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Data Science Career Path and Salary Outlook

by YOSS Community Writer, on June 27, 2019 at 1:11 PM


Data science is usually considered a combination of statistics and computer science, but there’s much more to it than that. It’s a field that combines data analysis with modeling that is dependent up the specific industry being studied. As a result, data scientists come from a variety of backgrounds.

Data Scientists Spend a Lot of Time in School

Roughly 100,000 people responded to Stack Overflow's Annual Developer Survey in 2017, and of those, slightly more than 7,000 were data scientists. Genevieve Hayes of Stitch Data analyzed the survey responses in her article, What Does a Data Scientist REALLY Look Like?, and compared data scientists to non-data scientists.

Overall, data scientists aren't much different than other tech professionals. For example, their gender and age demographics are pretty much identical, as they’re both overwhelmingly male (91 percent) and skew younger (50 percent between the ages of 25 and 34 with an average of 31). One way that data scientists really stand out, however, is in terms of education.

Data scientists tend to have more formal education than others in high tech. They are about twice as likely to have graduate degrees. For example, 45 percent of data scientists have a master’s degree or PhD compared to just 23 percent of others in tech.

On the other hand, roughly 45 percent of non-data science workers have just a bachelor’s degree compared to 33 percent for data scientists. This doesn’t mean that an advanced degree is necessary to break into data science, of course. Some people in the field have no college degree at all.

365 Data Science conducted another study of 1,001 data science professionals based on their LinkedIn profiles and found that 75 percent had a master’s or PhD.
The results confirm that data scientists generally have more formal, upper-level education.

Data Science Programming Experience

The Stack Overflow poll also showed that data scientists generally have slightly less professional coding experience than others in tech. This makes sense given that data scientists spend more time in school on average.

What's more, the coding experience that they have is what we would predict: an emphasis on standard data science languages. The following comparison demonstrates this:

  Data Scientists Other Tech Workers
Python 77% 35%
JavaScript 55% 72%

Python is important because it is a standard language (along with R) used for data analysis and visualization as well as machine learning. JavaScript, on the other hand, is a language that people in high tech often have to use to, for example, tweak a web application, even if it isn't officially part of their jobs.

Data Science Backgrounds

Chris Lindner of Indeed Engineering looked at resume data to determine which fields data scientists come from. The results are telling.

Data scientists have backgrounds that are fairly evenly distributed between computer science, engineering, business, math, and natural science. There is even a notable fraction that comes from the social sciences.

This is in contrast to machine learning and software engineers, both of which come primarily from computer science. Data analysts come mostly from business or economics backgrounds. Data engineers, not surprisingly, have backgrounds that are more like data scientists, but they’re still more likely to be in computer science, business, and natural sciences.


This really shouldn't come as a surprise. Data scientists are needed across fields. The ability to extract, structure and analyze data to transform the raw material into meaningful insights benefits every industry. In order to work on the data of a given industry, it helps to have experience in that industry.

This is good news to those who want to get into data science because it means your work experience in other fields doesn't prevent you from excelling. If you have the key data science skills, then you should be able to leverage any previous work into a future career.

Looking Forward: Life as a Data Scientist

Now that we have an idea of which fields data scientists come from, let's take a look at the data science career path moving forward.

Job Satisfaction

By and large, data scientists are a happy group. In Glassdoor's 50 Best Jobs in America for 2019, data scientists reported an average of 4.3 out of 5 for their job satisfaction rating. This tied for third place behind product designer (4.5) and dental hygienist (4.5).

Hayes’ study found that data scientists were generally satisfied with their jobs and careers. Roughly three-quarters of those polled rated themselves slightly to extremely satisfied. This is slightly higher than tech workers generally. Data scientists also reported high job satisfaction.

Data Science Salaries

Glassdoor reports that data scientists make, on average, $117K per year. This is higher than the usual salaries of programmers and statisticians, which is in the $75K range, but this is to be expected given the greater education of data scientists.

The range of data scientist salaries spans from roughly $86K to $157K per year. However, salaries are even more varied than this. The Burtch Works Study, which collected detailed information on 399 data scientists, found that salaries are highly correlated with experience.

In the following table, Level 1 workers have up to 3 years of experience while Level 3 workers have more than 8. Level 1 managers generally lead a small group while Level 3 managers are part of senior management.

  Workers Managers
Level 1 $95K $145K
Level 2 $129K $185K
Level 3 $165K $250K

The study also found that while salaries were stagnant the last year (2018), they had risen steadily the previous years, especially for entry-level workers.


For the right type of person, data science can be the perfect career. It's challenging and well-paying, and it provides you with the opportunity to use your skills and creativity to solve problems and uncover insights that drive action. It’s also a career that allows you to grow and expand your horizons.

Are you an experienced data scientist looking to move up or expand your client list? Sign up with us to get access to the best opportunities.

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