Why 'data scientist' is this year's hottest job

'Data scientists are held out as the hope for a better future in big data,' one analyst says

It's notable enough that close to half of the 25 "best jobs in America" named by recruiting site Glassdoor this week are tech-related, but even more striking is the fact that "data scientist" tops the list.

With more than 1,700 active job openings on the site earlier this month and a median base salary of $116,840, data scientist also garnered Glassdoor's top "job score" ranking and "career opportunity" score.

Last year, data scientist ranked No. 9; occupying the top spot then was physician assistant. This year's No. 11 spot, meanwhile, goes to the related position of analytics manager, which wasn't even on the list last year.

It's become painfully clear that data scientists and analytics talent in general are in chronically short supply, even as universities have begun establishing degree programs to increase their ranks. Back in 2011 already, McKinsey estimated that by 2018 the U.S. alone could face a shortage of 1.5 million managers and analysts "with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions."

The importance of data scientists is tied to two key issues, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. First is the increasing desire among businesses to gain greater value from their data.

That's related also to the rapidly growing prevalence of analytics capabilities in a wide variety of enterprise software.

Second is the fact that the vast majority of information that businesses generate and collect is unstructured or semi-structured data "that can't be effectively analyzed with traditional relational databases or tools," King said.

In fact, some estimates put that percentage as high as 80 percent, he noted.

"In essence, data scientists are trained to manage and analyze large, often highly complex data sets, and to develop the necessary tools for maximizing the benefits of that information for their employers," he explained. "The job is anything but simple and typically requires intensive training."

What, exactly, the data scientist role involves is a matter of some debate, however.

"Some see the role as an architect of data platforms, designing a workable environment for leveraging data," said Nik Rouda, a senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

Others see it as "technical integration of different systems -- almost a data plumber," while yet another view regards the role as "more a bridge between data analysis and the business needs -- someone who is fluent in both worlds," Rouda explained.

However it's defined, "there just isn’t enough talent to meet the demand," he added.

That's particularly true given that many of the tools data scientists use today are rapidly evolving, meaning they're both a bit unfamiliar and have rough edges.

"Data scientists are therefore held out as the hope for a better future in big data," Rouda said, "even if their day jobs are mostly planning, implementing or coding."

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Katherine Noyes

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?