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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.

According to William Chen, Data Scientist at Quora, the top five skills for data scientists include a mix of hard and soft skills:

  • Programming: Chen cites this as the “most fundamental of a data scientist’s skill set,” noting it adds value to data science skills. Programming improves your statistics skills, helps you “analyze large datasets” and gives you the ability to create your own tools.
  • Quantitative analysis: An important skill for analyzing large datasets, Chen says quantitative analysis will improve your ability to run experimental analysis, scale your data strategy and help you implement machine learning.
  • Product intuition: Understanding products will help you perform quantitative analysis, says Chen. It will also help you predict system behavior, establish metrics and improve debugging skills.
  • Communication: Possibly the most important soft skills across every industry, strong communication skills will help you “leverage all of the previous skills listed,” says Chen.
  • Teamwork: Much like communication, teamwork is vital to a successful data science career. It requires being selfless, embracing feedback and sharing your knowledge with your team, says Chen.

Data scientist education and training

 

There are plenty of ways to become a data scientist, but the most traditional route is by obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Most data scientists hold a master’s degree or higher, according to BLS data, but that isn’t the case for every data scientist, and there are other ways you can develop data science skills. Before you jump into a higher-education program, you’ll want to know what industry you’ll be working in to figure out the most important skills, tools and software.

Because data science requires some business domain expertise, the role of a data scientist will vary depending on the industry, and if you’re working in a highly technical industry, you might need further training. For example, if you’re working in healthcare, government or science, you’ll need a different skillset than if you work in marketing, business or education.

If you want to develop certain skillsets to meet specific industry needs, there are online classes, boot camps and professional development courses that can help hone your skills.

 

Data science certifications

In addition to boot camps and professional development courses, there are plenty of valuable big data certifications and data science certifications that can boost your resume and your salary.

Data science certifications include the following:

  • Dell EMC Proven Professional certification program
  • Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)
  • SAS Academy for Data Science
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE)
  • Cloudera Certified Associate (CCA)
  • Cloudera Certified Professional: CCP Data Engineer
  • Data Science Certificate – Harvard Extension School

For a deeper look at valuable certifications, see our guides to data science certifications and big data and data analytics certifications.

 

Becoming a data scientist

 

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