The data scientist is called the sexiest job of the 21st century. If you are planning to enter the field of data science, chances are that your aim is to become a data scientist as it’s the most coveted post these days. Though some may even opt for the position of a data analyst, it’s still second in the race as the most preferred position for many aspirants is still the post of a data scientist. If playing with data and finding hidden insights where others don’t see it or find it is something that you love and want to take up as your career, you may even consider being a financial analyst, or a research analyst. Though you will come across several career choices that let you stay close to data and figures, the one that wins hands down is a data scientist. But it shouldn’t mean that just because everyone else is aiming for this post, you too should join the bandwagon. You will need to understand what the job entails, the kind of skills and aptitude you will need, the pay package you will get, the chances of furthering your career that you will have, etc. before taking your final pick. The role of a research analyst is limited as compared to that of a data analyst. And since a data scientist is better than financial analyst, data analyst and research analyst, you can infer that the post of a data scientist is much more coveted than that of a research analyst.
If you have an analytical bend of mind, you may consider a career in the field of data science. Though there are many options to take your pick from, most aspirants have their eyes fixated on the coveted job of data scientists. But who exactly are data scientists? You may call them a new class of analytical data expert, who possess the technical skills necessary to solve complex problems. At the same time, these people also have the inquisitiveness to search for problems that need to be solved. Thus, when defining a data scientist, you can say it’s someone who blends some expertise of a computer scientist, a mathematician, and a trend-spotter. What’s the beauty of the field of data science is that it has numerous applications in various domains. Thus, you will find that there’s a high demand for data scientists in both the business domain and the field of IT, which make these professionals highly sought-after and well-paid. No wonder why a majority of aspirants looking to make a mark in the field of data science aim to become data scientists.
Let’s delve deeper to take a look at Becoming A Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Financial Analyst And Research Analyst that you may consider in order to arrive at a well-informed decision.
Who’s a data scientist?
Even a decade ago, data scientists weren’t a hot property that they have become today. Perhaps the change in their fortunes signals how times have changed. This could be attributed to the massive amount of data that’s getting generated almost every second today. And with the emergence of big data, companies and businesses too have changed their views on how they see data and even the ways they can leverage the pile of data that they have been sitting upon for quite some time now. After all, the data businesses collect these days or the ones their existing and potential customers willingly share via their website, special campaigns, social media accounts, etc. make up a bulky mass of unstructured information. No business worth its salt can ignore or forget this data anymore as it’s nothing short of a virtual gold mine that can bring several benefits their way and give their revenue a significant boost. But it will happen only when someone digs into this pile of massive data and discovers business insights that no one considered looking for before. And this is where the data scientist comes into the picture.
As these people have an intense intellectual curiosity and are deep thinkers, they interpret this data and try to draw useful insights from them. From making new discoveries and asking new questions to learning new things, data scientists are driven their originality and creativity to solve complex problems and indulge in their curiosity constantly. Thus, data scientists don’t just make an observation with the complex reads from data. Rather, they seek to uncover the “truth” that lies hidden underneath the surface. For these professionals, problem-solving isn’t merely a task. Rather, it’s an intellectually-stimulating trip to find a solution. Thus, you will find data scientists designing and building new procedures for data modeling, and production utilizing algorithms, prototypes, predictive models, custom analysis etc to decode data and gather useful insights, which are then presented to tell a story to the stakeholders. These decision-makers can then use this insight to make data-driven, timely decisions that will help them take on challenges, if any, be better prepared to stay ahead of the competition, and even improve their bottom-line significantly. No wonder why Harvard Business Review called data scientist the 21st century’s sexiest job.
Now that you have an overview of who a data scientist is and what kind of role he/she plays, let’s try to find what makes these professionals better than others working with data such as data analysts, financial analysts, and research analysts. But before we do that, it’s important to take a closer look at what roles these professionals play.
Whether you are a student or a professional looking to shift careers, positioning yourself for a data science career could be a smart move. While students can pick up degree courses (which include programs in data science and analytics) run by several universities, professionals may pick up short-term courses conducted by reputed institutes or organizations. They may even take up bootcamps if they are ready to slog it out and don’t mind the intense learning sessions where a lot of information is packed in every session.
It’s important to note here that though a majority of data scientists have backgrounds as statisticians or data analysts, you will also find others coming from non-technical fields such as economics or business. So, just because you aren’t proficient in coding and programming or don’t have an IT background shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a career in data science. If you are wondering how professionals from diverse fields like economics, mathematics, statistics, business, IT, etc. end up in the field of data science and make it work in their favor, you should look closer to find that they all have one thing in common: an ability to solve problems and communicate the well along with an unquenchable curiosity about how things work and even look for problems that others might not have even though of.
Apart from the qualities mentioned above, you’ll also need a rock-solid understanding of the fowling to become a data scientist:
- Statistics and mathematics
- AI and machine learning
- Coding languages like Python and R along with Java, C/C+, or Perl
- Data visualization and reporting technologies
- Databases such as MySQL and Postgres
- Hadoop, Apache Spark, and MapReduce
Additionally, you should be able to able to work with unstructured data, which are undefined content that refuse to fit into database tables. Some examples of unstructured data include blog posts, videos, video feeds, audio, social media posts, customer reviews, etc. Since such data include heavy texts that are grouped together, sorting such data that isn’t streamlined is an extremely tough task. No wonder why unstructured data is often called ‘dark analytics’ due to its complexity.
As a data scientist, it’s mandatory for you to have the skills necessary for understanding and manipulating unstructured data gathered from diverse platforms because this way, you will be able to unravel insights, which can prove to be helpful for informed decision making.
Typical job duties
The role of a data scientist doesn’t come with a definitive job description. Here are a few things that are you are likely to handle as a data scientist:
- Collecting a huge quantity of unstructured data, which is then transformed into a more usable format
- Working with a wide range of programming languages such as Python, R etc.
- Leveraging data-driven techniques to solve business-related problems
- Having a rock-solid grasp of statistics, including both Bayesian statistics and classical statistics
- Staying abreast of analytical techniques like deep learning, machine learning, and text analytics
- Collaborating with both IT and business cells and communicating the findings in lucid language to the stakeholders or clients
- Looking for patterns and order in data in addition to spotting trends that can help the bottom-line of a business
Things to consider before accepting the job offer for the post of a data scientist
Before you accept a data scientist position, there are a few things about the organization that you should assess:
- Does it give data its due value? You should remember that a company’s culture has a significant impact on whether it should employ a data scientist. So, apart from checking how much it values data, you should also see if it has an environment that supports analytics and if it already has data analysts involved. If not, you may be burdened with the job of a data analyst too, which could become tiring and cumbersome soon.
- Does it handle huge amounts of data and have complex issues that it wants to get solved? The organizations that really require data scientists have two factors in common: They deal with massive amounts of data and face complex issues on a daily basis that needs to be solved. You will find these typically in industries such as pharma, finance, etc.
- Is it willing to bring changes? As a data scientist, you would expect that your recommendations are taken seriously and acted upon. You invest a lot of effort and time to find ways, which will let the organization/company you are employed with to function better and improve its bottom-line. In response, the organization/company should be ready and willing to follow through with the results/recommendations of your findings. If not, working in such an environment where your hard work doesn’t come to fruition would be futile.
For some organizations/companies, employing a data scientist to guide data-driven business decisions based could be a leap of faith. So, before you accept the position of a data scientist, make sure the organization/company you are going to be working for has the right attitude and is prepared to make some changes if needed.
Who’s a data analyst?
Along with data scientists, data analysts too are in high demand. Together, they are often called as DSA (data science and analytics) job. According to Forbes, DSA job listings are expected to grow by almost 364,000 listings to touch the mark of approximately 2,720,000. Just like data scientist posts, those for data analysts too aren’t the easiest positions to fill. Perhaps this explains what Forbes says about DSA jobs – they remain open for an average of 45 days, which is five days more than the market average.
The role of a data analyst is the one that people often confuse with a data scientist. It’s true that professionals in both these roles have a similarity as they work with data. Yet, the main difference between them arises based on what they do with the data.
A data analyst’s primary role is to assemble, categorize, and study data to offer business insight. Typically, data analysts are concerned with cleansing, aggregating, managing, and abstracting data in addition to conducting a variety of analytical studies on that data. Here’s a peek into some of these responsibilities that would help you know what they actually mean:
- Cleansing: This refers to the procedure of checking data accuracy and quality by recognizing and then removing biased or incorrect data from a database.
- Aggregating: This is the compilation of information from multiple data sources to organize combined datasets for data processing.
- Managing: This involves planning data processes as well as executing and maintaining them to ensure safe storage of data and information assets.
- Abstracting: It’s the process of removing a dataset’s characteristics to reduce it to a set of essential characteristics, which in turn would help in more efficient data processing.
By leveraging additional software engineering and ML (machine learning) skills, a data scientist builds upon a data analyst’s core competencies. Thus, you will find data scientists actively exploring unique ways to use existing and new algorithmic, statistical, predictive, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) tools and techniques to discover valuable and significant patterns in data and convert these into information for the company or organization.
To become a data analyst, you should have a degree in either of these fields
- Computer Science
Additionally, you should have the following qualities:
- Ability to analyze huge datasets
- Experience in data reporting packages and models
- Ability to write all-inclusive reports
- An inclination for problem-solving and an analytical bend of mind
- Attention to detail
- Strong written and verbal communication skills
As a data analyst, your job would include the following (though it won’t be limited to these):
- Gathering and interpreting data
- Spotting trends and patterns in data sets
- Defining new procedures for data collection and analysis
- Collaborating with business/management teams to ascertain business needs
- Evaluating the results
- Reporting these results back to the appropriate stakeholders or other members of the business
Things to consider before accepting the job offer for the post of a data analyst
Similar to the case of a data scientist, your potential employer should have a conducive work environment and be willing to accept and act upon your findings. At the same time, it shouldn’t confuse the role of a data analyst with that of a data scientist. If it does, taking up the position would mean working on aspects that you aren’t trained in, which would soon start creating problems. Even if it doesn’t, it will overburden you for sure.
Perhaps you now understand that though the two job titles and even some roles may be deceptively similar, being a data scientist is better than being a data analyst.
Who’s a financial analyst?
A financial analyst is responsible for collecting and organizing financial information followed by its analysis after which S/he would create presentations and offer recommendations, which will get shared with a company’s clients or the stakeholders.
The primary responsibility of financial analysts is to create financial models that can forecast the result of specific business decisions. To do this the right way, these professionals need to collect a large pile of financial data while also considering factors such as earlier transactions having a similar nature, financial market trends, etc. Based on where a financial analyst works, his/her role can differ a lot. For example, a financial analyst working in an investment bank will be much more focused on helping with deals and mergers while the one working for an insurance company would be more concerned with the risks involved in different lines of insurance, how they would affect premiums, etc.
The difference between a financial analyst and a data analyst is that the former works with large number of datasets that come from a wide range of sources such as customers, operations, safety etc. and analyzing them and turning them into recommendations and takeaways for management or clients. The main difference between a financial analyst and a data analyst is that while the former only works with financial and accounting figures, the latter works with a wide variety of numbers from diverse industries.
You will need to have a bachelor’s degree – preferably with a major in finance, economics, or statistics, to become a financial analyst. MBA graduates with specialization in finance too can enter the field as senior financial analysts.
Apart from educational qualifications, you should be proficient in problem-solving, have strong quantitative skills, and be adept in the use of logic along with having good communication skills. Your duties will include crunching data and reporting your findings to your superiors in a concise, clear, and persuasive manner.
Perhaps this gives you a clearer picture of why being a data scientist is better than being a financial analyst.
Who’s a research analyst?
This is a professional who is responsible for researching, examining, interpreting and presenting data related to operations, markets, economics, accounting/finance, customers, and other information related to the field s/he works in. Typically, a research analyst is extremely analytical, quantitative, and logical apart from being adept in handling data.
Almost every industry engages research analysts though they are more commonly found in some specific industries like the financial services industry, retail industry, etc. A broad job category is covered by the research analysts, especially in the areas of operations research, market research, and industry research. The role of an operations research analyst is to study particular aspects of an organization’s business processes and work out means to improve them. For a market research analyst, the responsibilities include studying the markets to help businesses understand what kind of demand exists for services or products. For an industry analyst, the job entails researching on a specific company or specific industry in addition to keeping track of new developments and trends in an industry. In brief, the key responsibility of a research analyst is to research and find ways to improve the operations of the business or company s/he is involved with.
To work as a research analyst, you are likely to need a master’s degree in finance or have CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) certification in addition to some others licenses or certifications that the job may need depending on which filed you are going to be employed in. you should also have the following skills and personality traits:
- Attention to detail
- Be extremely organized and reliable
- Good with numbers
- An inquisitive, logical bend of mind
- Ability to refine huge amounts of information into particular takeaways
Perhaps you can now see why being a data scientist is the top pick among all these positions.
Thus, the role of a research analyst is limited as compared to that of a data analyst. And since it’s better to be a data scientist than a data analyst, you can infer that the post of a data scientist is much more coveted than that of a research analyst.