3 career paths to becoming a data scientist

Data scientist has been dubbed one of the 'sexiest jobs of the 21st century.' Want to know what you can do to move towards a career working with data? Here are three routes to a career in data science.

Image: iStockphoto.DanComaniciu, Getty Images

In 2012, the Harvard Business Review billed the data scientist as the "sexiest job of the 21st century." And, yet, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, by 2018 the US could be facing more than 140,000 unfilled jobs that require "deep analytical skills."

So, want to know how you can get started preparing for one of these in-demand jobs in data science? Here are three paths to getting there.

1. The University Route

Recently, many universities have begun catering to aspiring data scientists. New York University, for instance, launched in 2013 the Masters in Science in Data Science program (which calls itself "the world's first" MS degree program in data science). One of the capstone projects for the program gives students the opportunity to interact with IBM's supercomputer Watson.

On the other side of the country, the University of California, Berkeley, recently started a 20-month program called Master of Information and Data Science. The core curriculum, which is all taught online, primarily focuses on "research design, data cleansing, storage and retrieval, communicating results, statistical analysis, ethics and privacy, data visualization, and data mining and exploration."

According to Value Colleges, Carnegie Mellon University offers the best bang for your buck when it comes to big data graduate programs. But there are many other options, as well. Here's a list of 23 schools with master's degree programs in data science.

2. Data Science Bootcamps

According to Sean McClure, the director of data science at Space-Time Insight, problem solving is the main skill a data scientist needs to develop a knack for. Enrolling in a data science bootcamp is another route to hone that skill. Startup Knoyd, for example, recently announced its program called BaseCamp. Set to launch in 2017 in Vienna, Austria, the eight-week program promises to "deepen your theoretical knowledge, enhance your practical skills" and help individuals become a "qualified data scientist ready for your exciting data science career." Bit Bootcamp is another option. With campuses in New York City, Boston, Washington DC, and Cleveland, the program offers courses on things like data analytics and the program Hadoop, as well as a fully immersive course called "Data Science & Machine Learning on Big Data."

SEE: Job description: Big data modeler (Tech Pro Research)

3. The Government Path

Data science careers aren't limited to the private sector. The federal government is also betting big on big data. In 2012 the Obama administration launched the $200 million Big Data Research and Development Initiative, which aims to "help solve some the Nation's most pressing challenges."

From the CIA to the Office of Inspector General, data scientist jobs are plentiful at the federal level. An added bonus to working on data science as a civil servant is qualifying to have the remaining balance of student loans forgiven after 10 years of service. And this year, the Obama administration announced the Federal Big Data Research and Development Strategic Plan, which will use funding to provide "big data education and training to fulfill increasing demand for analytical talent and capacity for the broader workforce."

Whether you choose to enroll in a university program, bootcamp, or other training, there will likely be many jobs to choose from once you've learned the skills needed to work with data. And if you want a sneak preview of the kind of jobs that will be available, here's TechRepublic's list of data science jobs that are available today.

Also see