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Data science, much like Big Data and machine learning, has become a search buzzword over the last few years. Our fascination with these terms has not gone unnoticed by human resources departments. Popping up in many job descriptions and job titles, these phrases have often become tantalizing—and a tad confusing—to the jobseeker, as each set of requirements can differ significantly from the last.

Companies pepper their job descriptions with references to tools such as Hadoop, Teradata, R, and Matlab, while others still look for strategy experts and those with statistical analysis backgrounds. From office to office, the job description changes (most likely due to the strengths of each hiring manager) and the definition of data science refuses to be easily locked down.

Of all the articles I have read to get a better understanding of this expanding domain and job market, the clearest so far is Justin Megahan’s piece for mixpanel.com titled “This is the Difference Between Statistics and Data Science.” To paraphrase his article: data science is the coalescence of statistics, computer programming, and product knowledge. It is well worth a read for those who want a buzzword-lite understanding of this field, and for those considering whether data science is a career path they wish to undertake and be competitive in.

If you wish to become part of this market, you will need to have a wider range of skills and knowledge than many roles demand. It is not likely to be something you can learn overnight, and is not the easiest skill set to acquire. So is it worth the effort? According to the company review site Glassdoor, the answer for professionals in the US in 2016 is a resounding “yes.” This is due to the career opportunities, salary, and number of roles available. As the US tends to provide a strong indication of the types of roles we can expect to see a year or two later in Japan, this bodes well for data scientists here in 2017 and 2018. Tokyo opportunities currently advertise from ¥8 million per annum to more than ¥16 million. So as data science demand increases and competition for top talent intensifies, this will probably mean a rise in average salary as well.

Online educators like Udemy and Coursera are chock-full of ways to get us up to speed in this arena. Many tertiary education establishments are also getting in on the action with courses such as Harvard’s Data Science Certificate. Therefore, for those serious about a change in career—or even just looking to better understand this shift in approach to business—it is clearly of value to do some research, get out the credit card, and get to studying.

Charles Breen is associate director of IT at Spring Professional.
If you wish to become part of this market, you will need to have a wider range of skills and knowledge than many roles demand.