Careers in Big Data: What’s Available and How to Break Into the Industry

In the modern economy, collecting data from all available sources is simply not enough for most businesses. What really counts is being able to gain useful insights from large amounts of data that are collected. Because of this, big data has become a key player in the 21st century, and data is now the most valuable commodity in the world.

There is a huge demand for big data professionals such as business analysts from not just global corporations but other businesses of all sizes. In every industry imaginable, companies are on the lookout for experts who have the knowledge and skills necessary to manage data collection or develop software and systems that can be used to analyze data and put it to the best use.

It’s certainly no secret that if you want to get into a job where the demand is seriously high, big data is the best place to look. Data specialists aren’t just in demand from within the IT industry, but in various other industries where making data-driven decisions and using data in everyday operations has become more and more crucial. A career in big data offers some major opportunities, even at the entry level.

Why Get Into Big Data?

Today we’re in a knowledge and information-based economy that is always hungry for more data. Chances are that even local businesses near you are using big data algorithms to analyze their consumer data and gain clearer insights into their customers – information that can help them make better decisions in the future and improve their chance of not only keeping their existing customers happy but also finding new ones.

Big data is also playing a key part in some of the most exciting technological advances in the world today. Self-driving cars, for example, collect vast amounts of data using sensors that are equipped with algorithms that collect and process the data in real-time. Cars are then connected to big data databases, enabling them to make the right decisions while on the road. Big data applications are everywhere from local grocery stores to futuristic technologies, giving those who want to get into this industry the chance to work in a huge range of fields and apply their skills in a variety of different ways.

No matter how you look at it, big data has become one of the most important elements of business today. For companies to thrive in the modern world, they are facing a growing need to be able to successfully adopt business analytics tools and techniques as well as big data systems in order to manage a growing and often global consumer base.

If you are interested in working in big data, here are some career positions that you may want to consider.

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Data Analyst

Data analyst positions are arguably the most in-demand since these professionals are specialists that are needed in every industry and field. The role of the data analyst involves gathering and analyzing a range of data streams, and they earn an average annual salary of around $60k. To work in this role, you will need to have skills in programs such as Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel, SQL databases, and SharePoint. Data analysts who want to progress in their career may consider taking the next step into working as a Database Manager, with an average annual salary of around $73k.

Big Data Engineer

The role of a big data engineer involves creating and making improvements to algorithms that collect and analyze data, improve the accessibility of data, and design tools that end-users can use to access data sets that are understandable and actionable. To work in this career, you will usually be required to gain a degree in a relevant field such as engineering or computer science. Along with this, many employers are looking for professionals who have certifications in programming languages such as Python, Java, Storm, Hive, or Kafka. You will also need to be familiar with SQL database design and Linux-based systems. While there’s a lot of learning involved for somebody just starting out, it’s definitely worth the investment with an average annual salary of $106k.

Data Architect

To work as a data architect, you will usually be required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a relevant subject. Along with this, most positions require you to have advanced knowledge of relevant programming languages such as SQL and XML. Data architects are the masterminds behind various data architecture strategies. They are tasked with creating relational databases for the purpose of managing the entire data model of the enterprise. This is one of the best-paying jobs within the big data sector, with an average annual salary of $113k.

Data Security Engineer

The main responsibility of a data security engineer is to oversee the IT security infrastructure of a company that relies on data heavily. To work in this role, you will need to be knowledgeable and skilled in running security software such as firewalls. Employers will typically look for candidates who have advanced knowledge of different operating systems and are proficient in a range of different programming languages. Data security engineers earn an average of $102k yearly.

Data Scientist

The role of a data scientist involves collecting and analyzing complex data. The main difference between a data analyst and a data scientist is that data scientists have additional roles when it comes to creating different data models for the main purpose of taking strategic management decisions. Ideally, data scientists are required to have a master’s degree or a doctorate degree in computer science, data science, or a relevant field. Employers also seek out professionals who have a strong knowledge of various data processing methods including regression analysis, support vector machines, clustering, and decision trees. Data scientists earn an average annual salary of $108k.

How to Get a Career in Big Data

If you are interested in the big data industry and see the massive career potential that could be yours once you have the required qualifications and skills, there are plenty of reasons to consider getting into these roles. To work in big data, you will first need to consider which career path you are most interested in and what is required of each one. Some entry-level careers will only require you to have some programming language knowledge and knowledge of SQL databases with the opportunity to further your skills and knowledge on the job, while others demand more advanced qualifications such as a master’s degree in data science, computer science, or business analytics. To get started in your big data career, you will need to build a solid foundation.

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1 – The Basics

The first step to your future big data career is to get a clear understanding of its basic concepts. Before you enroll in a degree program or get a professional certification in big data, make sure that you understand all the ‘whys’ and ‘whats’. Become familiar with topics such as the ecosystem, Apache Spark, and Hadoop, and learn as much as you can about big data, the various roles, how it is used, and more.

2 – Learn a Programming Language

While you will certainly have the chance to learn programming languages if you are planning to get a bachelor’s degree in computer science or IT to start your big data career, there are plenty of reasons to start learning on your own time. The earlier you start learning a programming language, the more proficient in it you will be by the time you are ready to start applying for professional roles. There are various programming languages that are often either highly sought-after or mandatory for those who are interested in working in a big data career. These include:

  • Python: Python is the most in-demand programming language around the world, so it’s a good idea to start with this one of you are considering a future career in big data. What’s so good about Python is that it has a simple syntax that is easy to understand, which makes it one of the quickest and easiest programming languages to learn for a beginner. Once you are familiar with the basic concepts of Python, you can improve your chances of getting into a big data career.
  • Java: Java is another programming language that you may be interested in learning if you want to work in big data. Java is the programming language behind Hadoop, which is the oldest and best big data tool that you will need to become familiar with if you are interested in working in this industry. If you are interested in working as a developer in big data in the future, Java is an important language to learn.

3 – Education

Getting a formal education is a requirement for the majority of roles in big data. Most of the time, this will involve getting a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject such as engineering, statistics, IT, computer science, or mathematics. As big data becomes even bigger and professionals enjoy an ever-increasing level of demand, you may also find bachelor’s degree programs that focus on big data topics such as data science and data analytics. Once you have graduated with a bachelor’s degree, you may consider studying further to get a master’s degree and a doctorate in data science or a relevant field. This may or may not be necessary depending on the role that you are interested in. If you want to work as a data scientist, then an advanced degree qualification will usually be required.

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4 – Professional Certifications

Education does not have to stop when you graduate from your bachelor’s or master’s degree and get into a big data career. In fact, the demand for professionals is so high that the more you can improve your knowledge and skills, the better. As a big data professional, you will have access to a wide range of courses and certifications that you can take to further your knowledge in a wide range of areas and demonstrate to potential employers that you have the skills that they are searching for.

Skills You Need to Work in Big Data

Most big data positions available will require a strong background in programming. While some positions, such as business analytics, may not require this quite as much, if you are interested in becoming a data scientist or a data engineer, for example, then you will need to be skilled in languages such as Python, C, Java, and SQL. Skills in machine learning, Apache Spark, and Hadoop are also highly-sought after for big data roles. Employers will also often look for candidates who are experienced in statistics and have strong math skills including linear algebra. While it is not always necessary, having some knowledge of cryptography and security can also help you take your career further.

Finding the Perfect Big Data Role for You

Once you have prepared yourself for a career in big data, it’s time to look for the ideal role. The good news is that these days, the demand is so high that there are many more jobs in big data compared to applicants, so finding a position is unlikely to be a problem. Spend some time searching for roles and narrow down the ones that you like by focusing on the job description and what you will be doing in the position.

The best part about a job in big data is that big data professionals are needed by all industries and fields. So, if you are already working in a different role, you may be able to talk to your current employer about any available positions in data science or analytics that you may be able to move into, allowing you to break into a new career in big data without having to leave your current place of employment. When applying for any role, highlight your unique skills and any area of big data that you may have specialized in so far.

Today, jobs in big data are only seeing more and more demand. There are various lucrative, interesting, and secure roles to consider if you are interested in this field.

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