James Cook University

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Data science: the career path for professionals that want options

Developing data science skills is one of the best things that you can do for your career.

Developing data science skills is one of the best things that you can do for your career. Not only does data science open global career opportunities to you – it’s a skill that businesses use in every field across the world – but it also equips you with the capabilities that boards and CEOs will be looking for when recruiting executives. In other words, for young and ambitious professionals, it’s a skill that will help you elevate your career quickly.

Where’s the demand for data scientists, and why?

One of the reasons why data scientists are flourishing in today’s job market is because their skills are transferable just about everywhere, across all sectors and industries. City planners are gathering reams of data to build ‘smart cities’ that can cope with increased population densities. Retail has been up-ended because Amazon has so effectively leveraged data science to improve everything from logistics to marketing. Putting aside the controversies over the Australian government’s My Health Record, patient data is becoming the driving force of healthcare, and that sector is desperately recruiting data scientists to properly analyse and manage the data.

To give you an idea of just how varied data science can be in application, the Towards Data Science blog published a number of potential use cases for data science that are as varied as they are fascinating in the potential they offer their respective sectors:

  • Predicting the best retail location for a store
  • Predicting why patients are being readmitted
  • Detecting insurance fraud
  • Predicting product needs and prices live as a consumer walks into a brick-and-mortar store
  • Identifying who to call for fundraisers
  • Predicting when a patient needs behavioural health procedures partnered with their physical medical procedures

That’s just scratching the surface. Data scientists are in such demand because they transform and modernise whatever organisation they work for. They are in demand everywhere in the world, just as technology is impacting on how business is done everywhere in the world.

What skills are most sought after and needed to be successful?

With the increased role of automation, machine learning, robotics and AI, many of the more menial jobs are being replaced by technology. Data science is an opportunity for professionals to move up the value chain and find work opportunities in areas where machines don’t have a role.

In terms of the skillsets needed by people who are interested in adding data science to their portfolio: those with a background in IT, maths, computer engineering or engineering generally find a Master of Data Science to be a natural extension of their existing skillsets. But people with these backgrounds are not the only ones who would benefit from the degree. As previously mentioned, everybody from marketers to executive management benefit to some extent by having an understanding of data science.

To participate in James Cook University’s Master of Data Science degree, you will need a relevant Bachelor degree or at least five years of work experience in an IT or data science-related industry. This is to ensure you have the base level skillset to manage the coursework, which has been specifically tuned to develop skills, including:

  • Programming: Data science involves a lot of coding in languages such as MATLAB, Python, Hadoop and SQL. Having an understanding of these languages is important in best contributing to any data science initiative you might undertake in your professional career.
  • Quantitative analysis: Here you’ll learn about data visualisation, data mining, statistical methods and database systems.
  • Product intuition: You will also learn about how data can be used to inform product development and iteration decisions, in order to better deliver what the consumer wants.
  • Communication and storytelling: Being able to present the data to key stakeholders in a way that cuts to what the core of the data is saying is a critical skill for a data scientist
  • Teamwork: Data science initiatives are generally all-of-business affairs. It is important a data scientist works with stakeholders both within their own department, and those outside.

One thing that’s of particular importance to data science, but often overlooked, is the need to have business savvy. Employers want their data scientists to not only collect, aggregate and generate meaningful insights out of the data, but also understand the implications that the data has for the business, and be able to make strategic recommendations on that basis. These ‘soft skills’ are developed through mentorship, group collaboration and other interactions that form part of the Master of Data Science

What careers and job titles are available to data scientists and what is the average income?

The in-demand nature of data science means that those with proper data scientist skills can reasonably expect to have the opportunity to move into senior roles, with remuneration to match. For example, Deloitte research shows that by 2021–2022, the forecasted income of data scientists with postgraduate qualifications will be $130,176.

Common roles and titles for data scientists include:

  • Business Intelligence Analyst
  • Data Mining Engineer
  • Data Architect
  • Data Scientist
  • Senior Data Scientist

For more information on building your career in data science, and the James Cook University’s Master of Data Science degree, click here

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