Data Scientist: Still the ‘Sexiest’ Job of the Century?

A decade ago, researchers Thomas H. Davenport and DJ Patil co-wrote an article naming data science the “sexiest job of the 21st century.” The article got a lot of attention—but does the assertion about data scientist roles still hold up?

Davenport and Patil recently took to the pages of Harvard Business Review to examine their old article and whether its central premise—that data science is one of the world’s fastest-growing and buzzed-about professions—remains accurate. For anyone who’s spent a lot of time training to be a data scientist, their answer should assure you: data science is still a very sexy job.

“By 2019, postings for data scientists on Indeed had risen by 256 percent, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, predicts data science will see more growth than almost any other field between now and 2029,” Davenport and Patil wrote. “The sought-after job is generally paid quite well; the median salary for an experienced data scientist in California is approaching $200,000.”

In contrast with a decade ago, there are also many more educational opportunities for those interested in becoming data scientists. “In 2012, there were effectively no degree programs in data science; data scientists were recruited from other quantitatively-oriented fields,” the new paper continued. “Now there are hundreds of degree programs in data science or the related fields of analytics and AI. Most are masters degree programs, but there are also undergraduate majors and PhD programs in data science.” And that’s before you consider the certification and online-training courses in data science.

Data science was the fastest-growing tech skill throughout 2021, according to a report by DevSkiller, surpassing Python, PHP, and cybersecurity. Meanwhile, HackerEarth’s 2021 Developer Survey found that data science was “the domain that is most coveted by both students and professional developers,” with 24.4 percent of respondents showing interest—well ahead of Blockchain (in second) and cybersecurity (third). 

Interested in becoming a data scientist? Necessary skills include Python, SQL, Tableau, data analytics, and, sometimes, machine learning and artificial intelligence (A.I.). In addition, you’ll need to develop the ability to effectively analyze data for crucial insights—which is the reason why data scientists are so highly prized right now by organizations everywhere.