Mar 15, 2019 - Economy

A dip in data science wages

Data: Glassdoor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: Glassdoor; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Companies in every sector are ravenously hiring data scientists, hoping to eke out more sales or improve their efficiency. Pay is good for the average senior data scientist who makes nearly $140,000 a year and can pick from thousands of openings.

But for new entrants, just out of college or a tech bootcamp, the job market is rife with mislabeled job postings and stiff competition.

What's going on: Average wages for data scientists went down 1.4% in February compared to a year earlier, according to a Glassdoor report. There are a few factors behind the slip, according to the report's author, economist Daniel Zhao:

  • New supply of graduates has exploded, but entry-level job openings are few, and their pay is much lower.
  • Companies eager to bring in the best talent are mislabeling jobs as data science when they are really data analyst or statistician roles. Since such work is generally lower paid, it is dragging down data scientists' wages overall.

Data from ZipRecruiter, another job site, confirms the gap between junior and senior data scientist positions.

  • Between 2017 and 2018, senior data scientist positions grew about 3X, according to ZipRecruiter. But the more junior "data analyst" and "associate data scientist" positions only grew 22% and 39%, respectively.
  • Wages for senior job titles grew fast, ZipRecruiter tells Axios, while wages for junior roles grew slower than those for data science jobs overall.
  • But, but, but: ZipRecruiter, unlike Glassdoor, found a big overall jump in data science salaries, which in February 2019 matched the all-time high.

It's lucrative work — if you can get it.

  • Glassdoor pegs data science as the fourth-highest paying job out there, after pharmacists, solutions architects — a technical job that involves setting up new processes inside a company — and attorneys.
  • All of this is attracting top talent from other fields.
"If you’re a physics Ph.D. who has spent years using advanced machine learning techniques, the data science and artificial intelligence fields are more attractive than ever. As these more experienced and more educated workers pour in, students fresh out of bootcamps, undergrad or even master's programs will have a harder time competing."
— Daniel Zhao, Glassdoor economist
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