Posted: January 4, 2017
Sequencing genes. Studying Twitter posts. Researching what seeds grow best in which soils. Cataloging stars. Data scientists are at work in all these scenarios, collecting data and finding the meaning in it — helping organizations discover relationships between genes and disease, determine how to target products to customers’ interests, yield more crops, map the universe.
“There's something beautiful about making data tell a story,” said Roger Barga, general manager and director of development at Amazon Web Services and an instructor for the UW Professional & Continuing Education Certificate in Data Science. “It's like solving a riddle or finding the treasure in a treasure hunt.”
Mining knowledge from data is easier said than done. Data sets can be unimaginably large (you’ve heard of big data) and difficult to store and process. As a data scientist, you might need to integrate data from various sources — smartphones, sensors, the web, etc. — or grapple with unstructured data. And that’s just the beginning.
In this role, you’ll need to use a range of techniques and tools, such as statistics, algorithms, machine learning, text retrieval and natural language processing, to analyze data and interpret the results. And there’s one more crucial thing a data scientist needs: curiosity.
“Data scientists have to be curious about the data. Explore the data. Ask questions and combine different data sets together,” Barga explained. “It’s that end-to-end thinking that differentiates an effective data scientist.”
Data Scientist, Data Engineer, Data Analyst
$107,226 in Seattle
With the power to transform raw data into decision-making insights, it’s not surprising that data scientists are in high demand. According to Burning Glass, a job market analytics company, the number of job postings for data scientists and data analysts quintupled nationwide between 2013 and 2015, with Washington state ranking third for number of postings.
This kind of demand does not surprise Bill Howe, associate director and senior data science fellow at the UW eScience Institute and director of the UW Master of Science in Data Science program. “There’s a lot more data than there used to be,” he said. “Every company, large and small, is doing the kind of analysis required to accurately predict what will sell.”
Industry isn’t the only area where the use of data science is growing. “Data science is having a transforming effect in the science fields,” Howe said. “Astronomy, earth sciences, oceanography, political science, social science — these are just a few examples of fields where exciting work is happening using data science.”
Data is everywhere, and so are data jobs. “If you’re good at data, you can go anywhere and get a job,” said Howe.
Interested in data science? Check out our Certificate in Data Science and other relevant programs:
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