How to Become a Data Scientist

Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep

On the question of how to become a data scientist, the job requires analytical ability, technical skills, and experience working with data. There are various steps you can take to acquire the knowledge necessary for this fulfilling career.

Whether you decide to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program or attend a coding bootcamp, a career as a data scientist could be within your reach. Read on for ideas about how to construct your own roadmap into the field of data science.

What Is a Data Scientist?

A data scientist uses knowledge of computer science to process, analyze, and interpret large quantities of unstructured data. These professionals work with programming languages, high-level algorithms, and artificial intelligence to create predictive models and generate data-driven insights.

Some tasks that data scientists perform include managing databases, transforming data into useful business suggestions, data mining, and data modernization.

Data Scientist Salary and Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, the mean annual salary for a data scientist is $103,930. Though data science is a fairly new career path, the field is a rapidly growing part of the tech sector. Already, data scientists are among the most well-compensated professionals in tech.

The bureau also predicts that the field will grow by 16 percent in the next decade, which is higher than most fields. The need for data scientists is high. In the United States alone, there are currently over 10,000 available jobs for data scientists, according to Indeed.com.


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Entry-Level Data Science Job Requirements

There is no specific minimum education required for a data scientist, but you must have a robust knowledge of programming frameworks, statistics, and mathematics. You should also have a portfolio with several examples of original work.

The entry-level salary for a data scientist is usually quite high because of the high-skilled nature of the job. The average salary for a data scientist with less than one year of experience is $85,000, according to PayScale.

Data science is a field that requires several different types of knowledge. You must know the right coding tools to do the analysis work, and you must be able to interpret data.

To achieve this knowledge and practical skill, many people undertake a bachelor’s degree or pursue other forms of higher education. Enrolling in a coding bootcamp is one way to gain technical programming skills.

How to Ace Your Data Science Job Interview

Because data scientists must have both technical and soft skills, employers look for both. They test your practical knowledge mainly through written evaluations and coding challenges, and they use the interview process to assess the whole package.

Below are common questions you will be asked during your interview. To demonstrate your communication skills, answer them as clearly and as confidently as you can.

Common Data Scientist Job Interview Questions

  • How do data scientists use statistics?
  • Give me an example of when you worked well in a team setting.
  • What web analytic tools have you used?
  • What are interpolation and extrapolation?
  • What is the difference between population and sample in data?
  • What are the differences between SAS, Python, and R programming?
  • Describe a time when you failed to meet your goals, and what that taught you.

What Degree Should I Get to Become a Data Scientist?

You can get an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s, and even a PhD in data science to become a data scientist. There are multiple educational paths you can take to become a data scientist, but some will equip you more fully for the job than others. Depending on the amount of time and money you want to spend on your education, you can choose one of the education paths listed below.

Associate Degree in Data Science

One option for an aspiring data scientist is to enroll in a two-year associate degree program at a community college. It’s a step lower than a bachelor’s degree and can be a great introduction to the basics. If you don’t have time to study in person, an online information science degree might be what you’re looking for.

Typically in an associate degree program that focuses on data science, students will be introduced to statistics, coding, and mathematics, all important subjects for a data scientist to master.

Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science

In a bachelor’s degree program, you’ll take a longer-term and more intensive approach to data science. The program takes four years to complete and offers students a wide range of classes to hone their skills and prepare them for the job market. Online bachelor’s degrees are also an option.

Most programs consist of core courses in advanced mathematics, statistics, and computer science. The programs often encourage students to take electives related to their specific career goals, preparing them for real-world applications of data science.

Master’s Degree in Data Science

The purpose of a Master’s Degree in Data Science is to expand and refine one’s knowledge of data science. Once you have completed your master’s, you will be able to demonstrate the capacity for independent and original thought.

Master’s programs also are more hands-on. You’ll graduate with original projects that you can refer to in job interviews with prospective employers.

Data Science Doctoral Degree

By getting your doctorate, you’ll be achieving the highest level of education possible for a data scientist. In a PhD program, you’ll be conducting your own research and designing your own projects, demonstrating exceptional intelligence, leadership, critical thinking, and commitment to the field.

A doctoral degree in data science renders you a thought leader in the field, which is invaluable when applying to high-profile data science jobs. It will open doors to more exclusive and high-ranking positions.

What Does a Data Scientist Do?

There are a few overarching duties that all data scientists carry out, which include creating infrastructure, testing data, and creating data products. Data scientists perform a wide range of duties, which vary depending on the focus of their position, and the organization that the data scientist works for.

Creating an Infrastructure for the Data

This is one of the first requirements of a data scientist’s job. It entails laying a foundation of information in order to conduct analytics.

Testing the Data

Once an infrastructure has been laid, the data can be tested. Using a variety of methods, data scientists conduct experiments and run models. This sets the stage for the decision-making process.

Creating Data Products

The last step is to create data products such as machine learning pipelines and personalized data products, which allow businesses or customers to decide how to use the data.

Essential Data Science Skills

A data scientist needs a confident grip on programming skills, logical analysis, and mathematics to be at the top of their field.

Data science is a field that requires a specific combination of skills. A diverse and cohesive skill set will set you apart and get you hired as a data scientist.


All computer science fields require strong math skills. You’ll have to understand statistical functions and algorithms for data science, and you’ll use this knowledge to wrangle structured and unstructured data.

The mathematical part of data science takes up a lot of the job, from finding the data to cleaning and organizing it.

Logical Analysis

After finding and organizing the data, data scientists also need to interpret it. To do this, you will need to have great logical reasoning and analytical skills.

Programming Tools and Languages

Another essential part of data science is having a handle on coding. Programming languages, frameworks, and tools are essential for data analysis. And to create machine learning models, you’ll need to know how to program.

R, Python, TensorFlow, scikit-learn, SQL, Hadoop, and NumPy are some examples of the programming tools that data scientists use to process and interpret large amounts of data.

How to Become a Data
Scientist: A Step-by-Step Guide

There is no one correct path to becoming a data scientist, but some paths will increase your likelihood of securing a job. You can make your own decisions depending on the type of career you want, but below are some suggestions to help you find the job of your dreams.


Take Classes in Math and Statistics

Data science is a career path that requires a deep wealth of knowledge in mathematics and statistics. As such, taking classes in math and stats, even if they’re not part of a full degree program, is incredibly beneficial. The best online colleges are an exciting option to consider.


Enroll in a Coding Bootcamp

Most traditional education, unfortunately, doesn’t provide the technical training in computer programming that you’ll need for a job in data science. By enrolling in a coding bootcamp like Data Science Dojo, you will learn to code like a professional data scientist.

Coding bootcamps vary largely in price and time commitment, but most are short-term and relatively affordable. Many bootcamps also grant a certificate, which can be an asset when applying for jobs.


Build Your Portfolio

Having a stellar project portfolio is a huge asset when applying to data science jobs. Beyond your credentials, this portfolio will be a real-life demonstration of your skills and capabilities.

School projects, bootcamp projects, personal projects, and even volunteer projects are great ways to bulk up your portfolio and show off your abilities.


Apply for Internships

Internships serve as a great stepping stone into the field of data science. You’ll be able to put your theoretical knowledge to the test by working on actual data science projects, which you can then add to your portfolio.

During an internship, you’ll see how data scientists actually work and what working for a company is like. The industry connections you’ll make could lead to long-term employment.


Nail the Job Interview

The final step to becoming a data scientist is to ace the interview. Now that you have the education, practical and technical skills, professional portfolio, and industry connections, it’s time to demonstrate your communication skills.

Being able to confidently, clearly, and efficiently communicate your skills and accomplishments in an interview setting is a vital soft skill. Your knowledge will also be put to the test, so make sure your technical skills match the job description.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Data Scientist?

If you go the coding bootcamp route, it will take between three months and a year. If you do a bachelor’s degree, you will spend four years in school. A master’s degree will take an additional two years, and a PhD will add four years on top of a master’s. As a general rule, the more time you spend in school, the more money you will earn as a data scientist.

Should You Become a Data Scientist in 2021?

Data science is an in-demand career path. Not only is the tech sector constantly growing, but many traditional companies also need excellent data scientists to interpret their data. The work pays well and is fulfilling. Now is a great time to go into data science.

The field of data science is an exciting career path because of how many skills you’ll use on a daily basis. You need a quick mathematical mind, programming and model-building abilities, and excellent communication skills. If using these skills excites you, data science is a great field for you.

Data Scientist FAQ

Is data science a good career?

If you’re interested in a multidisciplinary career that is both math-based and social, data science is a great vocation. You’ll also enjoy it if you love coding, data analysis, and data visualization.

Data scientists are paid very well for fulfilling work, so if your passion aligns with the required skills and attributes, you will very much enjoy being a data scientist.

Does data science require coding?

Yes, data science requires coding. Programming skills are essential for running the models that will help you interpret data.

Can data scientists work from home?

Yes, in addition to working for specific companies, data scientists often work remotely or as freelancers.

Are there other industries besides the tech sector that data scientists work for?

Yes, companies of all kinds need data scientists, not just the tech sector. Finance, insurance, healthcare, and manufacturing are all sectors of the economy that need competent data scientists.

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