented by professional roles, such as developer and analyst, and by application. For example, students might take a course in developing a recommendation system on Cloudera's big data platform.

One of Cloudera's most popular courses is geared to developers, primarily those using Java. "They may write MapReduce applications, taking a Web log, which is very often used because now it can be stored and analyzed," says Sarah Sproehnle, vice president of educational services at Cloudera. "[Then they'll] do a simple analysis, perhaps counting the number of times various IP addresses access their Web pages. From there, they can expand to forming a geographical look-up to see where their geographical Web activity is coming from."

Cloudera reports that it trained 15,000 developers in 2012, and it offers new classes every week, around the globe.

"The audience we're aiming for are not yet calling themselves data scientists," says Sproehnle. "They may be software engineers or statisticians, and they need to be equipped with what it takes to [operate] in this new big-data-driven environment."

The training does focus exclusively on Cloudera's big data platform, but it also covers more fundamental big data concepts, such as machine learning, classification and clustering, she says.

The company also offers a certification, which Sproehnle says "is beginning to appear on LinkedIn profiles and job descriptions looking to hire big data professionals."

"In technologies this young and new," she adds, certification "offers a level of comfort that [an applicant] has more to offer than that they read a few pages in a book."

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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