Why You Should Become a Data Scientist in Massachusetts + Stay Here

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

More and More People Considering a Career in Big Data

By: Allison Wainer, Research Intern, Mass Big Data

The demand for data scientists, professionals trained to work with and analyze sets of ‘big data’, is not going away according to several recent publications. The Boston Globe recently ran a follow up to the article published in 2012 by the Harvard Business Review, which called data scientist “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” The Globe provides some powerful insights into why data science is still such an attractive career over three years later.

A study by the business consultancy group McKinsey predicts that by 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of 140,000 to 190,000 "people with deep analytic skills," as well as 1.5 million "managers and analysts with the know-how to use the analysis of big data to make effective decisions."

To understand if a data scientist is the career for you, it’s important to examine industry fit before diving into the benefits of the role.

What Skills Are Needed?

Data scientists must have a strong academic foundation in mathematics and statistics, but also need to be skilled programmers. In addition, it is often necessary to be an expert in a particular industry vertical to which one can apply this knowledge and programming skills.

Before entering the field, you should also be prepared and comfortable spending a lot of time combing through data before you can spend time analyzing the data, to be able to provide the most comprehensive insight to your potential company or clients.

How Do I Get the Necessary Skills?

Massachusetts is home to some of the top data science programs in the country, which equip students with these critical skills. However, it is equally possible to enter data science with another degree, as learning on the job is common to most roles in the field. Additionally, there are a variety of online and in-person data science boot camps and courses, which can be especially helpful in acquiring programming skills.

Will I Get a Job and How Much Will I Make?

The answer is most definitely yes, you will get a job given the high demand highlighted above. If you have the appropropriate data sciences skills, you should also be paid well. According to LinkedIn, those with skills in statistical analysis and data mining were the most employable in 2014. The annual median salary for data science jobs is currently $124,150.

What’s It Like in the Field of Data Science?

When you enter data science, whether as an entrepreneur or working for company, you should be able to identify critical business issues and to answer those critical challenges using data. For instance, whether your dataset may include biometric data or data on car insurance policies, it’s your job to organize and crunch the numbers, then drive home a solid analysis based on those findings. And if you’re an entrepreneur – find a way to make that profitable!

Here’s how employees at one local company utilize these critical skills every day:

- Data scientists at Boston-based Whoop aim to optimize performance for elite athletes and teams. These professionals clean biometric data, collected by wristbands worn by the athletes, using their programming skills. Then, they can analyze this data in order to answer health and performance related questions for their clients.

In short, it’s not enough to only be able to meaningfully analyze this data, Whoop’s employees must also be knowledgeable about their industry - sports and athletic performance – to provide top-notch insights.

Why Learn and Stay in Massachusetts?

For starters, Massachusetts leads the nation with 6,170 students from local colleges and universities graduating from 70+ data science-related programs annually, according to the forthcoming 2015 Mass Big Data Report. This wealth of data science experts means new forward-thinking companies are being formed. In addition, the Commonwealth’s big data ecosystem is thriving with over 537 data-driven companies in the state, attracting investment dollars and federal research grants to help fuel Mass.-made innovations. These findings help reinforce the position of Massachusetts as a fertile region for big data careers, enterprise, and research.

When it comes down to it, data science is for those of us who believe in the power of data to figure out things that we can’t figure out on our own. Data scientists at Whoop believe in the power of data to get the best possible performance from athletes and those at large retail chains believe that transaction data can change the way their company operates. It’s clear that growth in data availability has increased the demand for data scientists as more companies recognize the power that data holds for their business and cities and states harness data to bring real change to their citizens. As long as this trend continues, more and more people will join the data science revolution and delve into the power that data holds.