Data Science Salary and Career Outlook

We live in an increasingly digitized and data-driven world, and the ability to work with massive amounts of information and make sense of it is becoming more important. Organizations continue to deal with higher volumes of data, and skilled data scientists are expected to remain in high demand. If you’re interested in statistics, scientific method, and making sense of large data sets, learn more about their careers and the qualities of a successful data scientist below.

Data Scientist Job Description: What Does a Data Scientist Do?

A data scientist is a skilled professional who applies multiple areas of expertise to large quantities of data. Data scientists often combine their skills in math, science and statistics with their industry knowledge to draw meaningful insights, conclusions and recommendations for employers. A number of different companies require the skills of a data scientist, so qualified candidates can expect opportunities in different industries.

Whether a data scientist works in health, academic research or any of the other many fields that require their skills, the key to their success is their ability to interpret how multiple types of structured and unstructured data apply to their specific scenario. In this way, a highly qualified data scientist must be an expert on multiple fronts. Often, they are the liaison between company data and everyone else in their organization.

5 Great Jobs in Data Science

There are many different roles available to candidates who are qualified to work in data science. Below are five common occupations:

Data Analyst Jobs

Data analysts work with large data sets by manipulating them for the necessary analysis required by their employer. These insights inform numerous business decisions, from marketing to finance. This often includes tracking live changes in their data and coordinating A/B tests for companies.

Data Engineer Jobs

Data engineers are responsible for building the base upon which the data scientists and analysts operate. What this means is they often create the infrastructure itself for recording, viewing, and analyzing data. Data engineers develop and maintain these large-scale databases and processing systems so that other workers in their organization can use these systems to discover trends and draw conclusions.

Data Scientist Jobs

Data scientists take very complex data and transform it into conclusions that all stakeholders understand. Though this title is sometimes used interchangeably with data analyst, a data scientist is actually a much more technical role. They’re in charge of all things data rather than just analysis. This means organizing it and making it usable, and then drawing meaningful trends and patterns from the data.

Machine Learning Scientist Jobs

Machine learning scientists are on the cutting edge of new approaches to handling data and working with algorithms. A large part of the machine learning scientist’s career is innovating with a forward-thinking approach to data and technology as a whole. Their goal is to develop algorithms that, in short, can receive complex inputs and use statistics to predict outputs.

Statistician Jobs

Statisticians work within numerous fields to apply their mathematical and statistical knowledge to data sets to help solve problems, make recommendations, and draw conclusions. The other listed jobs have similar skills to statisticians, but traditionally, a statistician is more of a technically driven role.

Data Science Job Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects significant growth in data science opportunities in the coming years. Jobs are expected to grow 16% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. However, because occupations within data science are less common, this 16% growth will amount to approximately 5,200 jobs within that time frame—a lower number than most occupations would show if they saw the same percentage of growth.

While the actual number of jobs may be smaller, it’s an in-demand, highly skilled profession. Many companies are eager to hire skilled data scientists—organizations currently have difficulty filling these positions as the labor market for data scientists is highly competitive. This competition is likely to continue despite the disparity in the actual number of jobs between data science and other occupations.

At the current rate, increased job availability is expected to be available to data scientists as organizations continue to require the ability to draw insight from increasingly large amounts of data for a virtually infinite amount of purposes in the modern, digital world.

What is the Median Data Scientist Salary?

BLS data states that the median annual salary for data scientists—referred to as “Computer and Information Research Science” by the BLS—is $122,840. The lowest-earning 10% of data scientists earned less than $69,990, and the highest-earning 10% earned more than $189,780, putting data science careers in a relatively lucrative category of work relative to all other occupations.

The median annual salary for data scientists is considerably higher than the median salary of other computer jobs—which are promising in their own right—at $88,240 (May 2019). When looking at the median salary for all other occupations, which was last recorded at $39,810, the prospect of data science looks even more promising for the next generation of skilled professionals.

Below is a table of BLS data depicting the median annual salary for data scientists in the top industries in which they were employed:

Median Annual Salary for Data Scientists
Industry Salary
Software publishers $141,820
Research and development in the physical,
engineering, and life sciences
$134,490
Computer systems design and related services $129,290
Federal government (excluding postal service) $109,370
Colleges, universities, and professional
schools; state, local, and private
$81,910

Median annual salary for data scientists and employment information retrieved from BLS.

It’s a promising occupation where skilled candidates will likely have more than one employment opportunity to pick from, and there are multiple types of industries that require data scientists.

5 Best Paying Metropolitan Areas for Data Science Careers

Looking at employment opportunities a bit more granularly, we can narrow opportunities for data scientists down to metropolitan areas and annual mean wage. Below are the five best paying areas for candidates, along with their employment information.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Wage and Employment Information
Metropolitan Area Annual Mean Wage Employment Employment per Thousand Jobs
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA $171,160 1,660 1.45
Boulder, CO $147,890 140 0.74
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ $146,790 90 0.04
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR - WA $144,010 180 0.15
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA $142,150 2,580 1.04

Computer and information research scientist wage and employment information retrieved from the BLS, May 2020.

5 Top States for Data Science Jobs

Below are the five states with the highest employment levels and number of jobs for data scientists, along with that state’s annual mean wage.

Computer and Information Research Scientist Wage and Employment Information
State Employment Employment per Thousand Jobs Annual Mean Wage
California 7,730 0.42 $140,020
Virginia 3,180 0.82 $143,360
Maryland 2,790 1.03 $121,910
Washington 1,970 0.59 $136,890
Texas 1,520 0.12 $128,970

Computer and information research scientist wage and employment information retrieved from the BLS.

Consistent with the BLS’s projected job outlook for data scientists, these figures show that the number of jobs itself may be in relatively short supply, but the annual mean wage is likely due to the level of competition among organizations to hire these highly skilled workers.

Is a Data Scientist Career Path Right for You?

A data scientist is a promising career choice, but it leverages critical thinking skills and a passion for numbers to advance your career. If you think you may fit the criteria, here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering a career in data science:

  • Are you a math and science person? Have you always had a knack for or enjoyed these subjects? Do you have a degree in either of these fields?
  • Have you sought, or are you willing to seek, higher education in a relevant area of study?
  • Do you have experience or skill with statistics?
  • Would you be willing to spend a lot of time working individually?
  • Do you have the public speaking skills necessary to simplify complex research and conclusions to any audience?
  • Do you enjoy problem-solving in your everyday life?

Most job opportunities for data scientists require at least a master’s degree in a relevant field, and many data scientists have their Ph.Ds as well. There are several online short courses and certificates that can get you up to speed quickly and sufficiently enough for some employers, too.

In addition to all the technical skills they’ve gained over the course of their education, data scientists have a unique ability to take very complex ideas that they’ve put together through their own research, and make these ideas digestible. In a professional setting, key stakeholders need the information that the data scientist has to offer at a high level—often so they can pass on that information to other stakeholders themselves. It’s all about simplified, actionable outputs from highly complex inputs.

If you’re a technical person who’s skilled in math and science, enjoy solving complex problems, but you’re also a strong communicator who can express ideas clearly and passionately, a career in data science might be an excellent way to use your natural talents and learned skills.

Last Updated May 2020