Data Scientist Job roles, responsibilities, descriptions and duties

Date of posting: 14 Jan 20

What are the job roles and responsibilities of an Data Scientist?

The role of a data scientist has evolved and expanded from that of a data analyst. As with an analyst, they organize and analyze data collected by an organization, such as sales figures, logistics or market research, etc. The difference is that a data scientist will use their strong business sense along with an ability to communicate findings to both business and IT leaders in a way that can influence how an organization approaches a business challenge.

Data scientists may have different functions depending on which industry/sector they are involved in. They combine practical skills such as coding and maths with the ability to analyze statistics.

The main programming languages often used within analytics, data mining and data science are R, SAS, Python, and SQL, while knowledge of Java, C/C++ may also be of value to data scientists. The use of ‘big data’ (collecting or mining huge amounts of data and analyzing it) by companies and governments has meant that data scientists are in demand worldwide.

Typically a data scientist needs to:

  • Use strong business acumen, as well as an ability to communicate findings and my vast amounts of data for useful insights

  • Use these insights to influence how an organization approaches business challenges

  • Use combined knowledge of computer science and applications, modeling, statistics, analytics and maths to solve problems

  • Extract data from multiple sources

  • Sift and analyze data from multiple angles, looking for trends that highlight problems or opportunities

  • Communicate important information and insights to business and IT leaders

  • Make recommendations to adapt existing business strategies

Typical employers of data scientists

  • Universities and research institutions

  • The government

  • Manufacturers

  • Banks

  • Airlines

  • Large retailers etc

  • Big data companies such as Google and Facebook

  • Marketing agencies and marketing departments at major companies

Data science is a relatively new area of work, but as a progression from data analytics, the pay can be fairly high. Many will need to start out on a lower rung of the ladder.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into data science for both graduates and school leavers. A degree in statistics, math, business administration or computer science is a viable option to pursue a career as a data scientist. School leavers can study a related topic at a higher national diploma level or apply for an apprenticeship as a data analyst and progress from there. 

As demand for data analysts has risen, many are progressing from this role to fill the need for data scientists. In many graduate cases, this is done by further studies, such as an MA or Ph.D., to gain a competitive advantage.

Key skills for computer scientists

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Communication skills

  • Teamwork skills

  • Investigative skills

  • Interest in statistics

  • Interest in predicting trends and identifying patterns

  • Innovative thinking

  • Observation skills

  • Critical thinking