Job descriptions and industry overviews

Data scientist: job description

10 Jul 2023, 09:21

Data scientists use modelling techniques to identify trends in data and solve business problems.

Data scientist job description

What does a data scientist do? Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Data scientists use business skills and analytical expertise to explore data, identify trends and solve problems. In a similar way to data analysts, they review information such as sales figures, logistics or market research. However, unlike data analysts, data scientists use raw data and devise algorithms and predictive modelling techniques to analyse this information and investigate the impact of different solutions.

Typical duties include:

  • working with business leaders to identify problems that can be resolved using data science techniques
  • extracting data from multiple sources
  • processing and cleaning data
  • using advanced programming, statistical models and machine learning to identity trends within and insights from data
  • applying business acumen to develop feasible data-based recommendations that will address organisational problems
  • communicating findings and recommendations to business leaders.

The use of ‘big data’ (collecting or mining huge amounts of data and analysing it) by companies and governments means that data scientists are in demand across many sectors.

Graduate salaries

Starting salaries for data scientists are around £30,000, according to jobs comparison site Glassdoor, but earnings vary widely depending on your role and industry. For example, as a data scientist in a public sector graduate scheme you could earn around £25,000 while your salary could be up to £45,000 on a data science graduate scheme in retail banking.

Typical employers of data scientists

  • Government departments and agencies
  • Manufacturers
  • Educational institutions
  • Software firms
  • Healthcare organisations
  • Engineering firms
  • Finance and professional services firms
  • Banks
  • Insurance firms
  • Media and entertainment companies
  • Airlines
  • Large retailers
  • Utility providers.

Data science graduate schemes are advertised on targetjobs and via careers services. You can find more advanced roles advertised on specialist job sites and on sector-specific sites such as (for jobs in the NHS) and (for jobs in universities).

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into data science for both graduates and school leavers. Graduates don’t always need a degree in computer science or IT, although a qualification in a STEM subject is usually preferred. Recruiters will also look for evidence of programming skills such as R, SAS and Python, and knowledge of Java and C.

The demand for data analysts and scientists has risen in recent years, as have opportunities for specialisation within this field. Further study could help you focus on an area of interest, such as big data or machine learning.

School leavers can study a related topic at higher national diploma level or apply for an apprenticeship as a data analyst and progress from there.

Key skills for data scientists

Recruiters will be seeking:

  • the ability to approach a problem analytically
  • excellent communication skills
  • teamwork skills
  • investigative skills
  • attention to detail and the ability to identify trends and patterns
  • commercial awareness.

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