Why The Search For The Mystical Data Scientist Should Not Be A Feat Of Magic

The data scientist is a mystical spirit. A wizard, whose skills are fired in the deep unknown of a developer’s lair. Their secrets are worth the gold of a million empires.They possess the keys to eternity.They have pet dragons.

Not! It’s time to take away the staff and stop thinking of data scientists as lord wizards of middle earth lore.

The reality is something much different as business intelligence provider SiSense found in a study it recently commissioned about the state of the data professional market.

It’s important to consider the source with commissioned surveys. Obviously, SiSense has an interest in providing business intelligence solutions to companies. But the survey they funded does have findings that provides insights into the data professional market.

It’s true that data scientists are highly sought after. And there are more people who want to have the job. What companies need to do better is look at the overall data professional market. By doing that they may find that the person they seek is not necessarily a developer with pure technical skills.  More so it may be someone who has a mix of business skills with an understanding of big data and the applications needed to realize the right findings and overall return for the company.

It’s also not like we have an exact definition of a data scientist. The title is used quite freely. But you do need to know that if you seek out a data scientist, be prepared in knowing that you are hiring someone who will likely be in high demand.

For data professionals, the SiSense survey found that salaries start at $55,000. The highest paid are the data analysts who have become vice presidents in the organizations where they work. They earn as much as $132,000 per year. On average, the vice presidents of data analytics have spent about nine years with their employer. Salaries jump as much as 40% as these people reach the nine-year mark.

According to the survey, data scientists earn on average about $90,000 per year.  But a pattern is  emerging that may pose issues for companies that seek these people out.

Data scientists have become so hyped that everyone wants one.  Trend data from Indeed.com shows the increases in job postings that have the title of data scientist.

Overall, salaries are going up for data professionals. In the survey, 61% of respondents said their salaries were up in 2012 compared to last year. And next year, 78% of those surveyed said that they expect their salaries to increase.

Job security is not a chief concern, especially for the data scientist.

The results also show that people with business skills are sought after.

I think this last data point shows why employers need to think more about who they want to hire. Data scientists are very important to companies that deal with web scale data. I am talking about companies such as eBay or Facebook. But most companies need people who can help solve business problems with data that is minuscule in comparison to the big, web properties.

Finding that right data professional does not have to be a magical quest. It often means finding people with the right mix of skills who love the mysteries of what data beholds and the business acumen to discover its meaning.

(Lead image courtesy of Arthur Buxton, a talented artist who makes beautiful data visualizations.)