How to Become a Data Scientist: Degree, Requirements, and More

You probably already know that the demand for data scientists is skyrocketing—and if you want a piece of the pie, you might want to learn how to become a data scientist.

Let it be known—becoming a data scientist is not just for everyone. A strong background in mathematics and an analytical mind can make a difference. Keep reading to find out more.

Learn in This Article

  • What Does a Data Scientist Do
  • Qualifications and Requirements
  • How to Become a Data Scientist: Tips and Tricks
  • How Much Do Data Scientists Make
  • How Long Does It Take to Be a Data Scientist
  • Can You Be a Data Scientist Without a Degree

What Does a Data Scientist Do

Data scientists are professionals that use statistical methods to interpret a large amount of data. In fact, the main role of data scientists is to use their analytical skills to help businesses make sound decisions and stay competitive in the market. Not to mention, data scientists find new ways to improve data interpretation, collection, and storage.

Data Science Jobs

Looking for a job in data science? Learn what are the requirements, salaries, and job outlook, and find the highest-paying opportunities in the field.

Qualifications and Requirements

As data scientists are required to work with an enormous set of information, the job of a data scientist requires a background in statistics, computer science, and mathematics.

Although there might be some exceptions, a college degree for a data scientist is strictly needed. These individuals are highly educated—a good 88% of these professionals have a Master’s degree, while 46% have a Ph.D. Besides data science, professionals working in this field can also pursue a Bachelor’s in computer science, physical sciences, and mathematics and statistics.

Other data scientist requirements include learning how to use programming software, such as Hadoop, R, Python, SQL, and Apache Spark—to mention the most popular choices. Additionally, a good grasp of machine learning and AI can help you stand out from other data scientists.

Apart from technical skills, data scientists must communicate effectively, have strong visualization skills, and be willing to undergo training and additional courses.

How to Become a Data Scientist: Tips and Tricks

Now that you know which data scientist qualifications you need to enter this career, it’s time to understand how to turn these skills into a benefit for businesses.

Visualize and Present Data

Apart from developing skills in mathematics, statistics, programming, and data analysis, a data scientist must know how to visualize and present data in a user-friendly way.

Use Programming Software

Using programs like Python and SQL the right way is a critical step for every data scientist. Here are some steps on how to do it:

  • Adopt Excel and SQL for query databases;
  • Use Python and R to analyze data;
  • Build data models to obtain valuable insights;
  • Use statistical methods to make predictions;
  • Learn how to use visualization programs, such as Tableau, Google Charts, PowerBI, and Plotly.

Build Your Portfolio

If you’re starting a career in data science, don’t forget to showcase your skills in a portfolio. Consider displaying your work on GitHub or—even better—your personal website and giving a compelling description of the work being showcased.

Even though it’s a less than impressive skill for starters, most data science work involves data cleaning—this can be the starting point of a profitable career in data science.

Learn from Others

Building an online presence is an important step in actively looking for a career in data science. But that’s not enough—engaging with professionals in the field can bring many benefits.

Consider writing valuable questions in forums, subreddits, and other online communities. Not only can you strengthen your knowledge, but you can also find new valuable connections.

How Much Do Data Scientists Make

Generally, the salary of a data scientist depends on a number of factors, including experience, the type of company, and the location.

According to the 2020 Burtch-Work study, the median entry-level data science salary is a staggering $95,000 per year.

In the case of a mid-level data scientist, the pay will rise to about $130,000 per year. If this data scientist also covers a managerial role, the salary will be around $195,000 annually.

The highest data scientist salary can be as high as $165,000 for an experienced employee and over $250,000 for a managerial position.

How Long Does It Take to Be a Data Scientist

Because there are so many possible pathways to pursue, the time it takes to become a data scientist might vary considerably.

Those who attend college can become data scientists in three to four years. It may take additional two years for those with a master’s degree in data science. Overall, the whole process might take from five to six years.

Can You Be a Data Scientist Without a Degree

In short, it’s possible to be a data scientist without a degree in a specific field. However, it’s vital to know how to use programming and have a deep understanding of mathematics and machine learning and extend it by reading as many data science manuals as possible.

So, if you feel like you have a strong background in these fields, data science is definitely attainable even without college.

How to Become a Data Scientist: Key Takeaways

  • Data scientists are specialists that analyze and interpret enormous amounts of data using statistical methods.
  • One of the most important requirements includes the use of programming software, including Python, SQL, and R.
  • Don’t forget to build your own portfolio and learn from other professionals.
  • Data scientist professionals can make anywhere from $95,000 and $250,000 depending on experience, location, and role in the company.