How to Become a Data Scientist

Organizations of all kinds need data experts to wade into an ocean of information and come back with discoveries about what it all means.

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The modern world runs on big data — the ever-increasing scope of information on customers, statistical trends, economic patterns, web performance, and pretty much any other area you can name. In an ever-changing professional landscape where we’re learning more and more about the world around us, organizations of all kinds need experts to explore vast seas of information and come back with discoveries about what it all means.

Enter the data scientist. Armed with a head for numbers, a facility with technology, and creative curiosity, data scientists interpret the data businesses and organizations receive on a daily basis. It’s been called “the sexiest job of the 21st century.” Here’s how the job works, and how you can make a career out of it.

What does a data scientist do?

Data science is a fairly new profession, evolving from the worlds of statistics and data analysis. They combine analytical skills with programming and communications, taking a big, tangled mess of organizational data and translating it into easily understood information. Data scientists use their skills to help businesses turn a profit, explain events, measure performance, or plan for the future.

It’s an in-demand, lucrative field. Entry level data experts make $50,000-$75,000. According to Glassdoor, the annual median salary is $121,353. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in statistics-related fields, including data analysis, are projected to grow 33 percent by 2026, compared to a projected average growth of 7.4 percent for all other careers.

Where do data scientists work?

Perhaps a better question is where don’t data scientists work? Data is everywhere, and pretty much every sector needs it, from the political sphere to health care to technology, the environment and even sports and journalism. Data analysts such as Bill James and Nate Silver have made major careers using numbers to do everything from helping sports teams make stronger player choices to predicting elections and explaining economic phenomena.

A data scientist could work for the public sector in a political campaign, helping a city improve its municipal services, analyzing population demographics for the U.S. Census, or working with human rights organizations to predict and respond to international aid needs. Data scientists interpret data for clinical trials, build software startups, improve social networking, protect endangered species and even help protect astronauts in space. Find out more about potential data science career paths.

What skills do I need to be a data scientist?

Data science is a numbers-driven profession, so a data scientist needs to have a grasp of mathematical statistics, including statistical tests and distributions. But that’s not all there is to a successful career in this field. Data scientists also need to know how to recognize patterns in the data they work with, as well as communication skills to translate numbers into words and images that get ideas across. Many data scientists also incorporate programming into their work, which means needing to know a variety of programming languages.

Getting a strong educational background in data analytics, statistics, and data science is the cornerstone for building a career in this field. The KU Edwards Campus and the Department of Biostatistics and Data Science offers an online Master of Science degree in Applied Statistics, Analytics and Data Science that gives graduate students hands-on experience in statistical computing skills, problem solving and analyzing large data sets. For professionals looking to make a career switch, KUEC’s online graduate certificates in applied statistics and applied data science provide exposure to commonly used statistical methods and emphasizes hands-on statistical computing skills, without the requirement of a full degree program. 

The KU Data Analytics Boot Camp covers high-demand skills and provides a strong foundation in data analytics in only 24 weeks. 


KU Edwards Campus Online Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics, Analytics and Data Science

Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century

What is a Data Scientist?

Jobs in Statistics

The master’s degree in applied statistics, analytics and data science is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle

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