Four Tips to Make More Money and Create a Career in Data Science

Most successful analytics professionals need to fill many roles. Organizations in almost all industries rely on data to drive the decision-making process and identify inefficiencies that need to be eliminated.

“Analytics professionals are like a Swiss army knife,” says Paul Wallenberg, of IT recruiting firm LaSalle Network. “They’re not just a part of IT, they’re embedded throughout companies. Your skills and role set you apart from IT because your skills have the fluidity to move between departments, making you more marketable and valuable.”

There’s good news for professionals in analytics: Job opportunities are increasing and the demand for qualified individuals is high. Because of the demand, these professionals are well-compensated.

Data Analytics Job Market and Salary Trends

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is projected to grow 23 percent from 2016 to 2026—much faster than the average for all occupations.

But finding qualified individuals to fill these roles isn’t easy. These professionals are responsible for helping organizations make sense of their technical data in order for executives to make better business decisions, and that requires a unique skill set, which combines technical savvy with business knowledge.

With more than 2.3 million job openings in 2017, experts predict that by 2020, that number will swell to more than 2.7 million—and some of these jobs are taking twice as long to fill than the national benchmark average. This industry need, coupled with the shortage of talent, means data analysts are well compensated. According to Robert Half Technology’s (RHT) 2019 Salary Guide, these professionals earn between $81,750 and $138,000 depending on their experience, education, and skill set.

1. Master the necessary skills.

The skills that are in demand today aren’t always the ones that will be in demand tomorrow. That’s why it’s important to keep tabs on industry trends and make sure you’re up to date on the latest skills, says John Reed, senior executive director at RHT.

Experience with databases like Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, and IBM DB2 are essential skills for managing data, he says. Mastery of Microsoft SQL Server and Oracle, in particular, could raise your salary by as much as eight percent and six percent respectively, according to RHT ’s 2017 Salary Guide.

Acquiring additional programming skills—particularly R and Python—can also increase your earning potential, says Blake Angove, director of technology services at IT recruiting firm LaSalle Network.

“When you have in-demand skills, you’re in a better position to ask for higher pay,” Reed says. “Your degree can certainly give you a lot of knowledge and skills needed as a data analystthrough math, computer science, data modeling courses, and more. And if you’d like to expand your skillset, consider taking an online course.”

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2. Pursue an advanced degree or certificate.

Businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified individuals with the right mix of skills, training, experience, and education, which is why salaries for these professionals are so competitive.

Entry-level data analysts typically earn a bachelor’s degree from a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field, but pursuing an advanced can fast-track you to a promotion and higher salary, Angove says. In fact, 39 percent of advanced analytics jobs require a master’s degree or PhD, according to IBM.

Seek out a program with a focus on math, science, databases, programming, modeling, and predictive analytics, he suggests. Northeastern offers a Master of Professional Studies in Analytics, for example, which equips students with a deep understanding of the mechanics of working with data, along with the capacity to identify and communicate data-driven insights that influence decision-making.

“There’s a definite trend in obtaining formal degrees in analytics,” says Paul Wallenberg, unit manager of tech services at IT recruiting firm LaSalle Network. “If you’re interested in perhaps marketing yourself as a data scientist down the road, for example, having a PhD is highly preferred, especially at top-tier organizations, which pay the highest.”

Northeastern’s MPS in Analytics, has three concentrations:

  • Statistical Modeling, which is intended for students pursuing careers as a data scientist or quantitative analyst;
  • Evidence-Based Modeling, for students interested in developing an understanding of how advanced analytics can be used to reduce decision-making uncertainty; and
  • Informational Design, for those who want to broaden and deepen their understanding of standardized data flow, management, and reporting processes.

Northeastern also offers master’s degrees in business analyticsdata science, and informatics, depending on the area you want to specialize in.

“We not only focus on the technology and techniques, but we’re also focused on how to read and communicate the data,” says Uwe Hohgrawe, assistant teaching professor and lead faculty for the MPS in Analytics. “If you’re more interested in expanding your knowledge specifically in analytics, then a master’s program is for you.”

3. Seek extra experience.

Whether you’re considering a graduate degree or are already enrolled in a master’s program, there are steps you can take now to boost your earning potential, Reed says. To begin, gain hands-on experience through internships or project-based roles while you’re in school to build up your resumé.

“These experiences can help you earn a higher salary as a new tech professional, since you’ll already have some of the skills and knowledge needed,” he says.

Research companies and job openings in your area and network with industry professionals to see what opportunities are available. With more real experience and tangible projects, employers may boost your salary.

“One of the best ways to increase salary is to show an employer how you’ve brought value to a previous employer or project,” Reed adds.

Additionally, becoming involved in your local analytics community is a great way to get more visibility, which could lead to inquiries from head hunters with jobs that could boost your salary, Wallenberg says.

He suggests researching local groups on the networking site MeetUp. “If you’re involved in a Hadoop, R, or Python MeetUp group in your city, you’ll probably connect with people who can help you land higher-paying jobs,” he says.

Other sites to connect with others on include GitHub, an open-source development platform, and Stack Overflow, an online community for developers.

4. Don’t sell yourself short.

If you’re already employed as a data analyst and are seeking a promotion or bump in pay, prepare yourself for that conversation with your manager. There are a variety of salary calculators and resources available to check how your compensation stacks up in the market, including Salary.comPayScale, and RHT ’s annual Salary Guide.

These resources are essential to have the most productive conversations with hiring managers, Reed says. “If you find you need to negotiate for higher pay, present your research during a salary discussion with your potential or current employer in order to help strengthen your case. Understanding what your industry peers in your geographic location are making is extremely important to knowing if your compensation is up to par.”

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