Where The Money Is: Data Science

datascigrafby Jennifer Zaino

What’s a data scientist worth? Give me a second to identify the relevant data sources, build the machine learning algorithm and create a visualization.

So much for a new take on an old joke. The real answer is about six figures, information I recently came across in a report released earlier this spring: Burtch Works Executive Recruiting survey, Salaries of Data Scientists. The median base salary of data scientist managers is $160,000, it says, while individual contributors average about $120,000. The information comes from 171 data scientists for whom the recruiting firm has complete and current information. Whether a data scientist is at a lower or higher job level, across the board he or she is doing financially better than other Big Data professionals, the report shows.

It also turns out that that money-maker is more likely to be a he: 88 percent of data scientists today are young, with an average of about a decade of experience, and male. Other Big Data fields boast that 25 percent of the professionals in it are women. Most likely, that lucky fellow resides on the West Coast, where 43 percent of data scientists are employed, or in the Northeast, where one-quarter of them are working. And would you be surprised to hear that the majority – 40 percent – are working in the tech sector? The only two other industries to boast double-digit data scientist employees are marketing and financial services.

As attractive as the financial incentives are, Burtch Works foresees a shortage of qualified professionals in the near future, as demand for data scientist skills increase amid a rising capacity for organizations to accumulate more data in an Internet of Things world and the lowered costs of storing terabytes of data, often in unstructured form from so many of their enterprise processes.

To fend off shortages within their own organizations, and keep the data scientists they already have happy, businesses can expect to raise salaries further. In a flash survey the firm conducted of analytics professionals in February, it found that close to 50 percent see money as a compelling reason for making or considering a job change.

Burtch Works also suggests that companies attempt to ward problems off by lobbying for and financially supporting a stronger education in mathematics and computer science in America’s schools (most data scientists state these as their areas of study) and “reforming the immigration laws that are constraining our technical workforce so that, eventually, there will be a sufficient number of capable data scientists available to U.S. firms.” A disproportionately large number of data scientists, the report shows, come from other countries.