Data scientist is the hot new job role. Some have even called it the sexiest job of the century. However, when you look at some of the job postings for data scientists, it seems like this job title could mean many different things. I’ve seen everything jobs advertised as “data scientists” that are actually descriptions of roles from marketing operations postings to cloud ops engineers.

Education to the rescue!

This is something Instructional Design can help with – with job analysis. People have been doing job analysis since the industrial revolution. Job analysis looks at what the end result of that job will be, what will the person who holds that title need to accomplish, and what sort of skills a person needs to be successful.

One of the key parts of a job analysis is a task analysis. What sort of tasks do employers expect data scientists to perform? And what sort of tasks are people who are actually in a data scientist role doing?  This is important, because if you advertise for a data scientist but you really need something else, there is just going to be lots of frustration.

What do employers think makes a data scientist?

Right now on LinkedIn, there are over 2,590 job listings for the job of “Data Scientist”. I’m going to narrow this down to the 68 that were listed in the past 24 hours. Job functions listed for this category include Information Technology, Engineering, Research, Analysts, and Product Management.

Industries looking to hire a data scientist include Information Technology and Services, Computer Software, and Marketing and Advertising.

I looked at 5 of the posted jobs. All of them required an advanced degree (Master’s or PhD), experience with predictive modeling and machine learning technologies, and experience using Python, R, SQL, MapRover, Java, C++, and Hadoop (or similar technologies).

What does a data scientist do?

According to the job descriptions I sampled, here’s what data scientists will be expected to bring to the table:

  • “Use a variety of research methodologies to produce high quality, leading edge quantitative insights…”
  • “Find meaning in multiple imperfect, mixed, varied and inconsistent data sets.”
  • “Build and evaluate predictive and decision models to be deployed in production systems, or for research.”

Data scientists use modeling and machine learning techniques to look for meaning in huge sets of data. They aren’t the ones who build and manage the systems that store or transport the data.

What should you do?

As our industry matures, those of us working in IT should expect our job titles to continue to change at lighting speeds.  The job title data scientist can actually mean many different things depending on the business area doing the hiring, so this may or may not be an interesting role for you.

Before applying for this hot new job role, do your research and make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into!