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What popular roles are available in data science?

Data science is a developing term for a multidisciplinary blend of algorithms, analysis and key business insights. Data science is a rapidly growing job market, with reports from IBM predicting 2.72 million job openings by 2020, in the United States alone.

These job openings are appearing across a wide range of industries, including:

  • Health
  • Finance
  • Environment
  • Transport
  • Retail
  • Professional services
  • Entertainment.

With so many industries opening up jobs that focus on data science, there a number of roles that are popular for current IT professionals who are interested in moving into this developing area.

Lead customer data scientist

Lead customer data scientists have the chance to utilise their skills in leadership roles, analysing customer data and presenting it as actionable business insights.

This role is essential to driving a business culture of data decision making (DDM), which can help improve the customer experience. For a retail juggernaut like ASOS, lead customer data scientists are able to provide unique forecasting insights.

Whether it’s showcasing where the business is losing customers on particular pages, or what promotions are generating higher click-through rates (CTRs), lead customer data scientists can be vital.


Statisticians are able to advise businesses with a more specific data analysis, gleaning insights from more traditional sources of data and helping businesses understand finite information.

Statisticians tackle ‘point estimates’ and margins of error, looking at small-scale data like surveys and polls, compared to the broader work of data scientists. This specialisation continues with statisticians working to improve single analytical models to fit data, rather than the more wide-ranging multiple methods that data scientists use.

One example of statisticians thriving in their position is through industries like health as a biostatistician where they can manage patient data, or in a sports role, communicating key statistics to broadcast announcers during live matches.

Database administrator

Database administrators (DBA) hold a specialised role, maintaining the health and success of a business’ database environment while ensuring data integrity. Able to utilise SQL (structured query language), a DBA’s work at backing up data systems is essential in emergency scenarios, such as power outages.

DBA’s also have a responsibility to educate employees on how they can manage their contributions to the database.

Industries including banks, universities, healthcare and insurance companies all have the need for talented DBA’s to manage important databases of customer and client information.

Data engineer

Data engineers develop, construct and maintain the rawest forms of data, compared to the more organisational roles of data scientists. Engineers develop set data processes to model, mine and produce information, whereas data scientists focus on visualising that data for business insights.

Data engineers are highly valuable, with a history of being hired by major corporations like Spotify and Amazon. At the moment, these roles are transitioning to video game companies like PlayStation, or telecommunications businesses like Verizon, showing the versatility of data engineers.

Predictive modelling data scientists

Predictive modelling data scientists are in high demand from businesses who are interested in what decisions their customers make, and how these decisions can help improve their products.

Key responsibilities for predictive modelling data scientists focus on using modelling and regression techniques to create insights for optimised customer engagement. These roles will allow you to work closely with key stakeholders and help brands understand their audiences better.

Predictive modellers are in high demand across industries such as finance and transport, with major businesses like Uber requiring modelling skills. At Uber, data scientists would use predictive modelling to study traffic patterns, customer request times and locations to inform maps and pricing.

How can you carve out a successful data science career?

IT professionals have an advantage in transitioning to a career in data science. With key basic knowledge in machine learning, data analysis or statistical knowledge, IT professionals are able to smoothly move from an undergraduate course to online postgraduate study. If you are interested in pursuing any of the aforementioned roles in data science, online study may be the right fit for you.

About the author:

UNSW was the first university in the world to be awarded the maximum QS Five Star Plus rating in 2012 and have maintained this ranking ever since. This rating recognises our excellence in teaching, research, employability, facilities and innovation.

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