With a 56% increase in US job openings within the past year, data scientists hold the title of the most promising job in America for 2019, according to a recent LinkedIn report. Data scientists have been gaining momentum in the tech world in the past decade, also topping Glassdoor’s list of the Best Jobs in America for the past four years.

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

The value of data scientists positively correlates with the value of data in an organization, and with the rise in digital transformation initiatives, data is more abundant than ever. Organizations are increasingly calling upon data scientists to make sense of the information and garner business insights from it, according to Neely Dolan, senior recruiting manager at Mondo.

“Data scientists help companies interpret and manage data and solve complex problems using expertise in a variety of data niches,” Dolan said. “In layman’s terms, data scientists know how to extract meaning from and interpret data, using both tools and methods from statistics and machine learning.”

Digital transformation projects are now crucial to a business’s survival, which means data scientists are also key. With this increase in demand comes high salary and high job satisfaction, according to the Glassdoor report. However, data scientists must keep up with the skills needed in an ever-changing industry.

Top skills data scientists need

Today’s data scientists need a combination of technical and interpersonal skills, according to Julia Silge, data scientist at Stack Overflow.

“From a technical perspective, a working knowledge of SQL is table stakes for data scientists today, and the most common programming languages for implementing data analysis and machine learning are Python and R. Data scientists who can integrate best practices from software engineering into their work (like version control, continuous integration, and testing) are more marketable,” said Silge. The data scientists who have the most impact in their organizations are those who have not only strong technical skills, but also the ability to communicate with clarity and empathy and to navigate collaborations across cross-functional teams, she added.

Interpersonal skills are no longer optional for professionals in any tech role, according to a West Monroe Partners report. The majority (67%) of HR professionals said they’ve withheld a job offer from a talented IT candidate because of a lack of soft skills, the report found.

While these skills are lucrative to data scientists now, they could easily change, just like all other aspects of the tech world.

How to keep your data science skills fresh

Here’s how data scientists can keep their skills up to date:

1. Read, read, read

Even data scientists need to read up on their literature, Silge said. “I read some academic papers about machine learning methods, but I get the most practical, impactful information on the fast-changing technical landscape in data science from blogs,” she noted.

Education is vital to staying up to date on skills, Dolan added. “Data scientists need to continue educating themselves to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and developments,” she said. Whether it’s researching blogs of their colleagues or subscribing to data science newsletters, data scientists must continually educate themselves.

2. Conferences

This education can also come in the form of conferences, where data scientists can network and learn from the experiences of their peers.

“Data scientists across industries and domains share their knowledge in coding tutorials, reflections on their analysis process, and talks at conferences,” said Silge. She recommended data scientists attend conferences to get a taste of the latest trends in the technical landscape.

3. Online networking

Social media sites are an easy and quick way to stay up to date on the latest trends, said Silge. Whether it’s new skills, job openings, or best practices, many working professionals share their interests on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, making those sites a great starting point for staying in the loop.

“These sorts of practices are always evolving, so staying up-to-date on the latest trends and findings will drive career development and professional success,” said Dolan.

For more, check out TechRepublic’s How to become a data scientist cheat sheet.

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