Is Data Science a Fad?

As a University professor intimately involved in the field, I am often asked “is data science a fad?”

Let me be abundantly clear when answering whether or not data science is a fad.

Data science is not a fad. In fact, I would make the argument that it is one of the hottest and most profitable majors, long term, to look into right now. Why? Because the job market numbers indicate this is the case.

Over the last five years alone, positions in both data science and analytics grew by a staggering 28-percent. That number is expected to continue growing by 16-percent through 2028. Moreover, the average starting salary for undergraduate students with a data science or analytics degree is roughly $80,200.

That is certainly not chump change.

And the reason for such large growth in the job market and the high starting salary is because organizations, companies, and businesses alike are able to gather big data at a pace that is unheard of even ten years ago. So, again: is data science a fad? Almost certainly not.

Because of this, there is a pressing need for trained people to analyze this information, to use the data to improve performance or productivity and to create user-end applications based on the data.

For example, hospitals are now using this in-depth big data to do predictive modeling of disease outcomes and to help identify what opportunities exist to intervene early and to stop the disease before it is too late.

Education officials, for another example, use data scientists to analyze test results and other grade trends, often scored against demographic and psychographic factors, to help improve overall student performance.

In other words, trained data scientists are needed in literally every field. So, again: is data science a fad? It is hard to argue that it is with the highly-engrained data science culture seen in many Fortune 500 companies.

Have you used Tinder to go on a blind date? A data scientist wrote the algorithm that ultimately helped match you two.

Have you paid those nasty, nasty student loans recently? There is a data scientist behind the scenes running regression models and clustering algorithms to determine which borrowers are most likely to pay early, go into default, etc.

There is a nearly insatiable need for people who know how to obtain, manipulate, and find true meaning in data.

Because of this need and the growing popularity of the field, many institutions of higher education have shifted away from offering just graduate-level data science programs to now also including data science in the undergraduate curriculum.

is data science a fad

For example, check out this U.S. News report on the best undergraduate data science programs in the United States.

Despite the list containing just 24 schools, it is important to remember that well over 100 colleges and/or universities now provide an undergraduate degree in data science and/or analytics.

What is important about the U.S. News list is the quality of schools on the list. Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Michigan, UCLA, Duke, and more.

Generally speaking, an institution like Harvard University would not provide undergraduate education in data science if the field was a passing fad.

As higher education continues to “mold” itself to better provide students the necessary education and skills that are desirable in the outside industry, they will also need to adapt to the growing number of specialties in the data science field.

Is Data Science a Fad: The Most In-Demand Careers

Believe it or not, mega-tech companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Facebook employ less than 1% of trained data scientists in the United States. As all areas of the industry continue to gobble up data science graduates, it is important to remember that there are specialized fields you need to consider.

  1. Data Scientist (average salary: $117,212).
  2. Machine Learning Engineer (average salary: $131,001).
  3. Applications Architect (average salary: $129,000).
  4. Data Architect (average salary: $118,868).
  5. Data Analyst (average salary: $69,517).

It is no surprise that the field of data science is “fragmenting” into more specialized niches as the industry continues to hire. After all, it is estimated that a solid big data and analytics program within any one organization can increase a profit margin by as much as 60 percent.

Is Data Science a Fad: Concluding Thoughts

There is no doubt that the field of data science is here to stay. It has proven to be too profitable for a business to do without one at this point.

However, as briefly mentioned by the differing specialties you can get into, it is important to note that the field of data science is continuing to evolve. Because of that, it is important to consider any and all possibilities. For example, many NFL teams are now staffing full-time analytics departments in order to find even the smallest of advantages week after week.

There is little doubt that, because of this continuing evolution, that data science is here to stay for the long term.

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