Basic Data Science Skills for Business Professionals

Data science is a dynamic and fast-developing field that combines elements of computing, statistics, and business. Data scientists use algorithms, machine learning, analytical software, and other tools to sort and interpret vast quantities of data, producing actionable insights that companies, school systems, or governments can use to improve their services and reach their goals. For example, a data scientist might help a business make smarter, more efficient decisions about when and where to sell products, which customer demographics to target, or which of its locations to close or expand. 

With so many broad applications across a virtually endless range of industries, data science is a promising field with a robust career outlook — even in an economic landscape that’s been devastated by the pandemic. In fact, as recently as August 2020, Forbes wrote that “data scientists’ salaries and jobs [were] immune to COVID-19,” citing a Burtch Works survey which revealed that “the median base salaries for data scientists as individual contributors range[d] from $95,500…to $165,000…depending on experience.” For data scientists in managerial positions, those figures were often higher, ranging anywhere from around $150,000 to over $300,000. 

In a sluggish economy where millions of businesses have permanently shuttered or are struggling to rebound from the financial impacts of coronavirus, the computing and IT industry is projected to continue enjoying “much faster than average” growth at a rate of 15 percent, compared to the national average rate of just four percent. Combined with high pay and a diverse range of work opportunities — not to mention exceptional potential for remote work, which is viewed as a perk by increasing numbers of people — data science offers an exciting field with a bright economic future. Keep reading to learn how data science benefits businesses, what skills a data scientist needs to be successful, and the steps you can take to advance your data science career — along with your earning potential. 

How Data Science Can Help Business

There are numerous reasons why businesses hire and work with data scientists, from streamlining daily operations and simplifying recruitment procedures to reaching new consumer markets and improving underperforming products, services, or locations. Depending on your professional role and the nature of your employer or project, here are some of the goals that you might be expected to help a business meet in your role as a data scientist or related career:

  • Analyzing the impacts of business decisions 
  • Assessing risk 
  • Communicating more effectively with customers
  • Identifying new and emerging trends 
  • Launching or discontinuing products 
  • Making better hiring and recruitment decisions 
  • Making more economical management decisions 
  • Reducing waste and improving efficiency 

6 Skills to Learn to Become a Data Scientist 

With a degree in data science, you can pursue a career that’s related to healthcare, finance, education, entertainment, construction, manufacturing, security, IT, or virtually any other industry. However, in order to be a competitive job applicant — and a successful employee — you’ll need to possess certain skills. What might surprise you is that some of those skills involve more than just math or computing. So what do prospective employers look for? Here are six relevant skills to learn for data science for working professionals: 

  1. Data Visualization — Gathering, sorting, and analyzing data isn’t enough: you also need the ability to present it in a clear and compelling way that tells a story to your audience. That means you need the ability to conceptualize and create effective visual aids, such as charts, graphs, and presentations.  
  2. Machine Learning — Machine learning is a field of study that deals with computer algorithms and, more specifically, the ways in which they automatically adjust, change, and improve in response to data. An understanding of machine learning can make it easier to gain insights into areas like trading, risk management, and automation.   
  3. Basic Programming — While you don’t need the types of advanced skills that would be required for a career in programming, it can still be useful to develop at least some fundamental knowledge of programming languages like R or Python, which will make it simpler to find answers to challenging statistical problems. That’s a good segue into the next essential skill for data scientists, which is… 
  4. Mathematical Competence — Data science requires you to perform comprehensive, challenging analyses. To be successful, you’ll need a solid foundation in areas of mathematics like linear algebra, statistics and probability, and multivariable calculus. 
  5. Business Fluency — As a data scientist, you’ll impact real-world business decisions — with real-world financial consequences. It’s therefore imperative that you possess a clear understanding of business terminology. For instance, you’ll need a firm grasp of concepts like Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and supply and demand. Being proficient in business language will help you place your work as a data scientist into a broader, clearer context. 
  6. Critical Thinking —  Last but far from least, critical thinking is a fundamental skill that’s essential not only to a career in business or data science, but to professional advancement within any industry. Thinking critically allows you to recognize and adapt to obstacles; identify and respond to trends; solve novel and complex problems; and test and compare the performance of various models, systems, or algorithms. 

How to Improve Your Data Science Skills for Any Industry or Career  

Whether you recently decided to change to a data science career, or you’re an experienced professional who’s looking to advance further, National University offers challenging, fast-paced programs designed to help you develop the skills you need to climb to the top. For example, the curriculum in our Master of Science in Data Science program emphasizes skills such as designing analytic problem-solving strategies; designing data marts and warehouses; analyzing database queries; evaluating machine learning strategies for data mining; evaluating data management technologies; working in teams; and conducting research ethically. 

At the end of the program, your skills will be put to the test with a challenge to complete your three-month capstone project, where you’ll use real data to create innovative new solutions for specialized problems in areas like analytical database programming, optimization, and design. When you graduate with a master’s degree in data science from NU, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running — at any stage of your career. 

From executive-level to entry-level and every step in between, all professionals can benefit from an education in data science. Through courses like Data Mining Techniques (ANA 615), Probabilistic Finance Models (BAN 650), Advanced SQL Programming (ANA 660), and Database Design for Analytics (ANA 650), National University prepares students for a wide range of data science and analytics careers. Not only are jobs in this field among the most competitive, fastest growing, and highest paying — tech positions also offer many individuals the ability to work from home, providing convenience and flexibility for students, parents, servicemembers, and others who prefer to work remotely. 

Apply to One of National University’s Online Programs in Computing or Data Science for Business Professionals 

A data science degree is a versatile — and valuable — investment in your future. Earn yours on campus or online from National University. NU offers a graduate program in data science for experienced professionals, along with a range of graduate and undergraduate programs in related fields like computer science, IT management, and cybersecurity

Take the first step toward a more fulfilling, more exciting, more rewarding career. For more information about engineering and computing programs at National University, contact our admissions office for assistance, or start your application today. 

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