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3 Data Science Salary Trends to Watch in 2018

April 23, 2018

This post is an excerpt from our newly-released report, The Burtch Works Study: Salaries of Data Scientists 2018, which examines updated compensation and demographic data for data scientists. Download the full report for free to see how data science salaries vary by experience level, region, industry, and more, plus our insights on how these trends will shape the future of the market.

With 2018 marking the year of our 5th-annual Burtch Works Study: Salaries of Data Scientists, we’ve been carefully watching as the increasing excitement for the field over the past half-decade has resulted in major shifts in the market.The “Big Data” craze has inspired many people to jump into corporate data science roles, including students, professors and researchers, and career changers from other business fields. This has had a number of wide-ranging effects on the talent pool itself, including opening the door for more education options like bootcamps and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), tipping the typical education background towards Master’s instead of PhD’s among junior professionals, and a blurring between traditional predictive analytics fields and data science.As the data science profession continues to mature and proliferate throughout industries and geographies, we’re seeing several data science salary trends developing as well.

Moving into Management Not Necessarily Required for High Salaries

In many fields, it is common for there to be a salary stagnation point at which individual contributors must move into management roles in order to advance their careers and compensation. Although managers may earn more than individual contributors in data science as well, it is also not uncommon to see high-level, individual contributor roles that pay exceptionally well.Becoming a subject matter expert data scientist can be a separate career track that doesn’t have to lead to people management. We’ve seen these data science roles exist throughout the organization, from research and development to marketing analytics. Many of these high paid individual contributor roles will be specialists (e.g., NLP or image processing) but we do see generalists within this category as well.

Coastal Salary Disparity Beginning to Close

Over the years of collecting data for these reports, there has been a salary gap between the West and Northeast coast with the West Coast commanding higher salaries. This year, we’ve noticed this gap beginning to close with the Northeast and West Coast having similar salaries across most job levels for the first time.Data scientist salaries on the West Coast have typically been buoyed by tech firms in Silicon Valley, but as data science applications have been spreading, including to Wall Street and fintech firms in New York City, as well as growing tech hubs in Boston and Washington, D.C., salaries in the Northeast have been climbing to rival the West Coast.

Tech Salary Bumps Flattening Out

Additionally, the salary gap between technology companies and those in other industries is beginning to narrow. Although there is still a gap, the delta is smaller this year. There are two potential explanations here. First is the geographic spreading of firms that fall under the “tech” umbrella away from the coasts. The second is the broadening of the tech industry to include areas such as human resources tech, edtech, insurance tech, and healthtech.Whereas in previous years data science might have been concentrated at tech giants like Facebook, Apple, Netflix, and Google in Silicon Valley, today “tech” has grown into other areas and might include an education tech startup in Denver, an online deal marketplace in Chicago, or a healthcare tech firm in Austin. Also, we’re seeing more legacy corporations in industries such as Retail, CPG, and Industrial competing for talent and getting more aggressive with compensation. As such, the significant difference between data science salaries in tech compared to other industries has been flattening.Naturally, as the data science field has been evolving so quickly over the past few years, we are expecting more changes on the horizon.

Want highlights from our 2019 Data Science & Analytics report, including salaries, demographic comparisons, and hiring market analysis? Watch our 15-minute RECAP video below!