Careers in big data are beginning to solidify, as companies ramp up their analytics teams. Big data professionals usually have to make a decision early in their careers whether to follow the highly technical path or pursue management and people-centric roles. Here’s a look at some of the job roles and career paths you should be aware of if you want to work in analytics.
Technical big data and analytics career paths
Database management: Data analysts, data modelers, DBAs, data architects
Persons choosing the database path begin as data analysts and data modelers, where they work with data, prepare data, and develop data organizational schemes that use databases and data marts. They help with technical definitions of the data and data relationships so data can be aggregated appropriately for the different business functions using the data. They might also be responsible for keeping data current and secure.
SEE: Job description: Big data modeler (Tech Pro Research)
Persons who work in this area typically begin as junior data analysts and progress into data modeling; ultimately, they can become corporate database administrators (DBAs) or data architects, and both of these senior positions can command six-figure salaries in large enterprises.
Systems management: Systems programmers and systems engineers
Persons choosing this path enjoy implementing, maintaining, and fine-tuning system hardware, operating systems, and systems software that underlie the big data applications the company runs. These people often have engineering and/or programming backgrounds, and they spend a lot of time programming systems.
The typical career path of a person working in technical systems begins as a junior systems programmer and progresses into senior levels of system programming and engineering. Those progressing to a distinguished engineer designation in a large enterprise can earn six-figure salaries.
Application development: Application developers, big data managers, data scientists
Individuals opting to develop end business applications for big data and analytics use programming languages and tools designed to extract meaning from unstructured data. They often begin as junior application developers who use third-party tools for extracting data and developing simple reports and dashboards. They progress into senior positions where they develop applications “from scratch,” using advanced programming languages.
SEE: Job description: Data scientist (Tech Pro Research)
The ultimate position in big data application development can be a manager or a data scientist, who blends concepts from engineering, arithmetic algorithm development, and statistical analysis to develop complex data queries that get at answers to questions companies haven’t been able to answer. Fields that use data scientists include pharmaceuticals, medicine, and other complex research and development industries. Data scientists can earn six-figure salaries.
People and management big data and analytics career paths
Business analysts and Chief Data Officers
Individuals who want a nontechnical IT career path in big data and analytics often begin as junior business analysts. These people are responsible for working with end business users in the company, coordinating with IT, and identifying the business cases and needs for analytics applications.
These individuals develop models in plain English that describe how data is to be used; these descriptions are submitted to database analysts, application developers, and others on the technical side. Business analysts also study the business processes within the company, and determine where, when, and how analytics reports should be delivered.
SEE: Job description: Chief data officer (Tech Pro Research)
Junior business analysts progress into senior business analyst roles, analytics middle managers, and ultimately senior directors and even Chief Data Officers (CDOs), which are often well compensated six-figure positions in large enterprises.
Managers of analytics-transformed user departments
The explosion of big data/analytics is giving managers of established non-IT disciplines new opportunities to grow their careers. For example: A market research analyst might be asked for market data that impacts other company functions, or a GIS manager could be called upon to provide GIS information to new business areas. These managers must step out of their offices, meet with end users, and help to identify new uses for the information they have worked with for a long time. As they do this, they get new visibility and can be promoted into director and senior manager roles.
Chief Data Officers
Senior managers/directors on the business side of analytics can continue to build their careers into a CDO position in a major company. The CDO coordinates corporatewide analytics and information usage, is a C-level officer with executive compensation, and often reports directly to the CEO or the board of directors.