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What is a data scientist? A key data analytics role and a lucrative career

Sarah K. White | Oct. 26, 2017
Becoming a data scientist varies depending on industry, but there are common skills, experience, education and training that will give you the leg up in starting your data science career.

Unstructured data, the fastest growing form of big data, is more likely to come from human input — customer reviews, emails, videos, social media posts, etc. This data is typically more difficult to sort through and less efficient to manage with technology. Because it isn’t streamlined, unstructured data can require a big investment to manage. Businesses typically rely on keywords to make sense of unstructured data as a way to pull out relevant data using searchable terms.

Typically, businesses employ data scientists to handle this unstructured data, whereas other IT personnel will be responsible for managing and maintaining structured data. Yes, data scientists will likely deal with plenty of structured data in their careers, but businesses are increasingly wanting to leverage unstructured data in service of their revenue goals, making approaches to unstructured data key to the data scientist role.


Data scientist requirements

Each industry has its own big data profile for a data scientist to analyze. Here are some of the more common forms of big data in each industry, as well as the kinds of analysis a data scientist will likely be required to perform, according to the BLS.

  • Business: Today, data shapes the business strategy for nearly every company — but businesses need data scientists to make sense of the information. Data analysis of business data can inform decisions around efficiency, inventory, production errors, customer loyalty and more.

  • E-commerce: Now that websites collect more than purchase data, data scientists help e-commerce businesses improve customer service, find trends and develop services or products.
  • Finance: In the finance industry, data on accounts, credit and debit transactions and similar financial data are vital to a functioning business. But for data scientists in this field, security and compliance, including fraud detection, are also major concerns.
  • Government: Big data helps governments form decisions, support constituents and monitor overall satisfaction. Like the finance sector, security and compliance are a paramount concern for data scientists.
  • Science: Scientists have always handled data, but now with technology, they can better collect, share and analyze data from experiments. Data scientists can help with this process.
  • Social networking: Social networking data helps inform targeted advertising, improve customer satisfaction, establish trends in location data and enhance features and services. Ongoing data analysis of posts, tweets, blogs and other social media can help businesses constantly improve their services.
  • Healthcare: Electronic medical records are now the standard for healthcare facilities, which requires a dedication to big data, security and compliance. Here, data scientists can help improve health services and uncover trends that might go unnoticed otherwise.
  • Telecommunications: All electronics collect data, and all that data needs to be stored, managed, maintained and analyzed. Data scientists help companies squash bugs, improve products and keep customers happy by delivering the features they want.  
  • Other: There isn’t an industry that is immune to the big data push, and the BLS notes that you’ll find jobs in other niche areas, like politics, utilities, smart appliances and more.

Data scientist skills


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