It’s official: Data scientist jobs have reached the top of Glassdoor’s Best Jobs in America list in 2016 and 2017 with an overall job score of 4.8 out of 5, a job satisfaction score of 4.4 out of 5 and a median base salary of $110,000.

What’s driving interest in these roles and boosting job satisfaction? More importantly, how do aspiring IT pros get on the data scientist short list?

Unpacking Greatness

Several factors conspired to put data scientist careers at the pinnacle of top job lists. First is demand: As noted by Business Insider, sites such as Glassdoor are “listing thousands of job openings at any time.” It makes sense — companies have moved beyond the need to simply capture big data and are now looking for IT pros who can help them create actionable outcomes and reliable predictions based on this deluge of information.

There’s also a sense of exploring the frontier when it comes to data scientist jobs since the field is still somewhat vaguely defined, allowing for greater choice and opportunity when it comes to designing new data models or creating better ways to extrapolate insight. In addition, payment plays a role in this job’s primacy: Over $100,000 for base salary provides a solid starting point with room to grow, especially as scientists return valuable insight and become essential to organizational mandates.

Specific Skill Sets for Data Scientist Jobs

All IT professionals handle data, but that alone is not enough to grab the top spot. Moving from support and back office roles to the front lines of data discovery demands three key skill sets.

1. Core Competencies

As noted by Forbes, the top three skills required by data scientist jobs were Python (72 percent), R (64 percent) and SQL (51 percent). Hadoop, Java and SAS were all mentioned in 30 percent (or more) of job advertisements. According to Pablo Ruiz Junco, economic research fellow with Glassdoor, learning Python, R and SQL lets aspiring data scientists apply to 70 percent of all openings.

2. Teamwork

According to Business Insider, teamwork is key for any data science effort, since “no one person is going to be an expert at all the underlying skills necessary.” Great coding skills aren’t enough in isolation. Data scientists also need well-developed social and teamwork skills to deliver line-of-business value.

3. Vision

Data science professionals do more than simply collect and interpret the data — they also think outside the box and develop new ways to interpret, utilize and improve information.

Consider digital pioneer Rumman Chowdhury: As noted by OZY, she’s working on ways to integrate human-centered ethics with increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) by actively eliminating bias and including a human in the loop to detect potential issues.

Claiming the Top Spot

It’s no surprise that data scientist jobs have grabbed Glassdoor’s top spot for two years running — great pay, plenty of job openings and room to think outside the box are a big draw for any IT professional. But making the jump from traditional tech positions to science-centered careers means shoring up core competencies, polishing teamwork skills and laying the groundwork to dream big.

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