Data scientist salary guide
Data scientists are one of the keystone posts of the entire data science and analytics (DSA) complex. For this reason data scientist salaries are growing nicely. The role of a data scientist is to bring sense to the reams of data that pour into today’s corporate management offices. By combining a knowledge of statistics, business logic, and computer programming, data scientists design, create and implement programs that pull the data into reports that managers can use to make decisions that improve a company’s trajectory. 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. And the resultant demand for data scientists has left the workforce with an expanding shortage of job candidates as compared to the current and expected demand. There can thus be no surprise that data scientist salaries are strong and continuing to escalate.
Data scientist salary overview
The mean annual salary for data scientists is $108,660 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) 2021 occupational outlook survey. In the mathematical sense, it’s not the average data scientist salary, but it’s a great frame of reference when exploring career options.
Data scientist salary trends
Data scientists are in high demand. According to a research study done by Burning Glass Technologies, there were 2.35 million job listings for all positions categorized as data science and analytics (DSA) in 2015. Burning Glass’s researchers projected that by 2020, that number would increase to 2.71 million, representing a 15% per annum growth rate over 5 years. At the time, Burning Glass put the average salary offered by DSA job listings as $80,265.
In 2020, the BLS reported that there were 59,680 employees in the US working under the title of data scientist. They brought home a mean annual salary of $103,930. On the surface, this makes the Burning Glass projection look inaccurately optimistic. But it’s important to keep in mind that the BLS classifies different types of data scientists separately. There’s a category for information research scientists, one for statisticians, and so on.
But in total for 2020, the BLS counted almost 4.58 million computer and mathematical professionals in the US. This statistic includes workers who aren’t necessarily data scientists as well, but it still points to one thing: Burning Glass was right. Data science occupations are on the rise.
This brings us back to the BLS’s 2021 employment survey, which as of January 2023, is the most recent one. That year, there were 105,980 data scientists in the US with the aforementioned mean salary of $108,660. Employment in the broader computer and mathematical occupation category had risen to just over 4.65 million.
Data scientist salaries as experience increases
Data scientist salaries are highly dependent upon the experience level of the job candidates, and the increasing salaries persist across all ranges of the experience spectrum, even accelerating for data scientists with more than four years under their belts.
The BLS doesn’t break down average data scientist salaries by experience, but they do break it down into percentiles. As of May 2021:
- The lowest-earning 10th percentile of data scientists earn around $59,430.
- The 25th percentile earns around $77,620.
- The 50th percentile (median) earns around $100,910.
- The 75th percentile earns around $130,770.
- The highest-earning 90th percentile earns around $167,040 and up.
Many factors influence this scale. But in a field that’s constantly developing, experience and a large skillset can prove vital to one’s salary potential.
The two skills that tend to give data scientist salaries the biggest boost are:
- Machine learning
In addition, taking the time to obtain a masters degree in data science can be an extremely lucrative achievement.
Industries most in need of data scientists
Data scientists find work in almost every corner of the economy. In urban areas, there might be a higher demand for data scientists in the financial, public health, and marketing sectors. In more rural places, data scientists might have more luck entering precision agriculture, shipping, or mining.
But according to the BLS, these five industries employ the most data scientists:
- Computer systems and design (15% of data scientist employment)
- Company, corporate, and enterprise management (10% of employment)
- Insurance (9% of employment)
- Scientific, technical, and management consulting (7% of employment)
- Scientific research and development (5% of employment)
On a national level, the BLS expects data scientist employment to grow by 36% through 2031. Industries that already hire large amounts of data scientists could likely need more. However, as data becomes a bigger commodity, demand may shift to other exciting sectors.
Geographic variations in data scientist salaries
General cost of living and economic conditions vary 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.
For example, the BLS says data scientists in California earn a mean salary of $133,110 annually (the highest by state in the nation). However, just over the border in Nevada, the mean wage for data scientists is only $97,710.
But even within California, the mean wage changes considerably between metropolitan areas. Fresno offers data scientists a mean wage of $98,600. Meanwhile, their San Francisco colleagues earn a mean annual salary of $153,180.
Per BLS statistics, the top-paying states for data scientists by mean annual wage are:
- Washington ($133,900)
- California ($133,110)
- Delaware ($127,810)
- New York ($122,540)
- New Jersey ($120,240)
It’s important to note, though, that data scientists may find salaries exceeding these numbers in other areas of the country. Likewise, they may also earn smaller salaries in states that top the BLS’s list.
Highest paying industries for data scientists
The highest paying companies for data scientists shift with the sometimes volatile economy. Instead of focusing on specific employers, it may be more prudent to filter your data science job search by industry.
As of May 2021, the BLS says these five industries pay data scientists the highest mean wages:
- Computer manufacturing ($148,290)
- Semiconductor and electronic parts production ($142,150)
- Information ($139,600)
- Data hosting and processing ($126,160)
- Payroll, accounting, and tax preparation ($124,440)
Some of the highest-paying data scientist employers likely fall outside of these industries. However, as you formulate your career plans, keeping your options open may present you with enriching yet unexpected opportunities.
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.
By learning Python and machine learning, data scientists can significantly increase their value. Similarly, more experienced data scientists may reach the higher end of the BLS-reported salary range just by gaining more experience.
Climbing straight up the corporate ladder, to data analytics management positions or database manager will also provide a bump in income, while also leaving open the possibility of moving even higher up the influence scale.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for data scientists reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.