Data science: an industry worth exploring

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Data science: an industry worth exploring

Data science skills can open up doors in a variety of industries and fields of expertise.

At its core, data science is about using analytics to garner insights about processes and business operations to improve efficiency and business outcomes. While that might simply look like poring through vast spreadsheets, it involves sleuthing and puzzle-solving. If you’re wondering if data science could be the career for you, read on below as we explore some insights into this career choice.

You may have heard about a data scientist’s role in producing significant economic benefits for companies. For example, Australian company Narellan Pools found people were most likely to seek out a new swimming pool after two consecutive days of sunshine. Consequently, the company redirected its marketing budget to own all inventory according to the weather rather than having all funds spread equally on a seasonal basis.

Some data scientists look far beyond basic buying habits by informing machine learning to enhance strategic decision-making. This involves identifying patterns and then using computers to scour vast sources of data to find the most consequential insights. It requires a specialist understanding of the algorithms needed to identify clustering, outliers and relevant patterns.

Promising future

Data science skills can open up doors in a variety of industries and fields of expertise, including health, research, marketing, retail, finance, manufacturing, IT, scientific services and user experience (UX) design.

It’s also an area that can earn you a respectable salary. In May 2019, ASIC advertised a junior data scientist role with a salary range starting at $81,427, plus superannuation – but salaries for experienced data scientists can be well above $100,000.

And salaries in this field are expected to increase. Deloitte Access Economics predicts the average annual income for data science professionals with a postgraduate qualification in information technology could reach $130,176 in 2021-22.

Foundational skills

The experience and qualifications you’ll need to get a data science job can significantly vary. Some employers want people who can handle data sets, while others look for mathematical qualifications married to basic computer programming skills.

Statistics, mathematics, and logic skill-sets are beneficial, but anyone with an interest in understanding processes and improving outcomes is thinking like a data scientist. It’s also a job that demands continual learning and a keen curiosity in how things work.

You may need to combine those technical and analytical skills with communication skills. Storytelling abilities will help when producing reports, briefings, and presentations.

It’s worth considering studying to gain the necessary foundational skills in these areas, especially as even junior roles can require tertiary qualifications. The ASIC role mentioned earlier requires a Bachelor degree or higher in a quantitative discipline. It also requires programming experience in languages such as R or Python and the ability to analyse structured and unstructured data using statistical or machine learning approaches.

Some educators have seized this opportunity by offering data science courses for mature students. For example, James Cook University offers a Master of Data Science online course that’s marketed as one of the fastest Masters degrees of its type in the country. Expect qualifications like this to become increasingly valuable as more employers see the need for data science.

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