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How to Become a Data Scientist

Now is a great time to become a data scientist, with more and more companies realising the advantage if you can use your customer data effectively.

It is also deemed as one of the top 10 best jobs to have in the UK (in a recent report by Future Learn), with high levels of job satisfaction reported and excellent salaries.

To give you an insight into the profession, Optalitix takes a look at everything you need to know about becoming a data scientist.

Key responsibilities as a data scientist

Data scientists add huge value to companies as their main responsibilities usually involve:

  • Finding patterns in customer data, processes and transactions
  • Identifying issues in the company and using data to find effective solutions
  • Creating concise reports that add value to the firm
  • Using their expertise in machine learning and statistical techniques to provide business insights
  • Assessing how effective data sources are
  • Improving data collection methods
  • Testing data mining models, in order to determine which is best for a company project
  • Conducting research into proof of concepts and prototypes
  • Merging, extracting and managing data to create tailored reports for customers or other colleagues

Starting salaries for a data scientist

The average starting salary for an entry level data salary is between £19,000 and £25,000 in the UK.

This amount increases over time once you gain experience in the field and can rise from £30,000 all the way up to £50,00.

In some cases, highly experienced and established data scientists can command £60,000-£100,000 in total.

The salary amounts vary based on the industry that you are employed in. This is because typically if you worked for a start-up as a data scientist, you could have a lower salary than if you worked for an established tech or financial firm with a far bigger budget.

Location can also be another factor determining the salary you receive as a data scientist with London and San Francisco likely to command the highest salaries.

Qualifications needed to become a data scientist

  • University-level degree in computer science or mathematical based subject
  • Programming knowledge
  • Data science graduate training schemes available with large companies
  • Postgraduate qualification options

To get started on your path to becoming a data scientist, you will usually need a degree (many expect at least a 2:1 result) in a science-based subject. For example, a degree in computer science, mathematics, engineering, physics or operational research would all be useful degrees to have in this field.

Having in-depth knowledge of programming languages such as C+, Java and Python, as well as good coding skills will also be needed.

There are also some large firms who offer data science graduate training schemes to people looking to become a data scientists. These mostly require you to have a degree in a science-based subject, and take two years to complete. The schemes tend to be highly competitive when it comes to getting a place.

Another option is getting a postgraduate qualification (such as a Masters or PhD) in data science. This could be particularly useful if you would like to learn analytical skills or if data science represents a change in career for you.

It is also worth noting that for a number of data scientists jobs, employers will specify that the advertised position requires a relevant Masters or PhD.

To get a place on a Masters or PhD course, many universities will require you to have a science-related degree. However, if you have programming experience, some may allow those who have graduated in business, psychology and economics to take the course.

Skills needed to become a data scientist

If the idea of working in data science interests you, it is important that you know you have the right skills for the job before going further. Data scientists need to have:

  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Strong analytical skills
  • Experience in tools for database interrogation and analysis such as SQL, SAS and Hadoop
  • Effective problem-solving skills
  • Strong communication skills to be able to explain your work to people in the company who may not understand data analytics
  • Able to deliver work under pressure
  • Strong listening skills to understand the needs of the company they are working for

Who employs data scientists in the UK?

The biggest employers of data scientists in the UK are usually in the retail, e-commerce, finance and of course, tech sectors.

At Optalitix, we have a number of data scientist as part of offering AI solutions for different companies.

One of the reasons for this is that these industries tend to have a stronger need to understand their target audience in order to develop their product and drive business.

However, we are increasingly seeing oil and gas, telecoms and transport employing data scientists. These sectors are using big data more and more in order to find out how they can improve sales or operations.

It is also possible to find data scientists positions within universities and research institutes, governmental departments and even the NHS.