A big part of keeping students in STEM throughout schooling is showing them how choosing STEM careers is not only rewarding, potentially lucrative, lifelong work, but that it’s viable for them — that, contrary to the way STEM jobs have been defined in the past, all students, even underrepresented students (particularly women and minorities) can become STEM professionals without multiple-advanced degrees.
Indeed, with the gender and race gap in STEM fields widening in 2015 (2015 STEM Index Shows Gender, Racial Gaps Widen, US News), it’s imperative that we help students not only understand the diversity of STEM job opportunities available to them, but that we prepare them adequately for these careers through quality STEM programs throughout their schooling and beyond school (Tackling the Digital Divide & Closing the Opportunity Gap in STEM Education).
We’re seeing inspiring examples of schools where students are not only being very well prepared for STEM careers (Peter Rosen on Why Clearway School Students are Succeeding in STEM), but they’re also graduating and immediately finding fulfilling STEM jobs (The “New Shop” Class Transforms Vocational Education Into Economic Growth and STEM Opportunities for Students).
But here’s what few people are pointing out that is key in to helping students understand the opportunities available to them in STEM careers and that they really can become STEM professionals: STEM careers ain’t what they used to be!
Thanks to the explosion of technological advancements and the seismic shift in cultural ideas on defining meaningful work, not only have traditional STEM careers changed tremendously from the “boring,” repetitive, data-crunching work of the past, but a host of new STEM positions have popped up in the past several years that would make any student want to do a double-take.
We recently spoke with Megan Lewczyk (CPA, educator and location-independent entrepreneur) about how much the accounting field has changed in the past several years. Thanks to technology, number-crunching in a small office is a thing of the past. Accounting is a creative, problem-solving industry (Can an Unconventional Math Program Prepare Students for The NEW Accounting Profession?). And former surfer turned engineer and entrepreneur, Rex Moribe, explained to us how being an engineer today requires problem-solving, creative skills like never before.
Trends in STEM Careers – Students Lose Interest in IT Professions
As we continue to explore how traditional STEM careers (and their education requirements) evolve, we should also take a look at the relatively new STEM jobs that students should consider, but that they may not know much about (due, in part, to these positions being new and evolving quickly based on market demands). Data Scientist is one such position.
This past week, a study was published by the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), an IT industry trade group, that surveyed over 1,000 millennials about desirable careers. The research showed that, while most students between the ages of 13 and 24 are very comfortable with technology, only 19% of them are interested in IT careers (Managing the Multigenerational Workforce). This shouldn’t be surprising. The IT profession has long been made fun of in the media as being unfulfilling, mind-numbing and “unsexy.” For example, take a look at Jennifer Aniston’s 1999 movie, Office Space — considered to be one of the defining movies on office culture of that era.
Data scientists, however, are a modern, more creative, multi-disciplinary version of the tradition IT professional (Data Science Falls Into Many Roles). Therein lies it’s strongest selling point with students. Data science is not just a job, it’s creative adventure that has a potentially huge impact on business.
But what is a Data Scientist? Few of us (let alone students) know exactly what data scientists do or what the qualifications are to become one. While we may be tempted to define data scientists via a dictionary or Wikipedia (gasp!), we’ve decided to offer a definition from IBM — a leader in the data science space:
“Rising alongside the relatively new technology of big data is the new job title data scientist. While not tied exclusively to big data projects, the data scientist role does complement them because of the increased breadth and depth of data being examined, as compared to traditional roles.
A data scientist represents an evolution from the business or data analyst role. The formal training is similar, with a solid foundation typically in computer science and applications, modeling, statistics, analytics and math. What sets the data scientist apart is strong business acumen, coupled with the ability to communicate findings to both business and IT leaders in a way that can influence how an organization approaches a business challenge. Good data scientists will not just address business problems, they will pick the right problems that have the most value to the organization. The data scientist role has been described as “part analyst, part artist.” — IBM
Data scientists are in demand in almost every field as companies seek to understand the never-ending mountain of data flowing in from new technology that is evolving quicker than we can understand it:
“Whether an agricultural scientist wants to know the percentage increase in the yield of wheat this year as compared to last year’s (and the reasons associated with it) or if a financial company wants to classify its customers based on their creditworthiness (before granting loans) or whether a retail organization wants to rewards extra points to its loyal customers, all need data scientists to process large volume of both structured and unstructured data in order to take crucial business decisions.” — Who Is a Data Scientist?
Salaries for data scientists are high and accelerating as the demand for these experts grow. According to Burch Works Executive Recruiting, data scientist salaries average (for non-managers) $120k with a mean bonus of 14.5 percent, and for managers $183k with a 19.5 percent bonus.
Do you know of any students in your classroom that would be interested in this job description? If so, here are the primary skills (posted by Edureka!) students will need to become Data Scientists:
- Be very innovative and distinctive in his approach in applying various techniques intelligently to extract data and get useful insights in solving business problems and challenges.
- Have the ability to locate and construe rich data sources.
- Have a hands-on experience in Data mining techniques such as graph analysis, pattern detection, decision trees, clustering or statistical analysis.
- Develop operational models, systems and tools by applying experimental and iterative methods and techniques.
- Analyze data from a variety of sources and perspectives and find out hidden insights.
- Perform Data Conditioning – that is, converting data into a useful form by applying statistical, mathematical tools and predictive analysis.
- Research, analyze, execute, and present statistical methods to gain practical insights.
- Manage large amounts of data even during hardware, software and bandwidth limitations.
- Create visualizations that will help anyone understand the trends in data analysis with ease.
- Be a team leader and communicate effectively with other business analysts, product Managers and Engineers.
These are all skills that need to be “baked-in” to students throughout their schooling (from K12 through college). They can begin to gain these skills as early as elementary school (STEM for Elementary School Students – How to Instill a Lifelong Love of Science), and continued throughout middle and high school through problem-solving, inquiry-based curriculum.
INFOGRAPHIC: The Data Science Industry: Who Does What
The fine folks over at DataCamp created the following infographic to make sense of the various definitions and perceptions of what data scientists do, who hires them, and what’s really needed to become one. By far, this is a great, comprehensive breakdown worth sharing with high school and college students interested in creative, technical careers.
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