The State of the Data Science Job Market

The State of the Data Science Job Market

HBR has listed ‘data scientist’ as the top job of the 21st Century. Let’s look at the key drivers fuelling the growth in data science demand:

As the world comes to terms with immersive technologies like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, none can doubt the fact that data is now the prime capital in the hands of any enterprise – big or small. Data is, in fact, a two-way resource. On the one hand it allows insights into past events through correct analysis, while on the other hand it enables informed decision-making going forward. And for all these reasons, the discipline of Data Science is the current buzzword across all industries.

On the Demand for Data Scientists

The growth in demand for data scientists and data analytics in the job market is simply unbelievable. What’s more, going by historical trends, it is a steady spike – no flash in the pan! Between 2014 and 2015, Data Science jobs worldwide increased by 42%, during 2015 – 2016 it stood at 52%, and in the years 2016 – 2017 it saw a near 100% spike. It is still on an upward swing.

A study conducted by the Analytics India magazine estimates nearly 50,000 data science vacancies are currently available in India alone. In terms of demand for qualified data science professionals, India stands right next to the US. The study also reveals that a huge portion of IT professionals would need immediate reskilling in data science specializations to cope with the evolving business requirements. Even the Harvard Business Review has listed data scientist as the top job of the 21st Century.

While this is a healthy trend, let us look at the key drivers fuelling this growth in data science demand:

  • Owing to the ever-increasing data volumes, data organization can no longer be handled by non-specialists: While businesses go from offline-only to a mixed mode, there is a huge wealth of electronic data that is being created. As online transactions increase manifold, collecting, collating and analysing becomes Himalayan tasks.

This is no longer possible by traditional clerks or even database managers. Only a skilled data professional can be relied upon to make any meaningful contribution with this data.

  • There is a growing recognition among industry leaders that data science is a specialized domain: There was a time when data entry operators doubled up as the data analyst as no specialized skill was expected from the role. But gone are those days as current data scientists perform various roles and responsibilities that are unique and extraordinary as per the job requirements. 

The industry has finally realised that data analytics require logical and analytical abilities in different areas of Machine Learning or Big Data – and only someone specifically trained in these can be of real value.

  • Talent supply will remain far short of industry demand because Data Science is still not a primary career choice: Despite great demand, the industry will continue to face a steep shortage of data science talent. A McKinsey study predicts a global shortage of about 190,000 data scientists and 1.5 million managers and analysts who can understand and make decisions by utilizing Big Data.

The scenario is even more bleak in India. This will not be mitigated unless more and more capable students start considering data science as their primary career option right at the undergraduate level.

  • Compared to other tech roles, remuneration in data science will continue to surge because of the demand-supply gap: A Glassdoor report reveals that currently a data scientist professional in the US is offered an average annual salary of $116,000. This is astronomical compared to most other IT roles.

Various Indian market sources agree that a talented data science candidate with a good track-record can command salaries of over 19 lakh per annum in India. Driven by the scarcity of talented professionals, reputed companies are open to a 30% to 50% premium to data scientists over other technical roles.

  • Even medium-to-small businesses will be scouting for data scientists more and more: Data is for everyone, but so long only industry majors have leveraged it. However, with increasing awareness and democratisation of available cloud-based tools, various medium to small start-ups have started to fully utilize the benefits that data analytics can offer.

Such companies are hiring entry-level Data Scientists – which is a trend that is going to be beneficial both for the organization and for the discipline.

  • The industry will continue to see lateral entry in Data Science roles as it is still not a core career choice: Faced with the two-pronged attack of talent crunch and burgeoning demand, the past trend of professionals from various backgrounds filling in data science roles will continue for some time to come. Historically, professionals from computer science, mathematics, statistics, economics, physics, or engineering disciplines had taken over as data scientists as there was no separate academic domain purely for data science at that point.

Though data science is now an acclaimed discipline on its own, it will still take some time to get enough industry-ready, trained professionals. Till then, talented professionals with problem-solving mindsets but belonging to other domains will keep entering the field with additional data science degrees or diplomas on the side.

  • Industries still not leveraging the advantages of data analytics will increasingly start adopting data science practices sooner or later: As such, we are currently witnessing just the dawn of the data science explosion. Things can only go uphill at this point and every day we are bound to encounter more and more industries joining the data analytics bandwagon.

Any organization or institution, belonging to any sector, can utilize data analytics to improve their ways of working. Hence, data science is going to be one field not restricted to industries, geographies, scale, or existing domain knowledge.

In the post-pandemic world trying to formulate a ‘new normal’, data is going to play a key role and the job market is up for grabs for anyone interested in making a career out of data science.

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