The upsurge in demand for skilled professionals to work in data science makes this field one students and potential students should look at closely. It offers competitive pay, and the opportunity to have an impact in fields ranging from art to agriculture, health care to nonprofits, advertising to computer science.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the outlook for Computer and Information Research Scientists for the years 2019 — 2029 climbs 15%, which ranks much higher than the average for all occupations. With a master’s degree, the pay averages $122,000 a year.
Data scientists find new ways to solve problems, says Ali Khamesipour, a part-time faculty member at City University of Seattle.
“Although data science can be traced to as far back as the 1800s, we now have more processing power and more data so we can be more precise and accurate with our methods,” Khamesipour explains. “Before we had to use pen and paper.”
Trends forecast that soon 1.7 Mb of data will be created every single second for each person on planet Earth. The total daily data output in early 2020 was already 2.5 quintillion (18 zeros!) bytes.
Data science has become a very helpful tool for solving problems in almost any field. In economics you can assess risks or forecast trends, notes Kyong Chang, Ph.D., an associate faculty member at CityU. Health care processes the information generated to construct case studies for studying certain diseases while medical device manufacturers implement artificial intelligence to help hospital administrators improve efficiencies and clinician’s productivities.
To distinguish an original painting from a forgery, once almost impossible and very costly if a mistake was made, now can be done through an algorithm scientists could employ to identify the artist’s tone or signature movements of brush strokes. In a Kaggle study, the algorithm was applied and then two paintings were examined to determine if they were by the same artist, says Chang.
Using analysis of the patterns, behavior and demography of donors, nonprofit organizations can execute more efficient campaigns. The collected data helps them make decisions on fundraising activities — where, who, and when to contact potential donors, Chang says.
Chang explains that farmers’ crops often suffer from unpredictable external factors and limited resources. They can benefit from data analysis that provides weather information, the amount of soil acidity and the levels of water collected.
“Farmers can then make a decision based on revealed information via data-driven or model-driven techniques to maximize the efficiency of their resource use,” says Chang.
Twenty-three-year-old student Amanda Hoesman-Foley finds the most well-known applications of data science are found in social media and its advertising.
“When a social media platform suggests adding certain individuals as friends or after you research a certain product, ads show up in your social media, that’s data science in action,” says Hoesman-Foley who is currently studying in the Master of Science in Data Science program at City University.
Even though the targeted advertising gets negative attention, she notes, that doesn’t mean data science is inherently bad.
Restaurants can collect data and then analyze which menu items are frequently purchased together, she says. Then they can come up with new combo items likely to appeal to customers.
Hoesman-Foley chose this field because it pairs well with her computer science degree, with the concentration in mathematics and because the job outlook has great potential.
Students beginning in this field should study in a goal-directed manner, says Khamesipour.
“The sky is the limit on solving any type of problem, using artificial intelligence and machine-learning methods,” Khamesipour says. “But it helps if the student knows in what arena they want to work.”
The methods used and type of data gathered differ from field to field, he says.
Comparing a data scientist to a handyman is an analogy Khamesipour uses in class. A handyman gets paid to know which tools work for which problem. He would know a Phillips screw requires a Phillips head screwdriver. Similarly, a data scientist should know beforehand what tools are available and which one will potentially solve a problem.
Chang explains the ideal career path to ultimately working in data science.
“It’s highly encouraged to have an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics or computer science followed by graduate level study specialized in data science,” he says. “In almost all cases, data science professionals will eventually become involved in multidisciplinary projects where technical skills, domain knowledge and experience are all required at the same time to be successful.”
City University of Seattle is a private nonprofit university accredited through the doctoral level. It has been ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the Top 50 in the country for its online bachelor’s degree programs for eight consecutive years.