Data Scientist Careers: Why They Are Paid So Well

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data scientist

Are you sitting behind your desk working away for pennies whilst your friend the data scientist is on his luxury yacht taking another holiday? You may be wondering why that is. Until you realize that the salary for a data scientist is generally much higher than most of the average jobs in the USA.

In fact, when compared to jobs such as painter or decorator, police officer, or even teacher. A data scientist blows most of them out of the water when it’s based purely on salary. But why is that?

According to the popular job-hunting website The salary for a data scientist is somewhere around 113% higher than the average American’s salary. That fact isn’t limited to certain areas either: this is a nationwide statistic from New York to Idaho, Maine to Dallas. Data science is a field that touches nearly every category of jobs at some level, which means those who are capable may take their career anywhere and reach untold potential.

Practitioners of data science are masters of math, statistics, programming, and critical thinking. It may sound like a straightforward profession, but there is definitely a case of ‘wearing many hats’, with the need to think both critically and creatively at the same time being one of them.

Becoming a success in the field of data science involves many years of study such as taking one of the many data science masters programs available and getting a real understanding of the complicated topics on such a level that practitioners can then interpret and use the insights gained to the benefit of the business. This is a hugely complicated thing to do, and may also be very difficult to prove a return on investment for.

Money makes the world go round

According to, the average salary for a data scientist is around $120,000 per year. An incredible salary for a median that has been increasing year on year since the discipline became more formalized in the early 2010s.

The reasons for this increase are many. It’s a true fact that our world has become ever more complicated and data has been driving decisions and has buying power. Twenty years ago, the phrase ‘big data’ was barely a pinprick of interest. But now companies of all sizes are getting in on the game and using data to drive their decisions and convert sales.

Using Big Data isn’t as simple as taking a survey and getting a nice PowerPoint bar chart result. Data scientists analyze all kinds of statistics and information sources to build a picture of the users or customers that the business needs to know about. This solves the ‘we don’t know what we’re doing’ argument that many businesses realize pretty soon in.

A Changing World

It’s not like the world is going to get any more simple; in fact, it’s probably going to get worse. Even the average car is exponentially more complicated now than it was just five or ten years ago.

All of this complication is getting worse too. Forbes states that there are 2.5 quintillion bytes of data created every day. But the ability to structure that data and categorize it in a way that is easy to interpret is something that hasn’t caught up with the times. It means the ability to derive any use from the masses of data we are creating has been left up to a very small amount of experts.

The data of the future will require different tools and a different level of expert to really use those tools. Data scientists are well placed to be that change in the world.

The Role of Data scientists is Very Tough

We’ve discussed how much data the world is generating and how difficult it is to interpret.These are two of the reasons that mean the role of a data scientist is actually very hard to do, and one of the main reasons that the role is so well paid.

Data scientists need to master the skills of their profession as well as the skills of their job category. If they work in retail or in banking, they need to have an in-depth knowledge of that sector to be able to apply their work. And results in a useful way and ask intelligent questions of the data they are given.

One of the reasons that data scientists are so valuable to organizations is that their unique ability to become an expert in their field. It means they have an understanding of the reasons behind many data revelations and can organize that in a way that is both useful and helpful to others within the organization. Usefulness and helpfulness are not always the same outcome and it takes someone with incredible skill to be able to present both as such.

Data scientists use multivariate regression, contextual correlation, and predictive and prescriptive modeling as the backbone of their knowledge and knowledge revealing intelligence. This means they can present the findings in a way that speaks to those without an analytical mind or background.

This ability to straddle both disciplines is the main reason why data scientists are so well rewarded for their skills and knowledge when it comes to salary.

Data Scientists are Valuable Communicators

One of the most interesting things about the world of data science is the knowledge that ‘gut instinct’ is usually right. But there are not many companies willing to pay people or run entire campaigns racking up millions of dollars to go on a ‘gut instinct’. And because of this, data scientists need to learn to communicate their reasoning and their findings in a solid way.

In simple terms, there’s no point knowing something to be true if you can’t prove it in a repeatable way — that is the basis for all scientific exploration.

Learning good communication is an art as well as a skill and this is something that a master’s program level education will take students through to ensure that they are both good at their future jobs and good at communicating.

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