data scientist education

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In this age of online learning there has been a trend in Data Scientist hiring to include candidates with only a bachelor’s degree as long as they have done some intensive, applicable boot camp training, research with their professor or sophisticated internship. Proficiency or near-proficiency with Python and R also make a difference.

Is this trend in data scientist education taking hold? What does the ideal data scientist’s educational background look like?

Data Science Executive Recruiter, Nancy Darian, shares, “I have placed bachelor’s degree candidates, typically for lower level positions. These candidates are at the beginning of their career and most intend to pursue a master’s at some point.” Her associate, Paul Chatlos, believes, “that a bachelor’s degree limits a person’s career growth in the Data Science space.”

Nancy Darian goes on to say, “The master’s degree is the sweet spot in data scientist education, where candidates have learned experimental design and will typically have some experience solving real world challenges.” Colleen Farrelly, Data Scientist, in answer to a question on Quora.com said, “With STEM degrees, generally, the PhDs or MS folk are able to read just about any paper in applied math or machine learning, giving them a leg up on learning new algorithms and being able to innovate when a new algorithm is needed to solve a problem. Even math majors with only a BS would have a hard time picking up all the math in some of the papers.” She goes on to say how much stronger PhDs and MS are in applying the scientific method to controlled research designs. Grades don’t seem to matter in data scientist education as much as the extra training in STEM research and higher mathematics.

Nancy Darian says, “Some of our clients require a PhD, but those candidates are really niche within their area of study. Their research is deep but not broad. They need experience in a business setting to be right for our clients.” Data Science Recruiter, Rachel Pereira, shares, “I find our clients are ideally hoping to find a MS or PHD in data scientist education as opposed to a BS degree. The bigger question, though, is if they are not only capable of understanding the business problem and crafting the model to address it, but do they understand what the results really mean as it relates to the business impact. If they have the ability to see the bigger picture that is the key component to marketability, regardless of MS or PHD.”

What is the next trend we see developing? “A PhD in computer science is highly sought after and with the right analytical skills has their pick of positions.” according to Data Science Recruiter, Paul Chatlos.

Interested in hiring a data scientist or conducting a job search? Contact the Data Science and Analytics Recruiters at Smith Hanley Associates.

Paul Chatlos, [email protected]
Nancy Darian, [email protected]
Rachel Pereira, [email protected]


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