What Skills Are Required for Data Science?

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by Meg Whitenton

Published April 18, 2022

Reviewed by Monali Mirel Chuatico

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The demand for data scientists is growing among tech-sector jobs and across all industries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth of 22% for computer and information research scientists from 2020-2030.

Forbes attributes the "exploding" data analytics field to the convergence of tech and big data. Field professionals need data science skills, including statistics and probability, computer programming, and machine learning to succeed in tech jobs. Programs like data science bootcamps cater to workers seeking high-paying IT jobs with longevity.

These specialists need technical expertise and data science soft skills. Jobs in data science and data analytics require excellent communication and problem-solving abilities, which are desirable skills in broad employment sectors.

What Is Data Science?

Data science relies on math, statistics, and programming to pull insights and draw conclusions from data. Data scientists apply algorithms to various data types, including text, video, audio, and images, to extract data. They then use the data to inform business, marketing, and research practices.

Data scientists use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) systems to replicate human intelligence and create automation. Professionals aspiring to become data scientists must understand concepts like big data, AI, robotics, and computer programming. Data science bootcamps typically focus on building these skills.

While the average worker may not knowingly use data science on the job, it plays a key role in business, science, and medicine. For example, data mining is equally useful to businesses developing a customer base and scientists conducting global medical research.

Most people also naturally merge data science into their daily lives without noticing. We use data science every day to manage appointments, balance budgets, and prioritize projects. However, aspiring data scientists can further develop their skills through a data science bootcamp or similar program.

Where Can I Learn Data Science?

There are various options for aspiring data scientists to learn the trade's skills. Many students turn to data science bootcamps to provide accelerated, affordable career programs. Professionals seeking a more in-depth education may pursue an undergraduate degree in computer science. But most data science jobs require a master's degree.

Students can also boost their career skills through online courseware or sites like YouTube.

Data Science Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps provide vital tools and skills to students seeking tech industry jobs. Bootcamps typically focus on the basics of coding and programming languages. Many offer specialized skills in areas like full-stack web development or data science.

Data science bootcamps are especially popular for their ability to prepare graduates for tech jobs sooner and often for lower tuition than a traditional degree. Bootcamps may help applicants meet the education requirements for some entry-level data science jobs. They may also help current data scientists advance in their careers or switch into a related tech field.

Data Science Technical Skills

Successful data scientists master many unique technical skills. Data science bootcamps and computer science degrees tend to develop this core skill set to prepare graduates for future jobs. Professionals can use the following critical skills in big data, robotics, and programming specializations.

Statistics and Probability

Statistics and probability, the mathematical laws governing random or "chance" events, are fundamental data science concepts. Any worthwhile data science program begins by developing a student's understanding of statistics and probability in data science contexts.

These concepts are critical for aspiring data scientists and computer research professionals to know. Statistics and probability coursework covers logic, statistical reasoning, and descriptive and inferential reasoning methods.

Data Visualization

Successful data scientists also hold exceptional data visualization skills, or the ability to represent data visually, such as through graphs, charts, or maps. Data scientists create these graphics to better explain the patterns and trends they see in the data.

Data scientists may specialize in static or interactive data visualization techniques, such as infographics or online tree ring diagrams. Data scientists use data visualization when researching web and mobile applications.

Data Analysis and Modeling

Through data analysis, data scientists can make sense of trends and patterns. Data analysis is key to data science applications, and students can develop expertise in the area. Many business, finance, and marketing employers value data analysis skills. Tableau is a commonly used data visualization tool.

The study of data analysis involves data modeling and manipulation. These tools help organizations or individuals improve their data collection and storage, and modify it for organization and clarity.

Programming Skills

Data scientists must learn programming languages to organize unstructured data sets. Most jobs do not require data scientists to master complex languages. However, these scientists should be comfortable using popular programming languages, such as Python and R, routinely.

Coding bootcamps can provide an overview of programming languages. Some bootcamps target the basic career skills needed to pursue an entry-level position in coding, which may eventually lead to a data science role.

Machine Learning

Machine learning uses data and algorithms to mimic human behavior through AI. Data scientists with statistical research, data mining, and data analysis expertise are critical to this emerging tech field.

People can apply machine learning to various fields where automation is preferable to human intervention. Examples include robotic military vehicles and cybersecurity detection techniques.

Data Science Soft Skills

Data scientists and similar professionals also need finely tuned soft skills for the workplace. These desirable skills include communication, problem-solving, and creativity. Most data science bootcamps and career training programs emphasize the following soft skills.

Writing and Communication

Data scientists need written and verbal communication skills. Data science is a branch of IT that requires strong communication skills to master. Data scientists must be able to communicate in many formats, although they primarily communicate through data manipulation.

They may also need to explain data to experts and nonexperts using written reports and data visualization methods.

Curiosity and Problem-Solving

These skills go hand-in-hand, as curiosity drives problem-solving. The data science field best suits tech-oriented people with a natural curiosity and fondness for challenging — but satisfying — research.

Programs like data science bootcamps focus on developing students' natural curiosity and giving learners various techniques for seeking answers. Imaginative students may even develop new technology to solve existing tech issues.

Frequently Asked Questions About Data Science

Is SQL required for data science?

Yes. Many data science jobs prefer, if not require, applicants to learn SQL, or structured query language. SQL is the preferred method of handling structured data. It is commonly stored in databases like Oracle, MySQL, and Microsoft SQL.

Data scientists also use this programming language for data experimentation in test environments. They should understand basic commands and functions of SQL for routine tasks. Most data science bootcamps build a working knowledge of SQL and other common languages.

What is a data scientist's salary?

Data scientists earned a median annual wage of nearly $127,000 in May 2020, according to the BLS. Top jobs typically require a master's degree. Although, some federal government data science jobs may accept a bachelor's degree for entry-level positions.

Aspiring data scientists may gain experience in a computer or IT job that requires a bachelor's degree, such as computer engineer or computer programmer. According to the BLS, these workers earned median annual salaries of $119,560 and $89,190 in 2020, respectively.

Is data science easy for beginners?

Data science is an advanced field for experienced computer science professionals. Beginners may find it challenging to learn. However, targeted programs, such as data science bootcamps, can provide the necessary training for data science occupations.

These programs foster technical skills like programming, data analysis, data visualization. Students also hone soft skills, including communication, curiosity, and problem-solving.

Feature Image: Somyot Techapuwapat / Moment / Getty Images

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