Big Data

Is data scientist the most rewarding tech job? New report says yes

Some 88% of data scientists say they are happy with their jobs, according to a CrowdFlower report. Here's what you need to know about the profession.

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Data scientist may be "the sexiest job of the 21st century" after all: Some 88% of data scientists say they are happy or very happy with their position—up from 67% in 2015, according to a new report from AI crowdsourcing firm CrowdFlower. And 64% of these professionals agree that they are working in this century's sexiest job.

Part of the reason for their contentment may be the demand for their skills: Nearly 90% of the 179 data scientists surveyed globally said they are contacted at least once a month for new job opportunities, while more than 50% said they are contacted on a weekly basis. And 30% of data scientist reported being contacted several times a week by recruiters, the report found.

Data scientists recently came in at No. 2 on Indeed's list of best jobs in America in terms of salary, number of job postings, and opportunities for growth. These positions boast an average base salary of $129,938, and job postings in the field have grown 108% since 2013, Indeed found.

SEE: How to build a successful data scientist career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Despite their reported levels of career satisfaction, 53% of the data scientists surveyed also said they spend most of their time on the parts of the job they like the least: Janitorial tasks, such as cleaning and organizing data, labeling data, and collecting data sets.

The tasks that data scientists say they enjoy the most are building and modeling data, mining data for patterns, and refining algorithms, according to the survey. These three more cerebral tasks rank nearly eight times higher in popularity among data scientists than the more janitorial tasks, yet only 19% of data scientists report spending most of their time on the top ranked activity, building and modeling data.

However, these professionals remain happy in their jobs despite the time it takes to complete undesirable tasks because they value providing accurate data to drive unbiased AI models, the report stated. More than half of respondents said that getting good quality training data, or improving the training dataset, was the biggest roadblock to successfully completing AI projects.

SEE: Hiring kit: Data architect (Tech Pro Research)

Data scientists are also concerned about the ethical side of AI: Some 63% of respondents said programming human bias and prejudice into machine learning is their biggest potential issue with the growth of AI, the survey found. About half of data scientists said they were concerned about the use of AI and automation in warfare and intelligence, and 41% said they were uneasy about the technology displacing human workers.

"There is a tremendous amount of hard work that is needed to make an AI system deliver on its promise and at the core is getting the training data right," said Robin Bordoli, CEO of CrowdFlower, in a press release.

"Cleaning, labeling and categorizing data isn't sexy or fun, but it's critical," Bordoli said in the release. "Data scientists know it and that's why they are spending the bulk of their time doing the work they hate. The reality is that algorithms are far from perfect, however, with higher quality training data - created by human intelligence - we can generate business value even with these imperfect algorithms."

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

1. Some 88% of data scientists say they are happy or very happy with their position, according to a new report from AI crowdsourcing firm CrowdFlower.

2. Data scientists remain in demand, as nearly 90% of those surveyed said they are contacted at least once a month for new job opportunities, while more than 50% said they are contacted on a weekly basis.

3. Though data scientists said they spend a majority of their time on more janitorial tasks such as cleaning and organizing data, they remain satisfied with their jobs due to the knowledge that accurate data will lead to better, less biased AI systems, the report found.

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About Alison DeNisco

Alison DeNisco is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers CXO and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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