Data scientists are reaping the benefits of the new data-driven business environment. The increasing use of data to make decisions in the workplace has led to a growing demand for professionals who understand the nuance and details behind data science.

Data science has become a critical part of every successful organization. This had led to a positive career outlook in the field.

Those who wish to reach the top tiers in data science have plenty of options available to prepare for the job. Those include a variety of programs as well as the option of earning a degree online. The latter provides much-needed flexibility for busy professionals looking to advance their career.

Degree programs such as the online Master of Science in Data Science from Merrimack College offer that flexibility. In the case of the Merrimack College program, it also has a program curriculum aimed at preparing students for applying data science to real-world challenges.

What Do Data Scientists Do?

Data scientists focus on using innovations in technology to design new ways of both collecting and analyzing data. In so doing, their findings help organizational leaders make decisions on business strategy.

Those who work in the field typically have a strong foundation in developing algorithms used to collect specific types of data. They look beyond the raw data to find what drives certain trends.

They work with a variety of different data strategies. For example, descriptive analytics looks at historical data. By analyzing past data, data scientists can provide insight into changes needed in the future.

On the other hand, predictive analytics looks beyond historical trends and into potential outcomes of current business strategies. This also proves useful for testing potential outcomes of strategy changes.

Prescriptive analytics goes even further. Data scientists develop advanced algorithms that look into the potential of various solutions to business challenges. As a result, their efforts help leaders make data-driven decisions on the direction for an organization in specific areas.

Discovery analytics represents the cutting edge for data scientists. In this area, they attempt to create new solutions for business challenges, beyond any previous strategy.

Whatever the area of analytics, data scientists are needed to develop the algorithms necessary to correctly analyzing and interpret data.

Job Growth and Salary

The continuing innovations in technology have led to more need for data scientists. Numbers from the federal government show the trend.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is considered the authority on careers in the United States. The federal agency projects that the number of jobs for computer and information scientists will grow 11 percent between 2014 and 2024. That’s much faster than the 7 percent growth for all professions.

The BLS attributes the growth to increasing demand for data-mining services by businesses across almost all industries.

Salary also is substantial. The median pay in May 2016 for those working in this career was $111,840. Those in the top 10 percent of the profession made more than $169,000.

Employers range from universities and government agencies to consulting firms and large, private businesses.

Education for Data Scientists

The skills and knowledge needed for data science is highly specialized.

Most who enter the field begin with a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field or mathematics. Data scientists need a strong understanding of mathematics, machine learning and writing computer code.

Those who wish to rise to the top of the profession typically earn a master’s degree. Programs differ in what they offer. In the Merrimack College graduate data science program, an emphasis is put on the application of data science in the business world.

Coursework includes data management, statistical analysis, predictive analytics, machine learning and data visualization.

Data science represents a cutting edge career in the business world. With innovations in technology continuing, the need for people in this career should only grow. For those with an interest in the field, there never has been a better time to pursue an advanced degree in data science.