The GIS Professional and Preparing for a “HOT” Career as a Data Scientist

Data science and the data scientist is all the rage these days. No doubt by now you’ve heard the term, perhaps you’ve seen career opportunities for a Data Scientist, and maybe you’ve read a “TOP Careers” article or research finding that has touted the data scientist as one of the hot jobs of our time. Indeed this is a great career path to follow. Oh, and according to Forbes, once again Data Scientist is THE hottest job in America! 

Simply put, a data scientist is a new breed of analyst, one who has technical skills required in order to solve complex problems. They’re part mathematician, part computer scientist and part trend-spotter. And, because they straddle both the business and IT worlds, they’re highly sought-after and well-paid. The data scientist has risen to the top of the charts in Hot careers thanks to the explosion in Big Data and the wealth of data, open data, and other information sources that are at our disposal. This from an interesting read from SAS, “It’s a virtual gold mine that helps boost revenue – as long as there’s someone who digs in and unearths business insights that no one thought to look for before. Enter the data scientist.”

In the geospatial arena we are now hearing about job titles and seeing career opportunities that are seeking the Data Scientist. This being a step away from the classic job title so commonly seen in the GIS circles,including GIS Analyst, Spatial programmer, Data Technician, and GIS programmer. Indeed these careers are also plentiful and much of the focus of these careers is on managing, analysing, and sharing data analysis, data workup, statistical summaries, and yes, even maps and charts! When you think about GIS what comes to mind? Yes indeed, data! Data is at the heart of any GIS and for all sense and purpose, data is king. So, if you happen to be in search of a career change and you have a few years of experience under your belt, you might want to explore opportunities that exist as a Data Scientist because when you think about it, as  GIS Analyst you are already well on your way as a skilled data scientist, you just may not realize it!

But what if you come up a little short on skills and education? The following is a fabulous online resource that you can take advantage of to get a jump on that new career. Enter Dataquest. Dataquest is a great learning resource offering free training to help you become a data scientist (a top career opportunity recently). Learn Python, R and other in-demand skills . Learn by writing code, working with data, and building projects in your browser. Use the resource to work on real life data science problems .  Learn to become a Data Scientist


Oh, and if you really want to polish your skills and beef up your resume have a look at Insights for ArcGIS and learn it! Insights for ArcGIS is a web-based, data analytics workbench where you can explore spatial and non-spatial data. In the ArcGIS ecosystem, Insights is THE tool for the data scientist. To learn a bit more about Insights, be sure to also check out this video interview I did with Linda Beale (@lindabeale), from Esri’s analysis and geoprocessing team. You’ll walk away with a good idea what Insights is and how you can leverage Insights for space analysis.

Finally, you may be wondering, what skills and attributes do I need to become a data scientist? According to an interesting post on Quora, a good data scientist should have a very wide variety of skills including:

  1. Analytical thinking
  2. Knowing what not to do vs what to do.
  3. A/B testing.
  4. Hacker mindset
  5. Understanding of physical phenomena
  6. Programming
  7. Statistics
  8. Data maintenance
  9. Data cleaning
  10. Data analysis

The most common misconception that I’ve come across among data science aspirants and neophytes is that you can learn how to do it just by teaching yourself how to use some specialized tools (like R, scikit-learn, pandas, matplotlib, etc.) It completely ignores the fact that these tools represent just the tiny, visible part of the iceberg (Source: Forbes)

the data scientist

The data scientist (Source: David Pritchard)

Good luck to all you budding data scientists in your career or in your career search. We know that you’ll do well and that the ArcGIS solutions will continue to be an important tool for you in your career. As you grow you team of scientists keep in mind that our Admin Tools for ArcGIS Online will also be a valuable resource for you. Are you a data scientist? We’d love to hear from you about your career. Find us and connect with us on Twitter @geojobegis

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GEOspatial Evangelist & CMO

Geographer, GIS professional, writer, and fan of all things mobile.