Top Skills and Backgrounds of Data Scientists on LinkedIn

A new study of LinkedIn profiles by RJMetrics has found that the number of data scientists has doubled over the last 4 years . This reflects the increasing demand for sophisticated data analysis skills, combining computer programming with statistics, and the growth in the popularity of the term “data science” both in job openings and the words people use to describe their work on LinkedIn. At least 52% of all current 11,400 data scientists on LinkedIn have added that title to their profiles within the past 4 years.

Cumulative Number of Data Scientists Over Time_RJMetrics

In the chart above, the cumulative number of data scientists in any given year corresponds to the number of present-day data scientists who started their first job that year. We can safely assume that those who started their first jobs between 1995 and 2009 were not called then “data scientists,” but the data shows the cumulative growth in the number of professionals who have this title today.

Here are the other highlights of the study:

The high-tech industry (LinkedIn classification: Information Technology and Services industry, Internet and Computer Software industries) employs 44.9% of the professionals identified on LinkedIn as data scientists, followed by education (8.3%, probably employed mostly by universities), Banking and Financial Services (7.2%), and Marketing and Advertising (5.2%).

The top ten companies employing data scientists are MicrosoftFacebook, IBM, GlaxoSmithKline, Booz Allen Hamilton, Nielsen, GE, Apple, LinkedIn, and Teradata. Note that Google is not at the top ten, possibly because the data science Googlers on LinkedIn adhere to the title Google bestows on them: quantitative analyst.

Data Scientists Per Company_RJMetrics

Both Microsoft and Facebook, according to RJMetrics’ analysis, appear to be on a hiring spree, accelerating their data scientist recruiting during the 2014 calendar year by at least 151% and 39%, respectively, when compared to 2013. But given the scarcity of experienced data scientists, it’s a revolving door, with Microsoft also losing the largest number of data scientists over that period.

So how do you become one of these unicorn data scientists, commanding annual salaries of $200,000 plus? The study provides fresh data on the skills and background of data scientists.

RJMetrics analyzed 254,000 skill records of the data scientists on LinkedIn and ranked each skill by the number of people listing it on their profile. In addition to the catch-all categories of “data analysis,” “data mining,” and “analytics,” the top skills are R, Python, machine learning, statistics, SQL, MATLAB, Java, statistical modeling, and C++. Hadoop (20.9%) is at the bottom of the top 20, as a specific skill, behind SAS (22.78%).

Top 20 Skills of A Data Scientist_RJMetrics

An analysis of skills by job levels revealed that chief data scientists appear to be less technical on average: Only 27% and 26% listed Python and R, respectively, compared to 52% and 53% of junior data scientists, along with 38% and 43% of senior practitioners. Those at higher level jobs may not need to emphasize their technical skills or may not need them in positions where management experience and knowledge of a business domain are valued more than technical proficiency.

Over 79% of data scientists listing their education have earned a graduate degree, with 38% of all data scientists who had an education record earning a PhD, and close to 42% listing a Master’s degree as the highest degree attained.

Computer Science is the dominant field of study among data scientists, followed by business administration/management, statistics, mathematics, and physics. Only 4.6% of data scientists list “machine learning/data science” as their graduate degree, a number that will probably increase in coming years due to the proliferation of new Master in Data Science programs, supplanting the older Master in Analytics programs.

Top 20 Backgrounds of Data Scientists with a Graduate Degree_RJMetrics

Note that RJMetrics included in their sample only data scientists associated with specific companies, assuming that those listing “data scientist” in their profile without an association with an actual company may only have aspirations about a career in data science, but not actual experience. They analyzed 60,200 records of professional experiences, 27,700 records of education, and 254,600 records of skills, and information about 6,200 unique companies that employed self-identified data scientists as of June 1, 2015.

For other recent studies of the skills and salaries of data scientists see here and here.

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