Think about the last time you logged onto your streaming service or music subscription service. Did the dashboard have a variety of content already picked out that nicely aligned with your taste and preferences? Have you ever wondered how it knew?

Data analytics is the science of acquiring, analyzing and processing available raw data to come to conclusions that then guide business decisions. The proportion of master’s-level job postings in the Seattle area requesting candidates with Python, machine learning and data science skills has nearly doubled over the past three years. It’s a career field that is growing rapidly and draws a competitive salary. On average, those specializing in data analytics can expect to earn about six figures per year.

Not only are salaries on the rise, but the need for data analysts is expected to rise as well. According to industry estimates, there will be about 50 million devices connected to the internet worldwide this year — with each device generating 90% of the world’s data in just two years. That data can be used to glean useful business information through data analytics, giving businesses a strong incentive to ensure they are staffed with employees who are prepared to analyze that data.

Here are five career trends in data science.

1. Data analytics is needed in all industries.

While data analytics may seem like a natural fit for industries like retail, manufacturing and financial services, these are not the only industries in need of data scientists and analysts. Data science is also used by farmers for efficient food growth, nonprofits to plan efficient operations, by researchers to find cures for diseases, and much more. Increasingly, every industry is looking to use data to improve operations, grow revenues, and enhance discovery.

Northeastern University Seattle data analytics engineering student Pranav Nair is drawn to the wide array of career paths opening up in this field.

“There are quite a few aspects of data analytics that appeal to me but the most pertinent aspect would be the choices available to me in industry,” Nair says. “Each and every company, be it tech, or health care or even education, requires data analytics in some way. And most of these industries are moving steadily towards data-driven decision making, so I have a lot of options in hand when I go out and look for opportunities.”

2. Working professionals will get an edge in career advancement if they specialize in data analytics. 

Those with technical skills and some years of work experience under their belt may find themselves going back to school to further specialize and gain a competitive edge. The expanding scope of the data field allows students to tailor their education to their career goals.

Kalyani Nawathe previously worked in software development, and is a recent graduate of Northeastern University’s Master of Professional Studies in Analytics program. She has taken her technical background and what she has learned at Northeastern to tackle real-world problems.

“I enjoy working with raw data and make meaning out of it to influence the decision-making process whether its personal or professional,” says Nawathe. “The tools and technologies that I have learned offer me the ability to provide business insights, develop systematic models, perform various research and analytics activities, and produce intelligent reports.”

3. The opportunities within data analytics are diverse and expanding.

Data analytics is a relatively new discipline, with the need for data experts outpacing the number of qualified employees. As this field matures and grows, it will diversify.

“Every company can benefit from a better understanding of how to use data to improve their business, but the differences between data science, data engineering, data analytics can be confusing,” says Dave Thurman, Dean and CEO of Northeastern University’s Seattle Campus and a data analytics expert. “Making good use of data to drive decision making requires teams with different sets of skills. Data scientists invent new algorithms, new approaches to analyzing data. Data engineers build the underlying infrastructures required to use data at scale on a continual basis. Data analysts apply algorithms to help business leaders interpret data, thinking about which decisions should be made via data analysis or which should be informed by heuristics.”

4. Data will increasingly be used in storytelling.

As the world becomes increasingly more data-driven, making data more understandable is imperative. Data and information visualization — the marriage of technical data analysis, graphic design and storytelling — is increasingly important.

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“During my summer internship, I was able to use Tableau, a tool I learned in class, to create a dashboards and present a set of complex project status updates to the leadership team,” says Rute Xu, a student pursuing a Master of Professional Studies in Analytics at Northeastern. “Typically, this would be a multiple-page report, but we were able to provide meaningful updates in seconds via the dashboard,” says Xu, who graduates this spring.

5. Everyone needs “data literacy.”

In 1990, only 15% of households owned a computer. In 2019, 96% of Americans owned at least a cellphone. Thus, it follows that as our understanding of data science increases, the barrier of entry into this discipline will lower as new tools emerge and ways of analyzing data improves.

“There’s no shortage of career options for individuals skilled in data analytics,” says Thurman. “But increasingly we also see ‘data literacy’ as a core requirement for everyone, regardless of discipline. Understanding how to use data to make decisions and understanding the limits of what data can and can’t tell you are critical skills for everyone.”

Northeastern University is a top-tier, nonprofit research university, grounded in experiential learning. We integrate academics with professional work, research, service and learning opportunities in 128 countries. Northeastern’s campus in South Lake Union is part of the Northeastern global network.