One of the most sought-after careers in recent times, the job of a ‘data scientist’ brings tough challenges as well as large rewards. The term ‘data science’ refers to the discipline whose aim is to uncover hidden insights from raw data with the objective of enabling managements to make better business decisions. For instance, raw data on cell phone use can be extracted, processed and analysed to segregate users by gender, age group and location, to help businesses improve audience targeting for their advertisements.
Market Outlook and Job Scenario
No business can afford to be complacent in today’s highly dynamic and competitive world. Data science is a newly-emerging field which can help businesses get ahead of their competitors by providing valuable insights into aspects like customer behaviour, business operations, supply chain etc. Armed with this information, managers can make smart data-driven decisions to realise key business goals such as cost savings and higher sales.
This explains why the market for data science and analytics is growing rapidly in all parts the world. A growing number of companies are investing heavily in the field including those in media entertainment, transportation, supermarket chains, online retailers, sports manufacturers and fast-food chains.
The right data can help businesses obtain valuable insights into customer behaviours and facilitate smart business decisions to improve their bottom lines. Indeed, so important has data science become to the growth and development of businesses these days that Harvard Business Review was persuaded to tag it as “the sexiest job of the 21st century”.
Now that we have some idea of what data science is and how it is used, let us run through the list of skills required by those who want to take it up as a career. As we shall see, data science is a multi-disciplinary subject with heavy reliance on mathematics, statistics and coding along with knowledge of data visualisation tools to explain important insights to lay persons.
1. Programming Skills: Candidates wishing to embark on a career in data science should be proficient at computer programming so that they can write their own code to mine and analyse data. Python, R and SAS are important languages for data scientists, and which among these to focus on usually depends on the type of industry you want to join. For example, while R is commonly used for tech and telecom companies, Python is predominant in financial services.
2. Mathematics: Specialised branches of mathematics like calculus, algebra, ratios, probability and statistics are integral for data science and analysis. Although you will not be expected to solve equations, knowledge of mathematics will help you frame problems correctly and guide the computer towards a solution. Knowledge of mean, median, mode, Bayes theorem etc. are essential to suss out patterns and derive important insights.
3. Machine Learning: Machine Learning (ML) deals with the creation of computer applications that have the ability to learn from experience and get better over time. Knowledge of ML is especially important if you plan to work with Big Data as it is particularly useful in analysing vast volumes of information.
4. Data Wrangling: Since raw data is messy and could have gaps and loopholes, it needs to be cleaned and structured before it can be used for analysis. Data wrangling refers to the process of filling in the missing values and converting the data into the required format to make it suitable for analysis and processing.
5. Data Visualisation: All your analysis and hard work is of no use unless you are able to ensure that common people are able to understand it. One of the most important skills for a data scientist to have is the ability to present their findings clearly to a non-technical audience. Knowledge of tools like Power BI and Tableau are important to help you present your data clearly and forcefully to your target audience.
6. Data Intuition: There may be instances where you might have to work on hypothetical scenarios in coordination with your engineering department for an upcoming project. Good data intuition on probable data will ensure that your predictions are not too wide off the mark.
Data science is an upcoming field replete with career opportunities for those with the right aptitude and skillsets. As more jobs and businesses shift to an online mode during the pandemic and beyond, data science will play an increasingly bigger role in influencing future business strategies and operations.
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