Benefits of a Data Science Career

Data science is a growing, in-demand profession. Consistently reported as one of the top jobs in America, hiring in data science has increased 46% since 2019 and boasts an average base salary of $119,000 a year .

Walsh provost Dr. Suzy Siegle and Dr. Kurt Godden, adjunct associate professor in the IT/Decision Sciences department (ITDS), sat down to discuss data science’s exponential growth and how Walsh prepares students for successful careers as data scientists.

SS: How did you arrive at data science as a career?

KG: I’ve been the Senior Analytics Scientist for Ford in the Global Data Insight and Analytics skill team for the past four years. I have to say, it’s been my favorite out of all the jobs I’ve ever held, and I’ve had a lot of jobs! I worked for 24 years at GM in their research group, then moved to Ford. Beyond my work in the automotive industry, I’ve also worked in banking, at a small startup, a university in Chicago, and in aerospace. But nothing has been as fun or exciting as the work I’ve done in data science. It’s fascinating and so exciting and I’m hooked!

SS: What made you specialize in data science for the automotive industry?

KG: I like how our industry supports so many others. People do not realize the automotive industry has a high employment multiplier. Each job for an auto manufacturer in the United States creates nearly 11 other positions in industries across the economy.

SS: Why is data science so important in the automotive industry? 

KG: The auto industry is the perfect fit for data science. Outside of the federal government, the auto industry is the biggest consumer of semiconductors. Modern vehicles are absolutely loaded with computer controllers, which means today’s vehicles gather an unprecedented amount of data that can be mined for insights that help steer business. 

SS: What’s the job growth like for data scientists?

KG: Data scientists are in enormous demand and the career opportunities are practically limitless right now. The demand for data scientists currently far exceeds the supply of qualified professionals in the field. Anything you can do in data analytics and machine learning, which is closely related to data analytics, is going to make you highly employable. People coming out of school with a master’s in data science who have good credentials and interned in good companies can demand high salaries. It’s a great career to transition into and data analysts are marketable in any industry. It’s a great field to be in.

SS: What makes the data science program at Walsh so special?

KG: Students appreciate the fact that Walsh has such a strong reputation in the business community. We’ve got close connections to lots of major corporations and that benefits our students when it comes time to line up jobs after graduation. Our professors have experience in the field they are teaching in and they bring the passion for their profession into the classroom.

SS: What sets Walsh faculty apart?

KG: A lot of Walsh faculty have deep and rich experience in the field we’re teaching. That means we can help connect students to internships and jobs after graduation because we maintain so many professional connections. But it also means we have a deep understanding of the subjects we’re teaching. I try to bring my experience in data science and AI into the classroom. Our students appreciate that practical, real-world connection to business. We’re helping students prepare for the real world and become true problem solvers.

SS: What kind of student does well in the data science program at Walsh?

KG: We look for people who have some technical background. A solid knowledge of statistics and probability is essential in data science, along with math and programming knowledge.

SS: What do you teach in your data science classes at Walsh?

KG: In my intro to data science class, I teach a little bit about a lot of topics related to data science, like acquiring data, tidy versus messy data, how to clean data, create models, and supervised as well as unsupervised learning. In my machine learning class, we learn about programming computers to do things people can do, mainly trying to make predictions. I get really excited about neural network models and teach students how to create their own. Neural networks are computer programs that are roughly modeled on the nervous system of the brain. You aren’t just programming rules, you’re giving the computer a big mass of data and teaching the machine how to learn by itself and make predictions.

SS: Do you need to have prior experience in the automotive industry if you want to prepare for a career in automotive industry data science?

KG: You don’t have to have a lot of knowledge about the automotive industry, you can develop a lot of that domain specific knowledge once you’re on the job.

SS: What excites you most about data science?

KG: There are so many amazing things happening in computer vision and natural language processing. Like with machine learning you can create images of people that aren’t real but look so real they’re mistaken for photographs. News articles on the web are even being written by a computer that is programmed to scan and summarize other stories it finds around the web. 

SS: So, do we have to worry AI will replace jobs?

KG: AI is going to replace a lot of jobs. It’s important to get yourself educated and make it a goal to keep educating and re-educating yourself throughout your entire career. That’s the history of technology. It always displaces jobs, but it also creates additional opportunities that didn’t exist in the past. That’s definitely what we’re seeing with AI.

SS: Can students feel confident they’ll be able to get a job in data science?

KG: It’s a secure and growing field. If you graduate from a strong IT program like Walsh’s Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT), you will be paid well and you will have options after graduation. Walsh helps students graduate with a marketable degree and a network of connections they form through their professors and classmates.

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