Editor's Note: This post was originally published February 2019 and has recently been updated and revised for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
The amount of data in the world is increasing at an unprecedented rate. Ninety percent of the data that exists today was generated in the last two years. As organizations race to harness and utilize big data faster than the competition, specialized data professionals are in high demand.
What does big data mean? How can it translate into a lucrative, rewarding career path? What does a career in big data look like? This resource breaks down all your questions; what big data is, how it’s used, top data skill sets and the different big data career paths.
What Is Big Data?
Big data refers to enormous sets or groups of data that are analyzed computationally to reveal trends, patterns and associations.
Big data comes from many different sources. Transactions, log data and emails are the largest sources of data housed within organizations. External data sources can include everything from social media and audio files to photos and videos.
The concept of business analytics and big data has been around for decades.
As technology and the internet transformed the workforce, they produced an unprecedented amount of data, spurring demand for skilled analytics professionals who can utilize data to make better business decisions.
How Is Big Data Used?
The goal of big data is deceivingly simple — to discover how data can be used to ask questions, solve problems and make smarter business decisions.
These troves of data give organizations a competitive edge and better insight into their customers. For example, a hospital might analyze admissions records to ensure the hospital is properly staffed and equipped to provide the best patient care.
An investment firm can use historical data and mathematical models to maximize portfolio returns. Retail companies use their purchase data to identify customer preferences, spikes in demand and behavior metrics to ensure they’re delivering the right products to their audience.
How to Prepare for a Career in Big Data
Big data is only as good as the intelligence that can be gleaned from it.
Professionals with the technical acumen to analyze large quantities of data are in high demand. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the field is expected to grow 27.9 percent from 2016 to 2026 — faster than average for other occupations.
Big data career paths vary widely depending on the industry and business needs.
A data analyst at a healthcare company could have a starkly different role from a data analyst at a government organization. Database administrators have different functions, training and backgrounds than different engineers.
Let’s take a look at education, data skills and different roles within the vast field of big data.
Education Path for a Career in Big Data
While there isn’t a degree in big data, there are skills and educational backgrounds that can help define your career path. Obtaining your bachelor’s degree in an analytical or mathematics-oriented field such as statistics, computer science, math, information management, finance or economics is an excellent foundation for a big data career.
Alternatively, building relevant skills through professional IT training courses and certifications can help prepare you to enter the big data field.
Big Data Skill Sets to Develop
Before you’re ready to enter the workforce, you’ll want to spend time developing your portfolio of data skills. Here are a few technologies and topics to master:
SQL Database & Querying Skills: Many organizations rely on SQL databases to store and organize their data. Data professionals must be able to manage SQL data warehouses and extract the information they need using advanced SQL queries.
- Suggested Programs and Courses:
Microsoft: Microsoft offers a host of data science tools and services that can be used to process and analyze big data.
- Suggested Program and Courses:
Soft Skills to Develop
Data professionals toe the line between technical data analysis and business development. They must be able to communicate the data effectively to non-technical teams and executives in the organization. Important soft skills for big data professionals include:
Analytical problem-solving is key to developing your skills set from data results into actionable recommendations and solutions.
- Suggested Course: Creative Problem Solving
Effective communication will help you share findings, implement actions and make the most of different communication methods/.
- Suggested Course: Communication Strategies
Ability to collaborate across diverse teams wile directing and guiding them to create even greater achievements.
- Suggested Course: Navigating The Modern Workforce: Diversity, Culture and Generations
6 Big Data Career Paths
Big data career paths encompass both data management and data analysis roles.
Database developers and administrators develop and maintain the IT infrastructure that supports big data. Other roles focus on using big data to generate actionable insights organizations can use in decision making, strategic planning and business development.
1. Database Administrator - Average Salary Range: $98,000 – $140,000
Database administrators are responsible for the integrity, performance and security of a database. Their duties include everything from planning databases to troubleshooting and monitoring them to ensure data security.
2. Database Developer- Average Salary Range: $70,000 – $100,000
Database developers modernize, upgrade and design databases. They may eliminate inefficient coding to improve database performance and monitor, troubleshoot and debug database issues.
3. Data Analyst- Average Salary Range: $77,000 – $118,000
After the database is housed, grouped and managed, it’s time to analyze it. That’s where big data analysts come in.
Data analysis is one of the more common big data occupations. Data analysts collect, analyze and perform statistical data analysis, working with large volumes of data to turn it into business insights their team members can use.
4. Data Scientist - Average Salary Range: $90,000 – $110,000
Data scientists understand data from a business point of view.
They go a step beyond standard statistical analysis to create new algorithms to analyze and utilize data. They build statistical models and utilize advanced programming skills to identify high-level business trends and insights.
5. Big Data Engineer - Average Salary Range: $95,000 – $150,000
There is significant overlap between data engineer and data scientist roles.
Data scientists are heavily involved in using the data infrastructure, but they aren’t responsible for maintaining it.
Data engineers are focused on the products that support data scientists’ work. They design and manage how data is housed and build scalable, high-performance infrastructure that delivers cohesive information from raw data sources.
6. Data Modeler - Average Salary Range: $111,000 – $160,000
A data model is a representation of the business and information needs in an enterprise.
Data modelers turn business requirements into conceptual and physical data models. They could reduce redundancy of data within a computer system or improve how it’s transferred between users an organization.
All average salary ranges were reported from O-Net Bight Outlook Occupations.
Big Data Training With New Horizons
Big data has exploded over the last decade and shows no signs of slowing down. Whether you’re looking to hone your SQL database skills or become proficient in Hadoop, New Horizons has the training courses and certifications to elevate your skill level and your career.