Murray Webb had been a lackluster student more interested in sports than schoolwork while attending a small Virginia college. Then he transferred to Kennesaw State University in suburban Atlanta to pursue a master’s degree in applied statistics and landed four job offers upon graduation. Webb, 33, now earns $160,000 a year targeting health-care customers for hospitals and says he is approached weekly by companies and recruiters seeking data scientists.
Webb is part of a national employment trend that has data scientists at tech companies such as Airbnb Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. adding the words “I’m hiring” next to their LinkedIn.com profiles.
“The word on the street is there’s definitely a shortage of people who can do data science,” said Daniel Gutierrez, managing editor of the journal insideBIGDATA in Los Angeles. “A lot of people are transitioning from other fields like economics, psychology, mathematics, because they see the field is exploding and there’s money to be made.”
Indeed, it turns out that even in the wake of Facebook Inc.’s privacy scandal and other big-data blunders, finding people who can turn social-media clicks and user-posted photos into monetizable binary code is among the biggest challenges facing U.S. industry. People with data science bona fides are among the most sought-after professionals in business, with some data science Ph.Ds commanding as much as $300,000 or more from consulting firms.