Businesses during the last several years have come to realize the value in the tremendous amount of data they’ve acquired. The challenge, though, has been that most often this information is distributed across various database systems, using different technologies and stored in multiple locations. When approaching the opportunity to leverage this data, many organizations have typically turned to their existing engineering, data, and infrastructure teams for guidance. To their credit, businesses did benefit from that collaboration. However, in many cases, the benefits did not meet the vision of bringing all the data together to form a wealth of insights that could positively impact businesses and their customers.
Enter the age of big data. There are various discussions regarding the origin of the term big data. However, the conceptual definition of big data is fairly consistent: “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process data within a tolerable elapsed time … big data requires a set of techniques and technologies with new forms of integration to reveal insights from data sets that are diverse, complex, and of a massive scale.”
Organizations wanting to see their visions of ecosystems where data is assembled from disparate systems, technologies and locations are building bigger and better departments and teams with the sole responsibility of executing on the objective of addressing their big data challenges.
Careers in Big Data
When considering a career in big data, there are many roles and opportunities. It is a broad field, encompassing careers ranging from positions that require scientific and analytical skills, to business acumen, to detailed technical aptitude, and strong leadership and organizational abilities. While the titles may vary slightly, the positions listed below are those commonly associated with a career in big data. The below salary information was initially provided by Payscale and then cross-referenced and corroborated by SOLTECH based on the range of salaries for placements the company has made in the last year.
Top Roles in Big Data Careers
- Data scientist
- Business intelligence analyst
- Data analyst
- Machine learning engineer
- Data/information architect
- Data/information engineer
- Data administrator/manager
Base Salary: $85,000-135,000
Data scientists apply multiple processes and technologies to transform large amounts of raw data into business-focused information. Skills include mining, modeling, interpretation, and visualization of data, as well as a thorough understanding of machine learning.
Business Intelligence Analyst
Base Salary: $51,000-96,000
Business Intelligence Analysts deliver market and financial intelligence data, assisting organizations in identifying trends and opportunities. Similar to those of data scientists, skills include mining, modeling, analysis, and visualization of data. In addition, business intelligence analysts apply their knowledge of key performance indicators (KPIs) and strong communication skills to provide actionable insights to an organization.
Base Salary: $64,000-104,000
Data analysts aid in locating and gathering data relevant to a business need. They leverage their technical expertise to ensure data integrity, accuracy, and security. In some cases, a data analyst may provide information to an organization, similar to a business intelligence analyst, but in a more localized or focused manner. Skills include a mix of general-purpose data-process abilities along with specific skills in various technologies, such as database systems and relevant programming languages associated with processing and transforming data.
Machine Learning Engineer
Base Salary: $76,000-155,000
Machine learning engineers design and create algorithms used in extracting insights and predictive behaviors from large amounts of data. Machine learning engineers work closely with data scientists, transforming models into production-quality application code. Skills include fluency in relevant programming languages, such as Python or R; strong knowledge of probability and statistics; and application of machine-learning algorithms and libraries.
Base Salary: $80,000-160,000
Data or information architects design strategies and establish standards for data storage and organization. They model data and select appropriate technologies best suited for given use cases. Further responsibilities include weaving new data sources into existing flows and monitoring systems for opportunities to streamline processes or provide additional business value. Skills include deep exposure and knowledge of data storage and transformation technologies; data-processing architectural patterns; and relevant hands-on coding experience.
Base Salary: $75,000-163,000
Data or information engineers are experienced in specific technologies that support the flow, processing, storage, and retrieval of data. Often, they are closer to the technology in use than analysts or architects, having a nuanced understanding on how to assemble multiple systems into a cohesive application. Skills include languages specific to data technologies; application-programming languages; and experience with data transformation and transmission tools.
Base Salary: $82,000-107,000
Database managers oversee and orchestrate projects related to database storage, transformation, and transmission technologies. Overseeing several moving pieces, database managers must excel in understanding business needs, project management, and solution resolution. The skills required include strong leadership, analytical thinking, strategic planning, an understanding of technologies in use, and relevant compliance and security requirements.
Preparing Yourself for a Career in Big Data
Regardless of the career path, all of these positions are in high demand. Before determining which path may be right for you, consider some of the foundational traits that lead to a successful career in big data. Regardless of position, working in big data is highly analytical. Positions entailing skills such as machine learning or data analytics also involve a level of creativity, intuition, and curiosity. Compare these traits with your personal motivation, and if they line up, pursue next steps in educating yourself on more specific aspects of the field.
Education comes in many forms. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 90 percent of those in data-related fields, such as big data, have college degrees. Many universities offer programs equipping individuals for careers in data science, machine learning, and engineering. At the same time, experience in data-related fields can serve as an equally successful starting point in big data. In this case, typically, it is easier to look within your current organization for big data opportunities. It also helps to have an advocate or mentor within the organization who will assist you in navigating your career path.
While it is important for those in big data to have state-of-the-art expertise with a broad range of tools and technologies, their ultimate success is dependent on some key soft skills. Here are three skills that IT executives and/or hiring managers look for when filling big data roles:
Business executives will rely on their big data staff to explain data in non-technical terms, so it is imperative that they have excellent communication and presentation skills, and are comfortable presenting information to top executive levels within the organization.
Because big data staff work with massive amounts of data located in distributed data stores, they must understand how information flows across the enterprise. They should be able to demonstrate outstanding critical-thinking and problem-solving skills.
While business acumen is a plus for any software development role, it is a must-have for most big data roles. These individuals must be able to explain to executive team members how they can leverage and interpret data to achieve strategic objectives and benefit the business.
Within many companies, big data use cases continue to grow rapidly. The United States Bureau of Statistics projects that data-related careers will increase at a rate much greater than most, ranging from 20 to 30 percent growth during the next 10 years. Given your passion and motivation, along with an investment in your education and experience, a career in big data will be both successful and rewarding.