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Will 2020 prove to be the year of the Data Scientist?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Geralt / Pixabay)

Looking back to the turn of the millennium, the idea of meeting someone working as a Social Media Manager was pretty much impossible. These days, it’s a highly popular and common role, essential to the effective delivery of many business’ marketing strategies and efforts to promote their business, products or employer brand. My underlying point: the IT sector is in a continual state of flux, increasingly producing new roles in line with technological advancement. 

With this in mind, one role in particular that is making waves in the sector right now is that of the Data Scientist. But what does a Data Scientist actually do? 

Simply put, Data Scientists are individuals that can effectively wrap their heads around vast and complex datasets in order to extract meaning and utilise this information effectively. The opportunities for these workers are endless, and they are in exceedingly high demand. But what is causing this?

There is more data than ever before

It can be difficult to imagine just how much data there is in the world. Today alone, for example, you may have sent 50 text messages and taken numerous pictures. Perhaps you filled out an online survey, responded to a bunch of emails and accepted cookies on your favourite website – when you really think about it, we are emitting data with almost everything we do. 

Considering that between 2016 and 2018, 90 per cent of the data in the world was generated, it also indicates how we are getting more advanced than ever with each passing year. The implementation of IoT has fast-forwarded data collection to the next level; by 2020, the number of devices utilising the IoT is expected to grow to more than 20 billion. When it comes to data, all we are seeing is vast growth.

With computer power predicted to double every two years, there is no limit to the future growth of data, and so against that background the rise in demand for Data Scientists isn’t surprising; after all, their primary role is actioning and transforming raw data into useful information. Due to the technical nature of this role, demand is outstripping supply, leaving businesses more desperate than ever to source top quality talent for this ever-expanding position.

The skills shortage problem

It’s no secret that the tech sector suffers from a seemingly incurable skills shortage: a report commissioned by LinkedIn identified that the USA alone had a shortage of 150,000 people with data science skills in 2018. To put this into perspective, this had multiplied by six times since 2015. 

Due to a lack of demand, businesses are investing heavily in attraction strategies for Data Scientists. According to itjobswatch, the median salary for a Data Scientist in the UK back in July 2015 sat at around £58,000. Four years later, the median salary had risen slightly to around £60,000, but with maximum earning potentials of over £105,000. This uplift in salary is not unusual when compared to the salary growth in the IT sector in general, as businesses desperately seek the skilled employees needed to handle an ever-growing workload. 

It’s not only generous salaries that are attempting to lure more talent into the sector; tech companies are also tailoring their perks packages to become more appealing. Remote working is now common due to the nature of the role, as is offering certifications and further training. Not only is this bettering the individual’s knowledge and skillset, but according to Big Data Made Simple, certified data scientists are 58 per cent likely to get a pay rise, versus non-certified professionals who have a 35 per cent chance.

The training and development opportunities in data science are abundant, and this is what makes it such an appealing role – consistent and thorough development. It’s no surprise that Harvard Business Review regards data science as the sexiest job of the 21st Century. 

Focus on specialisms 

Due to the complex nature of the role, the demand for specialist workers is also through the roof – this will see more and more Data Scientists in 2020 specialising in their role. 

Social media, for example, will be a very popular choice. With the number of social media users worldwide in 2019 set at 3.48 billion, up 9 per cent year-on-year, the data shared via our favourite platforms is a veritable smorgasbord of useful and impactful information that can be used in so many different ways. Any Data Scientists choosing to specialise in this always-evolving area will be safe in the knowledge that there will be clear progression opportunities and sizeable future earning potential.

The robots may be coming, but data scientists are safe

Will robots take our jobs? There is certainly conflicting information surrounding this topic, but it’s safe to say a number of roles will disappear, with some AI experts stating that we could lose up to 40 per cent of jobs to automation. However, the Data Scientist role shows resilience and negates these statements; after all, while Machine Learning (ML) can be applied to read, understand and analyse data, who will teach the machines to begin with?

There is a common misconception that Machine Learning is battling to take the role of a Data Scientist, when actually it is eradicating the smaller tasks that prove menial to this skilled worker. In fact, by 2022, data management manual tasks will be reduced by 45 per cent through the addition of ML and AI. That said, the role of a Data Scientist is proving to be safer than the role of a Data Analyst which can be seen as more of a ‘lower-level’ vocation.

Looking beyond 2020

The capabilities of technology can never be underestimated; however, we will fail to make sufficient progress and keep innovating without harnessing the use of Big Data and, more importantly, understanding this information and applying it effectively. 

Huge advancements to the healthcare, transport and automation sectors due to the application of IoT technology lie ahead, and marketing will become immensely targeted, ‘smart’ and effective in the consumer-focused world that we all inhabit. Through this, Data Scientists will reign supreme as the job of choice. 

Weathering the storm of any political uncertainty or economic downturn, we will always need people to transcribe and apply data effectively. Data Scientists are one of the fastest-growing jobs worldwide, and their importance will only rise. In the future I see Data Scientists working closer with Chief Data Officer’s (CDO’s) to mitigate both business and internal decisions. Becoming more vital in the corporate structure, the future specialist and experienced Data Scientist will be worth their weight in gold – and remunerated in similar fashion.

Marcus Granville, Head of Digital and Technology, Heat Recruitment (opens in new tab)

Marcus Granville is one of the original members of the Heat Recruitment team. With eight years’ experience in the recruitment sector, he heads up the Digital and Technology sector.