Why Should I Get a Master’s Degree in Data Science?

Big data’s influence on business and the economy continues to surge, which is why the need for data scientists is expanding. As companies seek to fill positions, professionals with a master’s in data science are at an advantage.

Data science is one of the fastest-growing professions, with job demand projected to soar 28 percent by 2020 with 2.7 million openings, according to IBM. For the past two years Glassdoor has named data scientist as the best job in the U.S., citing the position’s high earning potential, abundant career opportunities, job satisfaction and large number of job openings. This strong reputation and an average salary of $113,436 means there’s no wondering about its appeal.

What Industries Need Data Scientists?

Data drives nearly every business these days, so data scientists can find work across several sectors. In fact, 59 percent of all data science job demand is in these industry sectors: technology, professional services, finance and insurance. Data scientists also work in communications, healthcare, government, energy, biotechnology and gaming.

Data science is the fusion of methodologies and techniques from various fields, including mathematics, statistics, information science and computer science. Data scientists comb through data and apply statistical tools to unearth patterns, measure impact and develop a business case into an analytics agenda. Their work helps drive organizations’ decision-making.

Now that big data plays such a huge role in all industries – and is the top catalyst for economic growth according to the McKinsey Institute – data scientistsare essential.

Qualified Candidates Sought

By 2018, the U.S. could face a shortage of data scientists (to the tune of 140,000 to 190,000 jobs) and a need for as many as 1.5 million managers who know how to analyze big data. Data science is one of the few professions where the job demand outpaces the supply of qualified professionals. In fact, IBM reports that these jobs remain open on an average of 45 days, which is five days longer than the market average.

For those looking to take advantage of the high job demand and anticipated growth of the field, pursuing a master’s in data science can provide the necessary training for the role.

From the employers’ side, IBM reports about 40 percent of employers are looking for a data scientist with an advanced degree, with 27 percent requiring a master’s degree and 12 percent requiring a Ph.D.

It seems that job seekers understand the need. According to a salary study by Burtch Works Executive Recruiting, the vast majority of working data scientists (92 percent) have an advanced degree: 44 percent hold a master’s degree and 48 percent have a Ph.D. Further, the study says those with a Ph.D. earn a higher median base salary than those with master’s degrees, and data science master’s holders earn more than those with just bachelor’s degrees.

Gain Necessary Training

Coursework covered in a master’s program may include:

·       Data mining

·       Machine learning

·       Data visualization

·       Statistical methods

·       Applied regression models

·       Business analytics strategy

·       Project management

Some schools offer specializations such as social science analytics, business analytics, health analytics and cybersecurity. In addition to coursework, programs often require students to complete a data science project.

A master’s in data science can be a next step for professionals already in the field or offer those with experience or education in another industry the opportunity to break in.

Note: All salary information gathered in June 2017.

Learn more about careers in data science and educational opportunities.