How Can I Become a Data Scientist? Cost, Salary, Careers

Your big, horn-rimmed glasses and nerdy appearance may be pointing you towards a career of immense importance – Data Science. With the way data is changing the world, you should begin to consider becoming a data scientist.

But first, you need to learn how to get the right data science degree and programs that will prepare you for rewarding data scientist jobs.

From the start of the 21st century to the present, Data Science sits comfortably as one of the hottest careers in the world. Data scientists receive a mouth-watering salary and the job growth is good. The world is generating more data daily that needs to be gathered and analyzed by Data Scientists for several productive uses.

Therefore, in this post, we will show you how to become a data scientist. You will see the kinds of academic programs and degrees you need, and how much it will cost you to become a data scientist. Also, we’ll show you the kinds of jobs you can get with your degree, and answer other questions you may be asking on the subject.

What is Data Science?

Data science is the disciplinary field that births data scientists. It is a multi-disciplinary field that trains professionals to be able to extract insights and knowledge from structured and unstructured data.

So, being a multi-disciplinary field, data science draws knowledge from mathematics, statistics, computer science, and information science. Specifically, it combines statistics, data analysis, and machine learning along with their related methods for the sake of understanding and analyzing data.

Because of its close relationship with these other disciplines, it has become hard these days to distinguish data science from business analytics, business intelligence, predictive modeling, and statistics. People (professionals and novices alike) now use any of these interchangeably.

Also, the concept of data mining and big data are the same as data mining, which is why some universities will offer their data science programs under the name Big Data.

So you see, data science concerns itself with the analysis of large data using computer programming and virtual mining methods.

IF you’re already enrolled in college for a master’s degree in Big Data, then you surely need the Erasmus Mundus Big Data Masters Scholarships (BDMA)

Who is a Data Scientist?

A data scientist is simply the instrument of Data Science. How does this sound? Not nice enough. So, let’s break it down to human terms.

A data scientist is someone (the professional) who gathers and analyzes data, with their multi-disciplinary knowledge, to provide a solution. Hence, he or she must have the statistical knowledge and computer skills that are needed to solve complex problems.

Furthermore, the data scientist will use techniques in mathematics and algorithm to solve some of the most analytically complex business problems. It is for this reason that the data scientist is a treasure to big companies and companies willing to scale up their operations.

The major function of a data scientist is to sieve out meanings from both the structured and unstructured data that his organization receives. Thus, you’ll find the data scientist either extracting data from a database, preparing the data for various analyses, building and testing a statistical model, or creating reports that the management can understand through the use of data visualizations.

So, generally, the data scientist will do the following:

  • Collect data
  • Prepare data
  • Perform Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA)
  • Evaluate and interpret EDA results
  • Build models
  • Test models
  • Deploy models
  • Optimize models.

What Skills Should a Data Scientist Possess?

It is not enough to have gained the right education for data scientists (which we explained here) or understand what they do on a daily basis. Without a certain special skill set, you may not be able to succeed in this profession.

So what are these skill set that you must possess?

Here they are:

  • Expertise and Fluency of Computer Programs and Languages. You must be very conversant with SAS, SPSS, MATLAB R, Python, Java, C/C++, Hadoop Platform, SQL/NoSQL Databases.
  • Business Acumen or Savviness. Because you’ll find yourself working in various business settings, you must gain more than basic knowledge of the business industry. This will help you solve complex problems and create solutions that align with your company’s objectives.
  • Communication Skills. You definitely know how to communicate with data but people will depend on you to communicate your findings and solutions with them in a language they would understand. You must be able to clearly translate your technical findings and analyses to the non-technical departments of the organization where you work.
  • Advanced Technical Skills. Your skills in maths, statistics, machine learning tools, data mining, data cleaning, data visualization, and unstructured data techniques should be out of this world.

Start learning Programming before entering college. See these 7 Places Where You can Learn Programming Online for Free

What is the Difference Between Data Scientist and Data Analyst?

One word features constantly when we describe what data scientists do. That word is “analyze.” Data scientists collect and analyze data, that is true. But Data analysts also collect and analyze data. So, does that make the Data Analyst a Data Scientist?

This is the core question behind the Data Science vs Data Analytics argument. Where does the data scientist differ from the data analyst?

Here it is:

Data analysts examine large datasets to pick trends, develop charts and create visual presentations that help businesses make better strategic decisions. Data scientists, on the other hand, design and construct new processes for data modeling and production using prototypes, algorithms, predictive models, and custom analysis.

So, you see, while the analyst uses already existing techniques to perform his duties, the scientist develops new processes and techniques to ease data analysis.

Additionally, Data analysts in their routine work are masters of SQL. They can tell a story from data with some level of scientific curiosity. On the other hand, the data scientist, in addition to possessing all the analysts’ skills, has a strong foundation in modeling, analytics, math, statistics, and computer science. He uses these to better communicate his findings to relevant stakeholders in the business to influence the way they approach a business challenge.

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Furthermore, while the data analyst will solve the questions given to him by the business, the data scientist will formulate questions whose solutions will likely benefit the business.

Where do Data Scientist Work?

Data Scientists find employment in any workspace that utilizes data to operate – which is about every organization that aspires to grow. However, they are more concentrated in business ventures with marketing departments as well as sectors of the economy like automotive or insurance.

Another work environment where you’ll find data scientists is in the Defense Department. Here, they help to analyze the threat levels coming to a nation.

What Other Job Roles Can a Data Scientist Take?

Because of the interdependent nature of data science, data scientists can find jobs in other related fields. This is especially true if you advance in your career by obtaining a Master’s degree in Data Science or other related fields.

Here are some of the job roles that Data Scientists can take:

Data Engineer

Data Engineers utilize large amounts of data to develop software. Most times, they lay down the architecture that enables data scientists to effectively carry out their jobs. They also manage database systems, scale the data architecture to multiple servers, and write complex queries to navigate through the data.  Hence, they are fully accustomed to programming languages like Python, Hadoop-based technologies like MapReduce, and database technologies like MySQL.

Data Analyst

Data analysts are professionals that utilize data to provide reports and visualizations that better explain the insights contained in the data. Specifically, what data analysts do is help the company they work for understand specific queries with charts. The best way to look at data analysts is the little brother to data scientists. Their expertise is the foundation for scientists.

Do you know that you can show your worth as a Data Analyst with this UNDG Data Visualization Contest for Data Analysts?

Machine Learning Engineer

Machine Learning engineers build, deploy, and manage machine learning projects through the use of programming languages like Python or C/C++. For these professionals to begin their career, they may have to begin with a background in software engineering, then proceed to gain knowledge in statistics and machine learning.

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer Scientists design computing technologies as well as create new and better uses for existing technologies. You’ll find them working for the federal government of nations and in computer systems design companies.

What is the Salary and Job Outlook of Data Scientists?

You only need to ask an honest data scientist to be thrilled about their pay. But since you may not have one, we’ll tell you what they earn.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Computer and Information Research Scientists earn an average of $118,370 per year. We know that this job role is different from Data Scientist. However, both are in the same field and very closely related, and they are the ones that BLS recognizes.

Meanwhile, for the Computer and Information Research Scientists, there were 31,700 positions available in 2018. Also, the job has an estimated growth rate of 16% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average job growth.

BLS also gives the job salary and job growth for another related job role – Mathematicians and Statisticians. According to BLS, the Mathematician and Statisticians earn an average of $88,190 per year and the job has an estimated growth of 30%

Fortunately, we have a more specific salary for Data Scientists through Glassdoor. Glassdoor places the average earnings of Data Scientists at $120,495 per year. This projection is even higher than the BLS estimate for Computer and Information Research Scientists.

Glassdoor further breaks down this salary for Data Scientists by companies as follows:

  • Facebook – $145,365
  • IBM – $114,635
  • Microsoft – $129,917
  • Uber – $125,672
  • Apple – $137,560
  • Airbnb – $140,312
  • Google – $140,212
  • Amazon – $120,407
  • Twitter – $142,665
  • LinkedIn – $128,957

What are the Education Requirements for Data Scientists?

To start your career as a data scientist, you must acquire at least a four-year undergraduate degree from an accredited college. The most preferable bachelor’s degree is the B.Tech in Data Science. Fortunately, some schools in the USA offer a Data Science degree.

If you can’t get a bachelor’s degree in Data Science, however. A degree from a related discipline will do. Such discipline that will qualify you for a career in data science includes Computer science, Statistics, Physics, Social science, Mathematics, Applied Maths, and Economics.

There is a need to go on to acquire a master’s degree in Data Science after your B.Tech degree. The master’s degree is relevant because most employers prefer those with master’s to those with a bachelor’s degree. Also, the proportion of professionals in the field with a master’s degree is more than those with a bachelor’s.

You can proceed to hold a doctorate degree in data science after your master’s program. However, this is ideal if you’re aiming for a leadership position in the field or to teach it in a higher institution.

So, to summarize, the minimum educational requirement to become a data scientist is a four-year baccalaureate degree in Data Science or related technical discipline. Meanwhile, to better your chances of getting data scientist jobs, you’ll need to get a master’s degree in Data Science. Then, you should get a Ph.D. degree if you aspire to a leadership position in the field.

Where Can I Get the Best Data Scientist Education?

Although a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to get a job in the data science field, we will discuss the Master’s program here.

The reason for this is clear. The data science field has more openings for master’s graduates than bachelor’s.

So, when you consider getting a master’s program in data science, you should consider Accreditation, Program Structure, cost, financial aid, and concentration options.

The Data science master’s program may have the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accreditation but this is not so important. So long as the school has institutional accreditation, they are good to go.

Before you begin to browse the Master’s Degree Program for data science, you should know about these 15 Data Science Masters Degree Scholarships

Best On-Campus Master’s Degree Programs in Data Science

So, considering the checklist above, here are the best data science master’s program.

De Paul offers one of the best Master’s degrees in Data Science in the United State. Its MS in Data Science has four concentrations – computational methods, health care, hospitality, and marketing. Also, the program costs $865 per credit hour.

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University of Rochester

Another university where Data scientists can also get one of the best Master’s degrees in data science is the University of Rochester. This program has concentrations in Computational and statistical methods, health and biomedical sciences, and business and social science and it cost $55,952.

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New York University

New York University’s Master’s Degree for data scientists is also commendable. The MDDS program offers concentrations in big data, mathematics and data, natural language processing, and physics. Its tuition fee is $1,856 per credit, however.

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Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon’s Master’s degree for data scientists is the Master’s in Computation Data Science. It is a commendable program with concentrations in Systems, analytics, and human-centered data science. The program costs $25,750, however.

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Columbia University

Columbia University’s Master’s Degree program for Data Scientists is another of the best programs in the USA with its large number of concentrations. Some of the concentrations Columbia University offers include Computing Systems for Data-Driven Science, Cybersecurity, and Financial and Business Analytics. The program costs $2,104 per credit, however.

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The checklist for the online master’s program in Data Science is not different from that of the on-campus.

So, you should be also on the lookout for school and program Accreditation, Program Structure, cost, financial aid, and concentration options.

Best Online Master’s Degree Programs in Data Science

The checklist for the online master’s program in Data Science is not different from that of the on-campus.

So, you should be also on the lookout for school and program Accreditation, Program Structure, cost, financial aid, and concentration options.

With this in mind, here are the best online data science master’s programs for data scientists.

University of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame in Indiana offers one of the best online master’s in Data Science programs with its collaboration with AT&T. This online MS in Data Science is a 30 credits program that costs $52,000 for the 21 months duration.

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Southern Methodist University (SMU)

Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas is another place where Data Scientists can get a quality master’s degree program in Data Science. SMU’s online MS in data science has concentrations in Machine learning; business analytics and costs $57,084 for the entire program.

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Worcester Polytechnic Institute also offers a commendable online MS in Data Science program for Data Scientists. This Master’s program takes 2 years to complete its 33 credit hours coursework and costs $1,566 per credit hour. So, expect to spend $51,678 on tuition.

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Indiana University (IU) Bloomington

Indiana University (IU) Bloomington also offers a popular online master’s degree program for data scientists. Its online Ms in Data Science has concentrations in Data analytics and visualization, intelligent systems engineering, precision health, and cybersecurity. It is a 30 credit course that costs $1498.01 per credit hour.

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Regis University

Regis University at Denver, Colorado is a Roman Catholic-affiliated university that offers quality online Masters in Data Science program. Its MS in Data Science strives for flexibility if not for anything else. Meanwhile, this 36 credit hour course costs $820 per credit hour or $29,520 for the full program.

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You can also check out these 40 Best Data Science Programs

How Much does it Cost to Become a Data Scientist?

Becoming a data scientist is pretty expensive. With a salary that exciting, you don’t expect the cost of education to be cheap, or else everyone would become a data scientist.

So, going by the levels of education you need to become a Data Scientist, a Bachelor’s degree in Data Science will cost an average of $40,940 for a public college per year. This cost includes tuition; room and board; books and supplies; transportation; and other expenses.

You should expect an average of about $50,900 for private four-year colleges in the USA.

For four years, you would have spent $163,760 for your undergraduate degree in a public university and $203,600 in a private university.

Meanwhile, the master’s degree in data science (online and on-campus) costs between $25,750 and $55,952, based on an analysis of our best programs. An average of these figures will give $40,851 for the duration of the program.

Hence, you should expect to spend between $204,611 and $244,451 for a data scientist education in a public and private institution respectively.

How Can I Become a Data Scientist?

You now know the education requirements to become a data scientist and how much it cost. So, what steps must you take to become a data scientist?

To become a data scientist and earn a real cool salary, here are what you should do:

Begin Preparations

You must be certain that you want to become a data scientist, first of all. Once, you have this assurance, start gathering skills even before you enroll for a university degree. Start learning programming languages used by data scientists such as Python, Java, and R. Also, keep refreshing your knowledge in applied math and statistics. You will find them helpful not only in college but for your future job.

Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

This is the prerequisite to getting a job as a data scientist, so it is very important. Get a bachelor’s degree in data science if you can find schools offering it. IF not, get an undergraduate degree in statistics, mathematics, or information technologies. Keep learning programming languages when you’re in college for your undergraduate degree. Also, seek internship opportunities that can help you start building a strong network in the field.

Get a Job

With your undergraduate degree, you will be able to get a job. It would be an entry-level job that may not pay you as much as we have projected, but that’s fine. If you have certifications in related fields your chances of getting an entry-level job as a data analyst or scientist are greater. So, consider certifications in business intelligence applications, relational database management systems, and data visualization software.

Get a Graduate Degree

You will grow faster in the field if you have a master’s degree. Many employers are looking for data scientists with a master’s degree and industry experience. Hence, you should not only earn a master’s degree but know how to use enterprise-grade data management programs like Hadoop, MapReduce, and Spark. Well, most master’s programs incorporate the use of these programs in their curriculum.

Continue Learning

One of the cons of the Data Science career is that it is ever-changing. A program that you can’t do without today will become obsolete tomorrow. Hence, there is a need to stay relevant in this ever-evolving field.

You can do this by taking continuing education courses that are relevant to the present. You can also keep relevant in the field by networking and attending educational and professional development opportunities through boot camps and conferences.

For a start, you can check out this World Bank Group Analyst Program

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Tips on How to Get a Job in Data Science

Remember that one of the steps to becoming a data scientist is to get a job? Yes, it is crucial to get employed and gain valid working experience. However, it may be difficult getting a job, especially as a fresh graduate.

So, to ease your job search, here are tips for you:

  • Build a strong portfolio. This is very important to the success of getting a job in data science. To build a portfolio, you must have gotten the relevant experience that will add to your educational qualification. If you’ve completed projects, highlight the best, while focusing on the greater ones.
  • Get a Mentor. A mentor is very important. This is a way of networking that will benefit you as the mentor – who has years of industry experience – will be able to tell you what exactly companies are looking for.
  • Attend Conferences and Meetings. Still on building connections that will help you get into the industry with ease is attending conferences. Search for data science conferences and attend. Some conferences to consider include The Strata Data ConferenceKDD (Knowledge Discovery in Data Mining), and The International Conference on Machine Learning (ICML). You should also consider meetups like, SF Data Mining, and Data Science DC.
  • Use Job Boards. You need to search for jobs and while meetups will likely get you first-hand job openings, you will still need job boards. Consider job boards like Kaggle, Datajobs , and Data Science Central
  • Pass the Data Science Interview. The data science interview involves the following sequence: The Phone Screen, The Take-Home Assignment, The Call with the Hiring Manager, On-Site Interview with the Hiring Manager, On-Site Interview – Technical Challenge, and On-Site Interview with an Executive. Prepare well for each stage and ace the interviews.


How much do data scientists make?

According to Glassdoor, Data scientists make an average of $120,495 per year. The salary could be higher or lower depending on the company you’re working for. You can earn as much as $145,365 as a data scientist for Facebook.

What degree do I need to become a data scientist?

You need at least a Bachelor’s degree in Data Science, Computer science, Statistics, Physics, Social science, Mathematics, Applied Maths, or Economics to qualify you for a career in Data Science.

Do I need a master's degree for data science?

Even though a Master’s degree is not the entry-level degree for a Data Science job, it is important that you get a master’s degree in data science. A master’s degree betters your chances of getting job placement and earning more. Besides, 70% of Data Scientists in the field have a Master’s degree.

What is the best way to become a data scientist?

The best way to become a data scientist involves the following steps:

1. Plan ahead while at high school by learning programming languages and relevant industry programs.
2. Get a bachelor’s degree in data science or related fields such as statistics, computer science, and mathematics.
3. Earn a master’s degree in data science by taking either an online or on-campus program with a variety of concentrations.
4. Get a job and earn experience in the field.
5. Continue education to remain relevant in the field.

How long does it take to become a data scientist?

To become a data scientist, you need a four-year undergraduate degree and a two-year master’s degree. So, depending on which degree you consider as your entry-level degree for a data science job, it will take you between four to six years to become a data scientist.

Can I become a data scientist with no experience?

It is very rare to find data scientists without experience, but yes, some have become data scientists without experience. All they did was get the relevant skills. So, if you can take several certifications related to the field and become an expert at using the various data visualization tools, industry programs, and possess a deep understanding of programming languages, you could even land a job as a data scientist.

Can a data analyst become a data scientist?

A data analyst cannot just transit into becoming a data scientist because he’s gained long working experience as a data analyst or because data analysts are seen as the junior brothers of data scientists. The data analyst will need to acquire relevant education and skills for data scientists to become one.

Is Data Science hard?

Data science is hard, which is why many people dread this lucrative career. You will need to learn hard skills like Python and SQL and soft skills like business and communication skills and be able to blend both together to prosper in the field. Yet, there is more to learn as the years roll by because the field is ever-evolving.


With an annual average salary of $120,495, data scientists are the top-shots in the country. But the education to become a data scientist is as expensive compared to the education of other careers out there. It costs an average of $204,611 for a bachelor’s and master’s degree (which is about the important degree you need) to become a data scientist.

It is for this reason that you need to select an affordable data science degree program in your process of becoming a data scientist. We believe that with this post, you will be able to navigate your way to a reward data science career.


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