Online Degrees Blog at New York Tech
Exploring Data Science Career Paths: Opportunities and Specializations

Exploring Data Science Career Paths: Opportunities and Specializations

Data scientist focusing on data analysis

In the fast-paced world of technology, data science is not only considered one of the most secure jobs in the world, but is also a rewarding career field.1 In recent years, the demand for data science professionals who can transform raw data into actionable insights has skyrocketed. As a result, diverse data scientist career paths are available, such as data scientist, data analyst, machine learning engineer, IT director, and more. In addition, the rise of artificial intelligence, cyber security threats, and tools like cloud computing continue to influence the industry, carving out new data science roles and responsibilities. 1

This post provides an overview of different data science roles, the knowledge and skills required to excel, and emerging specializations in the data science field.

Growth of Data Science as a Career Field

As more organizations prioritize the use of data to make informed decisions, the field of data science continues to experience exponential growth. From healthcare and finance to entertainment and technology, organizations are using data to gain a competitive edge. Take the case of Netflix, which used data mining and data analytics to save about $1 billion in user retention. 2

Despite the strong demand for skilled data professionals, experts say organizations are still facing talent shortages. A study from McKinsey Global Institute projected a shortage in the United States of nearly 190,000 data scientists and a staggering 1.5 million data managers and analysts. 3,4 This trend can be observed not only in the U.S. but, also, globally in countries like India.

Programming languages remain relevant, with 86% of data scientists in a recent survey stating that Python is the primary language they use for current projects. 4 However, with the increasing complexity of data, there is a shift towards essential data science skills and leadership potential, according to Srikanth Velamakanni, co-founder and CEO of Fractal Analytics. 3 He says that data visualization and analytical skills are just as important as technical proficiency.

But finding candidates with these skill sets is easier said than done. Recent data science grads often lack essential analytical skills, and data analysts may not have sufficient knowledge to effectively communicate business intelligence insights to stakeholders. 3 So, when it comes to data science career paths, identify programs that will help you develop skills beyond traditional programming expertise. Focus on cultivating analytical thinking, problem-solving abilities, and a growth mindset. 3 These skills, along with internships and projects, will go a long way toward increasing your marketability when applying for your first data science job.

Overview of Different Data Science Roles

Data science encompasses a spectrum of roles, each with its unique set of responsibilities and skill requirements. Let’s delve into some key roles.

Data Analyst

The role of data analyst serves as a gateway for individuals entering the field of data science, offering a strong foundation for career progression. As a data analyst, you would get to play a pivotal role in transforming raw data into actionable insights.

Key responsibilities include data cleaning, analysis, report creation, and visualization to aid organizations in making informed decisions. Prepare for this role by developing proficiency in data analysis tools, such as Excel and SQL. 5 You will also need to hone strong communication and presentation skills because you might work closely with stakeholders and non-technical audiences and will need to be able to effectively communicate your findings and reports. 5

Machine Learning Scientist

The growth in artificial intelligence and its applications ensures a robust and sustained demand for machine learning engineers, especially in finance, healthcare, and technology. If you’re interested in an academic career in data science, you’ll find plenty of machine learning scientists focused on research. These specialists develop machine learning models. They also design deep learning algorithms that enable systems to learn and improve from experience, optimizing model performance for real-world applications. 6

If you choose this career path, however, you will need strong programming skills in languages like Python and R, knowledge of machine learning algorithms, strong research and analytical abilities, and domain expertise in a specific field. 6

Data Scientist

Data scientists work for tech giants like Apple, Google, and Meta, but are also needed in academia and government. They are the architects of insights, leveraging statistical analysis and machine learning techniques to extract meaningful patterns from complex datasets.

Often described as a jack of all trades, data scientists are involved with multiple stages of a project, from data collection and analysis to visualization and presentation. 5,7 That’s why they are often called on to lead teams. Based on the wide range of responsibilities given to data scientists, it will be important to have a strong foundation in data manipulation and visualization, statistical analysis, and machine learning. 7

Data Engineer

Data engineers are the backbone of data infrastructure. As organizations continue to accumulate vast amounts of data, the need for professionals who can manage and optimize that infrastructure is paramount. Organizations seek data engineers who are proficient in data warehousing and database management as well as programming skills in SQL and Python. 5

As a data engineer, you would spend your time designing, constructing, and maintaining the systems and architecture that enable organizations to efficiently store their data. Additionally, you would be tasked with ensuring data pipelines are reliable, which is why data engineers are considered essential contributors to the data science ecosystem.5

Data Science Manager

If you are a data scientist with an eye on the executive suite, consider whether a management role is a good match with your interests and strengths. As a data science manager, you would oversee projects and teams, develop individual talent, and align data initiatives with current business operations and overarching business goals. Leadership abilities, project management skills, and expertise in data strategy and planning are essential to being successful in this role. 8

Not all data scientists will become managers. But, with the right preparation, you can increase your odds. Participate in robust professional development or leadership training within your current company or an external organization. 8 Also, identify mentors that can help guide your growth and seize opportunities to take the lead on projects.

Educational Paths and Skill Development

To embark on a successful data science career, individuals can pursue relevant degrees in computer science, statistics, or related fields. Additionally, online courses and bootcamps offer practical, hands-on learning experiences, allowing for skill development in a rapidly changing landscape. Before enrolling in online courses or a bootcamp, carefully consider what you want to achieve. If you want to continue working full-time while studying, part-time online master’s degree programs are another option and can usually be earned in a year or less.

Bootcamps, online courses, and certificate programs are less expensive than graduate degree programs and can help fill skill or knowledge gaps for entry level data science jobs, but they cannot provide the in-depth, comprehensive education that higher-level roles require. If your goal is changing careers, a certificate alone might not be a valuable enough credential to help you land a data science job if you have no experience. 9

Identifying Personal Interests and Strengths

To choose the right data science career path, talk to individuals who know you well and identify your personal interests and strengths. Then, start researching companies with data science roles that closely align with your passions. Whether you enjoy working with large datasets, developing algorithms, or informing business strategy, you’ll find your niche within data science.

Pursuing Continuous Learning and Skill Enhancement

Data science is constantly evolving with technological advancements. That’s why advanced degrees in data science, mathematics, and statistics often distinguish the top candidates for data science jobs. Increasingly, organizations seek out talented master’s graduates, reflecting the importance of specialized knowledge in the tech industry.

Aspiring data professionals should embrace a mindset of continuous learning to stay ahead in this ever-changing landscape. Take advantage of workshops, conferences, and other opportunities to keep up with industry trends, all of which are crucial for career growth.

Prepare for Diverse Roles and Opportunities in the World of Data Science

More and more businesses recognize the value of strong data science skills and knowledge to their bottom line. Whether you’re interested in becoming a data science professional or have your sights set on a management role, New York Institute of Technology’s Online Data Science, M.S. gives you the chance to learn the latest strategies for effectively analyzing data, communicating with stakeholders, and positively impacting business decisions.

Gain market-ready skills that will prepare you for diverse roles as you take challenging courses. You’ll also tap into an expansive network in New York and receive mentorship from renowned professors. Don’t wait to advance your data science career. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor today.

New York Institute of Technology has engaged Everspring, a leading provider of education and technology services, to support select aspects of program delivery.