How to Become a Data Scientist

How to become a data scientist

Data Science Qualifications

In a world that’s increasingly inundated with data, it’s no surprise that new and experienced professionals alike are wondering how to become a data scientist. This fast-growing field fuses mathematics, computer science, and statistics to make sense of large volumes of data. Modern data scientists are expert interpreters and analyzers who transform data into actionable insights that can help companies predict trends, strengthen their business model, and strategize for the future.

From e-commerce and journalism to health care and politics, data scientists perform key tasks across industries. How can professionals break into the field, and what data scientist qualifications are necessary to do so? While degrees for data scientists can vary given the interdisciplinary nature of the job, professionals typically have a bachelor’s degree in data science, mathematics, statistics, or a computer-related field. For professionals in an adjacent field like computer science, for example, a master’s degree or certificate in data science can complement their existing knowledge. Equipped with the proper data scientist qualifications, professionals can begin pursuing a dynamic career in a variety of industries. 

Data Scientist Job Levels

Eager to dive into a data science career? Data science jobs range from entry-level and junior positions to more advanced senior and managerial roles. Entry-level positions often call for strong problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, as well as a fundamental understanding of statistical analysis. As professionals advance in their career, data scientist jobs tend to become more technical. At the higher levels, data scientists typically possess strong coding skills, a profound knowledge of machine learning, and an advanced understanding of algorithm issues. 

The digital era has created high demand for data scientists. As a result, data science jobs may offer competitive salaries. According to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for data scientist and mathematical science occupations (all other) was $98,230.  Learn more about how data science jobs salary, experience level, and job expectations vary among different data scientist jobs. 

Entry-Level Data Scientist

Many professionals starting out in the field as an entry-level data scientist may have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in data science or another related field. Some entry-level jobs in data science may also require at least a year of relevant work experience or prior exposure to technical work. Data scientists beginning their career have a fundamental understanding of statistical analysis, some proficiency with data science software platforms, and above all, a curiosity to identify problems and find data-driven solutions. An entry-level data scientist can seek opportunities for growth and advancement, especially in this ever-evolving field. Entry-level data scientist salary will vary depending on the employer, role, job location and more.

Junior Level Data Scientist

Experience plays a major role in the jump from entry-level to junior data scientist.  A bachelor’s or master’s degree in data science or a similar field may be required or preferred. At the junior level, professionals likely already have two to three years of experience with strong technical skills in marketing analysis, statistical and machine learning modeling, optimization, and simulation. Depending on the industry, professionals may also have specialized knowledge of this sector and its business-specific problems. There are opportunities to continue honing technical and leadership skills, considering mid-level data scientists can advance to senior and managerial positions. Junior data scientist salary is commensurate with experience.

Senior Data Scientist

A senior data scientist will have advanced knowledge of relational databases, proven experience building complex models, and the ability to lead technical teams. They typically have a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. in data science or a related field with some years of industry experience. Senior data scientists not only oversee junior teams but also offer advanced insights to help support business objectives and solutions. As a senior data scientist, professionals will build leadership skills while flexing their technical muscles. It’s hard to say how much a senior data scientist earns because it varies from role to role, and employer to employer. But according to the BLS, the highest-paid 10 percent of data and mathematical scientists earned a median annual wage of $165,230 or more in 2020. 

Data Scientist Manager

One of the highest levels professionals can achieve in the data science field is data science manager. Some companies may use a different job title for this role. A data science manager typically has an advanced degree and over five years of experience with analytics, predictive algorithms and data products, machine learning, data visualization, and simulation and modeling tools. A data science manager also has experience managing teams, leading data science projects with technical expertise, and identifying complex business problems and their solutions. As a leader, there are multiple opportunities for learning and creating effective solutions. 

When researching data science manager salary, remember that a number of factors come into play—from years of experience to industry.

Data Scientist Career Outlook

As companies accumulate large amounts of data, the need for data scientists continues to grow. By harnessing the power of structured and unstructured volumes of data, businesses can better predict and prepare for the future. With data scientists in high demand across industries, data scientist careers may be available in your city. Alternatively, you may find a job that allows you to work remotely. 

Employment of data and mathematical science occupations currently stands at 59,680, according to the BLS. 

Online Master’s in Data Science Program With UC Berkeley

Data science is changing the world as we know it. For many professionals, this interdisciplinary field already features skills from computer science, statistics, physics, and more. However, a master’s in data science can help complement and strengthen this foundational knowledge, which in turn may allow for more growth opportunities in the data science field. The UC Berkeley online master’s in data science program helps students become leaders in this rapidly growing industry, with a multidisciplinary learning model that features courses on the ethical impact of data science, machine learning, and more. The 27-unit program can be completed in as few as 12 months. But for students who need more time, a decelerated option is available, allowing them to complete the degree program in no more than 32 months.

Learn more about UC Berkeley’s Online Data Science Program.