How to get a job in data science

Posted on 6th January 2020

Posted in Data Science

Undoubtedly the best way to get a job in data science is to scrape data from job websites, then build a model that filters the most relevant jobs and validates them against your skills and experience. If only it were that easy!

Before you embark on the job hunt, it’s essential to know your game plan for how to get a job in data science. Here are four things you can do to make yourself the ideal candidate.

Talk to a data scientist

The person most qualified to explain how to get a job in data science is a data scientist. If you don’t already know a data scientist, you can use LinkedIn to find one.

LinkedIn is a great social network for you to meet useful professional contacts. The search box at the top of the LinkedIn website is where you can find a data scientist – but not by typing the words data scientist. 

Instead, click in the search box, then select ‘people’ from the pop-up, and then ‘all filters’ from the page that opens up. Now you can think like a data scientist and specify your location, the industry you’re interested in, even their work experience and education.

The secret to using LinkedIn effectively is to avoid sending empty unsolicited connection requests (just like friend requests on Facebook). That’s the equivalent of running up to someone in the playground and shouting, ‘will you be my friend!’. 

Instead, read through their posts and any articles they have written to find something that connects with you. Now you can send them a connection request and say something like, ‘I really enjoyed your post/article on (a particular data science topic) and would like to ask you a few questions about it.’

Using this approach, you’ll be more likely to connect with people that can really help you. And when people post on LinkedIn, they are usually hoping to get a positive reaction from somebody, so they’ll be more likely to accept your connection request.

Skill up

Once you’ve spoken to a few data scientists, you’ll realise that many of them only have a few years of experience in their role. Data science is a relatively new field, so a lot of data scientists were previously working as analysts, IT specialists or scholars. What they all have in common is fluency in programming languages such as R, Python and SQL.

The good news is that you can start building your skills in these languages with no financial outlay. There’s a variety of free online courses in data science essentials to get you started.

You can also get set up with R, Python and SQL for free to start building your data science portfolio.

However, if you’re serious about getting a job in data science, you’ll want to pull out the big guns and consider postgraduate education. Recent research revealed that almost 50 per cent of all data scientists have a master’s degree

Pet projects

If you really want to know how to get a job in data science, then you need to get your hands dirty working in data science. In addition to free courses and programming languages, you’ll find many free datasets online to start working on some pet projects. In fact, there are so many datasets to choose from, that it’s hard to know where to start. To solve that problem, there’s plenty of suggestions for data science pet projects that will not only improve your skills, but they’ll strengthen your resume.

Another place you can find datasets is IMDb, the Internet Movie Database. Ravi Shankar is a data scientist at Amazon who came up with a pet project using these datasets to help him in his personal life. Apparently, he wasn’t happy with the movie recommendations he received on Netflix. Popular movie recommendations were based on all the viewing habits of all Netflix subscribers – while personal recommendations were based on collaborative filtering of viewers with a similar watchlist to his.

Ravi’s data science pet project was to use IMDb’s datasets to build a personalised film recommendation engine. Now he can filter films by years, IMDb ratings, keywords and relationship to a favourite movie. The film recommendation engine even provides the trailer for the film so he can quickly confirm that it is the film he wants to watch. 

Consult as a data scientist

Some businesses don’t need a data scientist on staff at all times, but instead, choose to hire someone with the required skills to help out temporarily. 

Consulting as a data scientist is now a common role in big consulting firms and major system integrators. Consequently, a consultant data scientist helps clients to solve a specific problem or challenge they themselves don’t seem to be able to crack.

With the experience you gain as a consultant, you can add strings to your bow that can help you land a permanent position elsewhere.

Build and share your portfolio

Further to developing and deepening your skills, you can use pet projects to build and share your data science portfolio. Alyssa Columbus is a young American who has gone from an online portfolio of pet projects to a full-time role as a data scientist with Pacific Life. In addition to building a portfolio, she suggests sharing its content on Github and Kaggle.

While building your portfolio, Alyssa recommends aligning your pet projects with the skills that you see in job advertisements – that’s how to get a job in data science! Aim for projects that highlight your chosen programming language and your ability to work with databases. She also puts a strong emphasis on demonstrating how you can tell stories clearly with data. Then use the platforms that Data scientists use to share your portfolio.

Github is an online tool used by developers for software development version control. It also provides users with profiles to share their work and demonstrate their proficiency. You can also create a free website with Github Pages to host your portfolio.

Kaggle is Google’s online community for data scientists, which comes complete with datasets, a programming environment and “a huge repository of community published data and code."

Building and sharing your portfolio will help to develop your skills in data science, increase your online presence and ultimately assist you when applying for jobs. It’s definitely something you should do while working through your Master of Data Science at JCU.

Learn more about JCU's Online Master of Data Science. Get in touch with our Enrolment team on 1300 535 919.