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How to Become a Data Scientist

The job market for data science in Australia is booming at the moment, but how do you get started with a data science career? Data science jobs are well suited to people who enjoy collating, analysing and interpreting data. It’s a career that requires a combination of technical skills and human insight, so qualifications are required to break into the industry. 

Before pursuing a career in this industry, it’s important to understand the steps in how to become a data analyst or scientist. Keep reading to learn pathways to a career in data analytics or data science, including our Master of Data Science (Applied) Online and our Graduate Certificate in Data Science (Applied) Online at the University of Adelaide


Data science in Australia

Opportunities in data science in Australia are taking off. According to University of Adelaide data scientist Dr Lewis Mitchell, “Data is the new oil, and now is the time to learn how to mine it”. There’s plenty of opportunity in the industry, but both theoretical foundations and practical skills are needed to be respected in the data science field. The opportunity is there, but you need the expertise to be able to make the most of it. 


The importance of practical skills

A certain level of theoretical and practical skills are essential for a career in data analytics or data science. Some may argue that data science has never been easier with the expansion of machine learning and other accessible software that can take care of the heavy lifting. 

Dr Lewis Mitchell stresses the importance of practical skills for a successful data science career path.

“All the machine learning in the world won't help you as a data scientist if you can't take a messy dataset, clean it, analyse it, visualise it, understand and interpret your results,” Dr Lewis Mitchell said. 

Dr Rebecca Vivian, computer scientist at the University of Adelaide, agrees. “Practical skills in data science provide the tools you need to explore and investigate data rather than relying on someone else or an application to do this for you. It is empowering to have practical data science skills to look at your data and seek the answers to your questions”.


Key data scientist skills

Here are some of the essential skills you’ll need to acquire as part of how to become a data scientist. They’ll help you spot issues with data that only a skilled human can. 

  • Extracting meaningful information by manipulating real-world, messy datasets
  • Proficiency with languages like Python and tools such as R & RStudio, NumPy, Pandas and Matplotlib
  • Context-aware data analysis
  • Technical data practice and management
  • Ability to articulate the significance of data
  • Using data insights to spark organisational change

Practical skills are also what employers are seeking. The job market for data scientists is booming at the moment, but employers still want to see you demonstrate your talents. This is why applied learning, projects, case studies and a portfolio is so important. 

“Real-world data is rarely delivered to us in a perfect spreadsheet” warns Dr Rebecca Vivian, a computer scientist at the University of Adelaide. 

“Experience working with messy data is necessary to grow your skills in selecting, managing and organising data with confidence”, said Dr  Rebecca Vivian.

“In some cases, the data we use and rely on may be biased or flawed. Good data scientists are always actively and critically thinking about the data they collect and use to ensure solutions and decisions that rely on data are ethical and have the best outcomes for all involved”.


Getting qualified

A tertiary qualification is the best way to equip yourself with all the essential data scientist skills. Two common pathways are either a graduate certificate or a masters degree;

  • Graduate certificate: This type of qualification tends to have a duration of months rather than years. Students learn essential skills for a data science career.
  • Masters degree: A masters level qualification equips students with advanced skills, preparing them to become leaders in their field. These qualifications can take between one and three years to complete depending on study load.


Where will a data science career path take me?

“Data science is not a spectator sport,” says Dr Lewis Mitchell. Once you’ve started your career, data analytics and data science is about problem-solving and getting to the bottom of how something really works. 

Whether you’re working on how a disease spreads, how weather happens or how fake news travels, mathematical models will help you understand the issue and even predict the future. Data science is such a versatile skill, allowing you to craft a fulfilling career in an area aligned to your interests and values. 

Here are some more industries with opportunities for data scientists and analysts:

  • Agriculture
  • Healthcare
  • Film
  • Banking and finance
  • Transport
  • Manufacturing


Enrol with the University of Adelaide

If you’re interested in becoming a Data Scientist, a Master of Data Science (Applied) Online at the University of Adelaide is your practical and industry-aligned option. It’s also 100% online, which means assessments instead of exams. For those looking for a shorter qualification, our Graduate Certificate in Data Science (Applied) Online will have you work ready in just eight months. 

If you have any questions about the University of Adelaide's data science qualifications, you can book a call with one of our enrolment advisors or call us on 1300 294 092.

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