Conflicting reports on demand for data scientists

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Young job seekers and tech-happy math majors looking on the Internet for trends giving them direction on new job trends might get confused about whether or not they should pursue a career as a data scientist.

Cloudera, a provider of big data management platforms, and other tech firms, have been working with educational institutions to solve what they see as a shortage of talent in the data sciences. Cloudera even has a partnership with seven charter universities developing big data programs for engineering and analytics students, and runs a Cloudera University with Apache Hadoop as a centerpiece. And FierceBigData has reported on several university programs aimed at training data scientists.

But Forbes recently said the term "data scientist" is redundant and incomplete, and even questioned the need for a separate category at all.

Others have questions how broad the demand is.

Wired said most businesses, which are small- and medium-sized businesses, don't need them. While confirming the need for this profession, saying the data scientist is here to stay, Wired nonetheless said "only a select number of enterprises will need an actual data scientist on staff. In small and medium-size businesses (SMBs) of 25-500 employees, non-IT users with the support of technology will do the job of analyzing data and turning it into useful information."

And FCW, an online publication covering the federal technology market, noted that the same incentives for private sector companies to hire data scientists don't always exist in the federal sector" but that data scientists are starting to get noticed.

"By teasing out the occasional needle in the proverbial big data haystack [data science] is already signaling its importance to the federal government," FCW quoted Robert Hummel, vice president and Chief Scientist at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies, as saying.

He added that the government is awakening to the idea that data science can provide models that have great utility for a variety of missions. However, in terms of demand for data scientists, he said agencies may find that the talent is already there within the agency. "Data scientists have been around for years, but were usually outside the spotlight and working under different job titles," he said.

And despite the job title being relatively new, the data scientist already made U.S. News and World Report's list of the 10 most overpaid jobs.

This isn't a good prescription for providing incentives to potential data scientists now contemplating careers.

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