How To Become a Data Scientist: An Overview of What It Takes
The world runs on data. It drives the decisions of companies, organizations, schools, and other entities. Gathering data is one thing, but analyzing it is another. Who makes sense of all the information recorded? Enter the data scientists.
Given the increasing importance of data, it's no surprise that these professionals are in high demand. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for data scientists will grow 22% from 2020 to 2030.
In this article, you'll learn how to become a data scientist and what the role entails.
The Role of a Data Scientist
In today's tech-saturated world, every type of organization collects data because it provides valuable insights into products, services, and consumers.
Your local grocery store uses data management for inventory control and loyalty programs. Your Amazon Prime purchase history, along with all of the millions of other shoppers' order histories, is stored in a database to inform which products they suggest to you in the future. Netflix even tracks the shows you watch. "Yes, Netflix, I'm still watching."
Data scientists are the ones who manage and analyze all of this data to glean important information that helps organizations make decisions and solve problems. In other words, they turn the mountains of data into actionable insights.
The role of a data scientist is interdisciplinary, meaning that you need skills in a range of areas, including computer science, mathematics, critical thinking, and communication.
As a data scientist, you will likely complete the following tasks:
- Use analytical software such as Python to analyze data sets and identify potential trends.
- Use critical thinking skills to pull out the most important information from the analysis and provide recommendations based on organizational goals.
- Generate reports for organizational decision makers and present findings.
- Work with artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to improve data collection and analysis.
- Create algorithms and data models to mine through data, solve problems, and produce forecasts.
- Continually research and study new data mining technologies.
How to Become a Data Scientist
There are several ways for you to enter the data science field, so we've created a general outline of how to become a data scientist. Whether you're brand new to the career path or have a degree in data science, these tips will help you enter and advance within the data science field.
Get an Education
While undergraduate education isn't always required, you're more likely to be hired with a degree that's relevant to the field, especially if you don't yet have hands-on experience.
Concordia University Texas offers programs relevant for aspiring data scientists, including a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BA) in Computer Science as well as a BA and BS in Mathematics.
Another option is to complete a boot camp that equips you with skills specifically for data science. Boot camps are intensive courses that you can complete relatively quickly that focus solely on data science.
You can even couple boot camps with a broader degree to help you become a well-rounded data scientist.
Sharpen Relevant Skills
Ensure that the education you receive equips you with the skills needed to become a data scientist. If you're earning a four-year degree, choose courses that will best supplement your skill set. If you opt for a boot camp, make sure that you can gain a full range of skills through the program you take.
Skills frequently required of data scientists include the following:
- Coding languages (e.g., Python, Java, HTML)
- Statistical computing
- Analytical skills to identify trends and make sense of the data
- Data visualization
- Communication to share findings and recommendations
You can also use free resources to brush up on your skills. Check out these free resources for beginners who want to become data scientists.
While a specific certification may not be required, having a certification can enhance your skill set and your resume.
Dataquest Labs Inc. suggests that if you choose to earn a certificate, find a certification program based on the skills you need to either develop or sharpen and ensure that the return on investment is worth it. Another factor to consider is whether the certification program has any prerequisites.
Complete an Internship
Hands-on experience is the best way to put your skills into practice. Search for an internship opportunity where you can work on projects under the guidance and supervision of data science professionals.
In the field, you'll learn more than you ever can in a classroom. Plus, you'll develop valuable work experience that you can put on your resume.
Apply for Jobs
Once you've acquired a degree, boot camp certification, industry experience, or a mix of all three, you're ready to apply for an entry-level data scientist role.
Coursera lists common entry-level roles for aspiring data scientists, including data analyst, business intelligence analyst, statistician, and data engineer.
If you attend a four-year university, the school's career center will be able to help you search for a job. Vocation & Professional Development (VPD), Concordia University Texas' full-service career center, helps students and alumni with the whole career development process, from resumes to the actual job search. Additionally, VPD hosts events where you can network with individuals and organizations who may have or know of job opportunities.
Technology is always changing, so it's crucial to keep up with new programs, software, and other tools related to data science.
Here are just a few ways to keep your knowledge current:
- Follow publications and blogs in the field.
- Take a course or complete a boot camp to sharpen your skills and learn new ones.
- Earn new certifications.
How To Become a Data Scientist With a Degree From Concordia
Concordia University Texas offers a BS in Computer Science with the option to pursue a Data Science concentration.
Concordia's Computer Science program is unique because it emphasizes both computer science and mathematical skills while infusing communication skills into every course. That means that you'll be equipped to serve as a data scientist and effectively communicate your findings and results to others.
Through the BS in Computer Science, you will develop the theoretical knowledge and practical skills needed to:
- Design computer systems.
- Write software.
- Perform mathematical analysis of algorithms and performance studies.
- Think analytically and solve problems.
The Data Science concentration consists of 15 hours of coursework. You'll examine data structure and algorithms, database design and analytics, data analytics, data visualization, and Python for advanced data mining.