The Citizen Data Science Path To Becoming A Data Scientist
Data science is a wide open field, so how do you get in on the action? Much of what you read about the job field cites master’s degrees and PhDs, but the truth is most companies don’t need such high-level skills.
Citizen data scientists bridge an essential gap between the need for big data processing and what companies can afford. The citizen data scientist executes these critical data initiatives, but their primary job title isn’t “data scientist.” It’s something outside the field of statistics and analysis.
It’s going to be one of the most significant growing job fields, but you won’t find that title in any search. Here’s how you can turn your data dreams into a rewarding job as a Citizen data scientist.
You probably don’t have time to go back to school for an advanced degree, but there are plenty of certifications that can get you started in as little as a few months or even weeks. Certifications are often free, but even ones that have a pay scale for official certification are much cheaper than attending a traditional college course. Here are three common questions for this route.
Where Do I Start?
If you’re already familiar with a standard programming language or two, start with the principles of big data. Data science certifications give you an overview of how to collect, process, and present data.
How Many Skills Do I Need?
It depends a lot on the field and the company. If you’ve landed a position already, the company itself may dictate the skill you need. If you’re moving laterally into a new position altogether, do a job search for “data scientist + field” or some variation to get an idea of the top two or three skills employers request.
Do I Need A Portfolio?
Probably. Super small companies may not be as picky about seeing what you can do, but it never hurts to have some example projects you’re working on. Start your Github profile and fill it out so that you have something to show.
Develop Your Visualization Skills
Once you’ve got the foundation of big data skills, you need to develop visualization skills. Your employer or organization doesn’t care about a jumble of numbers on his or her desk. Your job is to present the data in a visually compelling way.
Think of it like this: Data can tell a story. Good visualization tells the right story. Your company expects the data to provide value for the company, whether making a decision about the customer journey, pivoting during the product development cycle, or making predictions about future market trends. Good visualization that tells the right story and doesn’t obscure facts is a critical part of big data.
Learn a visualization software inside and out so that you can drive this value. Your company may have a preferred platform, but if it doesn’t (or you aren’t hired yet) here are some common ones:
Decide Your Job Title
We just said “citizen data scientist.” You won’t find a single job description with that title, however. Although we often use the word “data scientist” as an all-purpose job solution, there are several different job titles you should search for instead.
- Data Scientist — Cleans and organizes big data. Tells the appropriate stories and creates business solutions.
- Data Engineer — A software engineer at heart. Builds enterprise solutions, data pipelines, and large scale processing systems.
- Data Analyst — Sifts data to find what insights are hiding. Often considered a stepping stone to a full data scientist.
- Data Architect — Develops data architecture and framework to facilitate data collection and storage.
- Data Administrator — Focuses on maintenance, a critical for continuing to capture appropriate data.
- Business Analyst — Responsible for bridging the gap between the data team and business stakeholders. This role is often less technical, but a cursory knowledge of the technical features is always helpful.
To get a good idea of the skills needed in each section, focus your job search on the title to see what potential employers are requesting and note the similarities. For you visualization enthusiasts out there, DataCamp has an excellent infographic that gives you an idea of what skills you may need for each position.
If you find that one title requires skills you already have, that could be your entry into the world of data science.
Get Hired In Data Science
You might think you have to go back to school to get an advanced degree in the field of data science, but you don’t have to follow that path. As big data becomes necessary down to the smallest parts of our lives, businesses and organizations are expanding the roles they need in the world of big data, allowing someone without an advanced degree — but the proper experience and training — to get a job in this growing field.
Editor’s note: Ready to get a career in data science? Attend the ODSC East 2019 Career Expo this May 3–4 in Boston!