What Qualifications Do Data Scientists Need?

As the world evolved, more companies needed new ways to relate to customers and gain profit. Thus the birth of data science, the analytical skill and ability to mine, clean, and present data. Businesses employ data scientists to source, manage, and analyse data to create insight and deliver value for customers. Broken into many streams such as data mining, data visualisations, analysis and machine learning, data science is providing many with the opportunity for a new and exciting career. But, how do you become a data scientist? In this article, we will look at how you can join the data science world, what qualifications you need, and what to expect as you progress.

Let’s Get You Educated 

There are many educational opportunities available for prospective data scientists in South Africa. Besides the traditional degree, you can obtain a data science qualification through other forms of education. Consider an online data science course in South Africa’s most trusted and prestigious online education sites. It can take as little as a few weeks to months, depending on your pace and chosen course. With a data science course, you will get basic skills and an introduction to the different software out there. If you have a tertiary qualification, you may consider a short data science course to upskill, especially if you have IT experience. But, don’t despair; anyone can migrate from any industry into data science with the right educational facility and course on their side.

What About The Skills? 

According to experts, there are a couple of skills you will acquire and need on the path to becoming a data scientist. Some of them include: 

  • Statistics: This prepares a data scientist to prepare data better and includes but is not limited to distributions, linear regression, probability theory, Bayesian statistics, statistical tests, etc. Though data scientists aren’t statisticians, their line of work requires some statistical skills. 
  • Programming: This is necessary to data scientists as it helps them analyse data and use different algorithms to deliver a solution in code. The two most commonly used languages in the Data Science community are Python and R. Modules/Packages, which make it easy to do data analysis, visualisation, machine learning, etc. Other languages such as C++, Scala and Java also come in handy, especially when creating data science products that integrate with existing systems.
  • Domain knowledge: Data Science is applicable in many industries and, therefore, proficiency in business domains is important. This can be acquired over some time as one works in a particular field.
  • Curiosity and story-telling abilities: A curious data scientist is always eager to find patterns in data and isn’t afraid to investigate any ‘anomalies’ while delivering the findings clearly and concisely. The ability to explain one’s findings to those who do not use the same terminology is regarded as one of a data scientist’s mandatory abilities. 
  • Data wrangling: This is being able to extract data from various sources, clean it up, and transform it into a required format. 

Not only are you encouraged to acquire these skills on the path to being a data scientist, but they are also usually accessible through schooling and mentorship programs. Summed up, data science is an interdisciplinary field that is at the intersection of coding skills, maths/statistics, domains, and business knowledge. 

Getting The Job Done 

Upon acquiring your skills theory and slight practical aspect of data science, it is time to get into what could potentially be your first official role. Consider seeking employment in a company or department that will help with your growth as your first data scientist job may not be the title ‘Data Scientist’. You will need to work your way up in this industry, and the more skills you acquire, the better. The data science industry is buzzing with growth opportunities, so always weigh your options regarding which companies to apply for, whether you are trying to work for them permanently or on a freelance basis. Speaking of employment, you might want to consider keeping an up-to-date portfolio of your previous and current work for prospective employers. If you do not have any past experience, then school work and mock projects will help your potential employer see your capabilities. 

Lastly, Is It Worth It? 

A career in data science is definitely worth it if you have been considering getting into the world of researching and analysing data. With the tech industry gaining major momentum and forming a huge part of our everyday life, this might be the career move you have been looking for. Try data science today and give yourself the gift of new knowledge.


Staff Writer