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How to become a data scientist

Published: Friday 23rd October 2020

Female data scientist working

So you’re wondering how to become a data scientist. You’re not alone. Data science is one of the most exciting fields of the 21st century. With the digitization of many jobs, data scientists will become invaluable in the future. The number of data scientists in the US has grown by 300% over the last four years. And with more and more businesses relying on data science for their daily operations, many people choosing data science as a career can look forward to job demand and job security for a long time to come.

But what is a data scientist and how do you become one?

What is a data scientist?

Data science is a broad and constantly evolving field, But, in general, a data scientist is someone who gathers and interprets data in order to solve a problem or reach a conclusion. This could be through different kinds of modelling, like through graphs spreadsheets. Many data scientists are proficient in creating AI algorithms able to recognize patterns in data and turn them into useful content that can be used to solve problems and draw certain conclusions. For instance, a video streaming service may hire a data analyst to review the company’s data points to see who renews their subscription, who is viewing what, and other metrics. They would then be able to draw certain conclusions about what the business could do with that information.

What education do I need to become a data scientist?

Looking through glasses at the screen of a data scientist

While you don’t technically need any education to become a data scientist, most people in the field have earned at least a BA in IT, computer science, math, physics, or some related field. Many others will go on to do an MA in a similar or related field. Still others go on to get PhDs in data science. If you have your eye on an advanced or senior positions, you will most likely need to get an MA or PhD.

Fields relevant to data science include:

  • Computer science
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Social science
  • Mathematics
  • Applied math
  • Economics

Most universities and colleges will offer four-years degree programs in the above.

Do I need any other experience or certifications?

Data scientists can get certified in particular fields like in Cloudera, EMC, and SAS. Many data scientists only choose specializations in particular fields. For example, many people can choose between specializations like applied machine learning and big data ecosystems.

Main duties

While your duties will vary depending on your company and industry, your duties will probably involve:

  • Creating smart algorithms
  • Merging, managing, interrogating, and extracting data
  • Using machine learning tools
  • Familiarizing yourself with and using data mining models
  • Using tools to create reports and data visualizations
  • Assessing data-gathering techniques
  • Conducting industry research
  • Looking for ways different models, datasets, and codes can be used across your organization

Where are all the data scientist jobs?

data scientist presenting to colleagues

Data scientists can work in almost any industry. You will mostly likely work in an office and collaborate with teams on different projects. Industries like finance, retail, and ecommerce are all hiring lots of data scientists. Telecom, oil, and gas are also very lucrative fields where data science Is being successfully exploited.


The beginning salary for a data scientist can start around $79,000. This can rise to $113,000-$150,000 with several years of experience. Senior level data scientists can earn around $232,000.

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