Data Science is a new and rapidly expanding field with many definitions. They all, however, converge on one theme:

Data Scientists build data products.

Data Scientist (n.): Person who is better at statistics than any software engineer and better at software engineering than any statistician.
— Josh Wills, Director of Data Engineering at Slack
Data scientists create the foundation of analysis by which an applied business problem can be solved... [data scientists are] experienced statistical programmers using languages like and tools such as Python, R, and SQL.
— Anmol Rajpurohit, Software Engineer at Salesforce
“A Data Scientist should have a wide breadth of abilities: academic curiosity, storytelling, product sense, engineering experience and just a catch-all I call cleverness. But he or she should also have deep domain expertise in Statistical and Machine Learning Knowledge... Data scientists in a company will have an amorphous charter of improving the product somehow.”
— -Thomson Nguyen, CEO of Framed Data

What Is a "Data Product"?

A data product is a product build from data. You use data products everyday:

  • Google's search engine returns optimized results from terabytes of data.
  • Facebook sells targeted advertising using your profile data.
  • Apple's voice recognition program, Siri, combines millions of users' data to translate your speech to text.

All these examples require statistics and software engineering knowledge to create. A Data Scientist uses both!


Salary Expectations

Data Scientists are highly skilled professionals, and they're paid like it.

  • AngelList: Mean salary is $93,000 globally.  
  • JobSignal: Mean salary is $93,246 globally.
  • Salary.com: Median salary for data scientists is $118,109 nationally.
  • Salar.ly: Median salary is $115,500 nationally.  
  • Glassdoor.com: Mean salary is $113,436 nationally.
  • O'Reilly: Estimated salary is $93,505.

At first glance, Data Scientist salaries appear biased upward by the high cost-of-living in popular cities like San Francisco, California, but even controlling for cost-of-living, Data Scientists live comfortably even in expensive locations like New York City.

Education Expectations

O'Reilly releases an annual Data Science Salary Survey with over 600 respondents.

  • One-third of Data Scientists held neither a master's degree nor a Ph. D.
  • Two-thirds of Data Scientists had backgrounds in computer science, mathematics, statistics, or physics.

Following these two points and the theme of the whole report, Data Science is not exclusive to graduate students nor certain majors.

Data Science in MSU Academics

Several academic institutions are rising to meet the need for Data Scientists. Michigan State began its M.S. Business Analytics program just years ago. In fact, the class of 2015 had a 96% job placement rate and the average salary was $90,000.

Academic programs are becoming available for bachelor's degree and Ph. D. candidates as well with the development of the Computational Math, Science, & Engineering programs.