Data Scientist Qualifications: How and Why You Should Become One

Data Scientist Qualifications: How and Why You Should Become One

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Every free app, website or profile created is paid with a currency we now know is our personal data.

With popular websites attracting millions of users each month, the need to organize and interpret large amounts of data is important. Data scientist qualifications range from a keen understanding of technology to the ability to sort information.

If you are interested in data science, here’s a quick guide to how and why you should pursue this career path.

Data Science in Demand

Sexy career options like NFL football player or ballet dancer make great dinner party conversation, but lack the most important trait in a viable career option–demand.   There is no shortage of aspiring professional athletes or actors, but the rapidly growing field of technology means a constant supply of career options.

The field of data science is growing fast with no sign of slowing. Choosing data science as a career choice means choosing to be sought after by future employers instead of scrambling to find a job where few opportunities exist.

A 2017 LinkedIn report shows data science as the second fastest-growing career in the United States. Of all the positions in the top 10, the report shows four of them in a career related to data science.

This is because the amount of data the average American uses increases exponentially each year. According to Forbes, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day.

Since 2016, 90 percent of the world’s data was created. To sort and interpret the trillions of bits of information from users, companies need data scientists.

Little Crossover Competition

The shortage of data scientists makes the career choice an attractive option. It’s also difficult for a professional from another field to move into data science without formal training.

There’s minimum competition in most fields for professionals who are both knowledgeable about the field and how to mine data. The field will grow in popularity over time, but early adopters have first pick at choice jobs if they enter the field in the next few years.

Why Data Science?

A person’s digital footprint determines his online experience. Watching a lot of sports or fitness videos can yield a high number of ads about football movies, workout gear or news involving pro athletes.

Companies invest millions in targeted ads to ensure they are talking to the right people. To understand how to retain customers and attract new ones, data science is an absolute necessity.

Helping Businesses Succeed

Consider an internet service provider who wants to know which of their current customers are likely to switch a competitor. Data scientists, or analysts, create an algorithm that sorts billions of data points from customers who already switched services.

Analyzing past customer behavior can allow the internet service provider to identify current customers who match the same profile. The company can then take action to retain those customers and save millions in revenue.

They might also reveal the internet packages that are least attractive or the age and geographic location of customers likely to switch. They can solve problems that might be related to infrastructures like a poor signal or too few service technicians responding to customer needs.

Data Scientist Qualifications

The first step to becoming a data scientist is getting an advanced degree. Whether through an online university or traditional college, a specialized degree in a related field is a required data scientist qualification.

Data science is a heavy lift so be prepared to constantly expand your understanding of the field regularly. Look for places you can take data science courses to remain marketable as the industry changes over time.

A bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum level of education for a data scientist. The best opportunities, however, are reserved for data scientists with advanced degrees.

Data scientist qualifications come from a range of college majors. Information technology, computer science, mathematics and software engineering are some of the most common majors for data scientists.

Before You Invest in Education

Keep in mind that the path to becoming a successful data scientist doesn’t have to wait till you enter the classroom. Improve your understanding of the most popular computer programming languages before enrolling.

Testing your skills before making the investment can help you determine whether data science is really the career for you. Applied math and statistics are necessary skills to master as a data scientist.

If you struggle with any of the related course material, continue studying on your own before making the decision to enroll full time. Over time, your skills will improve which means you learn at a faster rate once you become a full-time student.

If your skills never improve, you have the benefit of walking away from the career before amassing thousands of dollars in debt.

Career Changers

Data scientist qualifications vary by industry. Don’t assume that a career change means starting completely anew.

If you already work in a field you love, use that career capital to your advantage. Explore data science careers within the field so you can combine your work experience with education to make yourself more marketable.

A four-year degree isn’t possible for all professionals with tight schedules due to career or family obligations. Existing work experience allows you to catapult ahead with a lesser degree or using a certificate program.

A certificate program isn’t a Master’s degree, but it can still help you stand out from other candidates. Consider pursuing recognition as a certified applications professional, Cloudera certified professional, or SAS certified predictive modeler.

Personality Traits

There are a variety of personality traits that help make a successful data scientist over the long term. If these traits don’t come naturally, it might be necessary to also focus on personal development in these areas to ensure a long career.

Curiosity and a passion for learning is key. Data scientists aren’t sitting around waiting for step by step directions.

With billions of data points to analyze, it’s critical to be someone with fresh ideas to bring to the table that help you solve problems and find solutions. Curiosity encourages you to keep looking even after you don’t find what you need right away.

Data scientists are organized. With so much data and priorities to manage, it’s important to have a system of cataloging information. If you are someone who can compartmentalize information so it can be easily recalled, data science is a strong option for you.

Not all data points are helpful in solving every problem. However, with a strong system of organizing information, you can retrieve data as needed for future problem-solving.

As with all career options, commitment is essential to the job. Wading through millions and millions of data points and not immediately achieving your goal is frustrating.


Entry-level data scientists earn an attractive starting salary. With just 1-2 years of experience, data scientists can earn more than $100,000 per year. The average salary in the United States is only $56,000 per year.

Once you reach management levels, your salary increases to around $140,000 and above. This base salary doesn’t include perks like bonuses or company cars depending on your employer.

Compelling Work

Money and minimal competition are just a few of the perks of being a data scientist. Though the job has a computer science foundation, it’s ultimately about understanding human behavior.

As you gain a greater understanding of data science, you’re likely to begin to learn to look at the world around you with deeper analysis. Take advantage of these skills as they will come in handy even if you decide to pursue another career choice later.

Data scientists get the chance to predict human actions to improve technology including the creation of robots and other advanced tech resources. Working as a data scientist is a great choice for anyone looking to be on the cutting edge.

Diverse Qualifications

With the demand high for your services, you can move from field to field increasing your skills in various industries. This means a diverse work environment and constant stimulation.

Blending coding, statistics, modeling, and making business predictions, data science is the best choice for students or professionals seeking a diverse work environment. If you get bored easily, data science can help you stretch your imagination as you navigate each of these subfields.

Take the Leap

Data scientist qualifications range based on the industry but always include a computer science foundation. Big data will only expand over time giving data scientists the option to learn and grown in different directions throughout their careers.

Take the leap into data science if you’re ready for a challenging career where your thoughts and decisions make an impact. Companies rely on data scientists to help them make game-changing decisions about their business.

Begin your research with online courses and local universities to learn the best courses to take to earn your degree.