2021 Salary Guide to Careers in Data Science
For five years in a row, data science has been one of Glassdoor’s 50 Best Jobs in America’s top three positions. At the end of 2020, data scientists ranked third with 6,542 open jobs and a job satisfaction score of 4.0. According to the 2021 ranking, the role of data scientist boasted a mean base salary of $113,309.
Data scientists are one of the keystone posts of the entire data science and analytics (DSA) complex. For this reason, salaries in the field are growing steadily. A data scientist’s role is to bring sense to the reams of data that pour into today’s corporate management offices, government agencies, and other organizations. By combining knowledge of statistics, business logic, and computer programming, data scientists design, create, and implement programs that make sense of complex data to inform decision making and planning. A full guide to data scientist trends, career development, required skills and qualifications, and future outlook can be viewed here.
Because of advancing technologies and the recognition of the value of strong data analytics, the need for DSA skills and knowledge has never been higher, nor growing faster.
Data Science Salary Trends
As referenced above, opportunities and salaries for those with data science skills are expected to expand. A 2020 report showed significant salary increases for multiple roles, including systems architects, data architects, data engineers, data scientists, and business analysts.
The median salary for all data and mathematical science positions was $94,280 annually in 2019 (the most recent available annual report from BLS in 2021), with top earners making well into six figures. Bonuses, commissions and profit-sharing can add around $20,000 yearly on average. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industries where data scientists earn the most money include computer systems design, technological consulting, and scientific research, all of which had median salaries over $99,000 in 2019. The highest paid data scientists worked in New York, where they made an annual mean wage of $125,170 in 2019.
Robert Half’s 2021 Technology Salary Guide lists data scientists and data analytics professionals as critical technology roles. The top industries expected to need data science professionals in the future include healthcare, technology, financial services, and government.
In data science, experience and education matter greatly when discussing salary. Those data scientists still learning skills can expect to earn a starting salary of $109,000, while those with plenty of experience and expertise along with specialized certifications can expect to earn a starting salary of $185,750.
Impact of Experience and Education on Salaries
As mentioned, data science salaries are highly dependent upon job candidates’ experience and educational background. A website dedicated to data careers, KDnuggets, stated, “Data scientists are highly educated – 88% have at least a master’s degree and 46% have PhDs – and while there are notable exceptions, a very strong educational background is usually required to develop the depth of knowledge necessary to be a data scientist.”
Higher education proves lucrative in the field, as the trends above show. Data scientists can expect an increase of almost $80,000 in salary when they pursue more education and hands-on experiences. According to Robert Half, many data science jobs require graduate education with many organizations seeking candidates who have earned a PhD.
A 2020 projection (released in 2017 by Burning Glass) expanded upon why continued education is necessary in the field of data science. It stated, “Technologies change quickly. This reality requires a new type of workforce and attitude from both employers and employees around continuous learning and mastering skills that will enable employees to be prepared for not-yet-arrived jobs of the future. New graduates alone will not close this gap.” They predict that education will need to prepare data scientists with various skills, including data engineering, data governance, and data privacy.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence will also demand data professionals with training, education, and experience to help the fields grow. With the right education, targeted experience, and continued curiosity, data scientists will have opportunities in a wide range of industries and command lucrative salaries for years to come.
Other Variations in Data Science Salaries
In addition to education and experience, location plays a big role in salaries. General cost of living and economic conditions fluctuate across the United States, from state to state and city to city. These variations have a consistent impact on pay scales in nearly all career categories, with few exceptions. While the data science industry is increasingly experiencing labor shortages, salaries for data scientists tend to fluctuate geographically in near lockstep to average salaries across all job descriptions. National cost of living changes by geography can be viewed at moneygeek.com.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest paying states for data and mathematical scientists in 2019 included the following:
- New York
- North Carolina
- New Hampshire
What companies data scientists work for also impact their pay. Some of the top paying companies for data scientists in 2020 include:
- Snap, Inc. $238,000
- Airbnb: $223,000
- Netflix: $222,000
- Pinterest: $212,000
- Lyft: $209,000
Companies are willing to pay for talented and experienced professionals. Pursuing a career in data science will likely be a great investment no matter where you live or work.
Data Scientist Career Paths and Salary Impact
Nearly every industry can benefit from the knowledge that can be gained by good data science. The ways in which companies collect data and the data points being targeted are still growing rapidly. This means data scientists are and will continue to experience high demand, especially if they pursue training and education in high demand skills.
Data scientists work with many titles, including research analyst, data engineer, and statistician. Most roles related to data science can expect significant growth. Here’s a look at a few:
- Statistician: Between 2019 and 2029, employment of statisticians is expected to grow 33%, resulting in 14,900 new jobs. The annual median salary in 2019 $92,030. Typical entry-level education is a master’s degree.
- Database Administrator: Between 2019 and 2029, employment of database administrators is expected to grow 10%, resulting in 12,800 new jobs. The annual median salary in 2019 $93,750. Typical entry-level education is a bachelor’s degree.
- Business Analysts: Between 2019 and 2029, employment of management analysts is expected to grow 11%, resulting in 93,800 new jobs. Typical entry-level education is a bachelor’s degree.
According to Burning Glass, the fastest growing skills in the DSA landscape currently include the following:
- Data science
- Machine learning
- Big data
- Data visualization
- Apache Hive
- Predictive analytics
- Apache Hadoop
- Pivot tables
By simply staying in the field throughout a career, professionals can experience strong salary growth. Exploring new facets of data science will also lead to more job security and higher salaries. Climbing straight up the corporate ladder to data analytics management positions or database manager roles will also provide a bump in income.
In short, the field of data science will not go away anytime soon, and experienced, educated professionals will reap the rewards with high pay and quality incentives.