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Data Scientists: Hot or Not?

By Yina Moe-Lange  


These days the simple answer is definitely hot. But let’s take a quick look at how big of a role they play in the tech and Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry today.


If you Google: “need data scientists,” you get a results page filled with titles such as “IBM Predicts Demand for Data Scientists Will Soar by 2020,” “Businesses Will Need One Million Data Scientists by 2018,” and “3 reasons why data scientist remains the top job in America.” There is massive hype around them, and rightfully so as they are a key element in AI and Machine Learning (ML) in organizations today.


Recently, Kaggle released their survey results from their report, “The State of Data Science and Machine Learning.” These jobs are high paying and in high demand. The IBM report (from the click-bait Google result above, downloadable here) and the Kaggle report show slightly different wage levels for the US (IBM Average: $94,576 and $105,676 vs. Kaggle Median: $122,500). But the IBM report also notes that Data Scientists and Data Engineers (without Advanced Analysts) generally have salaries over $100,000.


Summary demand statistics, from the IBM report, page 6

Median full-time annual salary of Data Scientists in the US, from the Kaggle Survey.


The table below shows the future demand within the category “Data Scientists & Advanced Analysts” is really centered around Data Scientists with a 39% projected 5-year growth.

Demand by Occupation, from the IBM Report, page 21.


It is also interesting to note which industries have the highest demand for data scientists. There is quite a low percentage in the Health Care and Retail Trade categories, even though there have been large strides of AI/ML in these industries. For example, a Deep Learning algorithm by Stanford University researchers now outperforms radiologists in diagnosing pneumonia. And retail uses recommendation engines to predict future purchases and to entice customers to purchase the next item.


Share of demand by industry, from the IBM Report, page 8.


There are many reports that have similar results to the Kaggle and IBM reports. PWC also has a report on data scientists (though it is a bit outdated now), which has similar conclusions on the pay level and hiring competitiveness as others.


As we approach the new year, there will be a new round of reports and analysis on job trends This recent article, specifies data scientists as the first of the top 5 professions that will grow rapidly and be needed in the new AI world. The list is as follows:

  1. Data Scientists
  2. AI/Machine Learning Engineers
  3. Data Labeling Professionals
  4. AI Hardware Specialists
  5. Data Protection Specialists

The big question though, is how long will the need for data scientists remain high? Right now, everyone needs a data scientist. But, as AI and ML get more sophisticated, it is possible that there could be a reduced need for them. The next hot AI position could be a Head of AI Systems the person to which all the AI systems report to. Basically, a human who leads a team of AI bots.