Updated on 26 Oct 2021

How to Become a Data Scientist in the US?

Ned Krastev
Published on 11 Jun 2021 5 min read

In 2020, for the first time since 2016, data scientist wasn’t rated as the top job in the United States, according to Glassdoor’s annual ranking.

Nevertheless, in 2020, it was ranked third, being neck and neck with the top two positions - frontend engineer and Java developer.

This goes to show you that data scientist continues to be an amazing career opportunity. In fact, the average data scientist job satisfaction and salary reported on Glassdoor beat those of front-end engineers and Java developers. However, these two positions won the competition due to the greater number of job openings. To be precise, there were around 6,500 data scientist job openings on Glassdoor in 2020, which was more or less the same number as in 2019. By contrast, the number of openings for front-end engineers exceeded 13,000.

It seems that the data science field is becoming more competitive and supply is starting to catch up to demand. We can come to this conclusion judging by the constant number of job postings year on year and the fact that the number of prepared candidates is increasing.

So, in this article, we’ll study the data scientist job market in the US with the aim to define several key aspects you need to take into account if you want to become a data scientist in the United States: job application, salary, education and skills requirements, years of experience, top industries, and locations with the highest number of job openings.

We also made a very informative video on the topic. You can watch it below or scroll down if you prefer reading.

What Is Specific About the Data Scientist Job Application in the US?

Data Scientist Visa Requirements

First off, one of the key country-specific factors to keep in mind when eyeing a career in the US are visas.

If you live outside the United States and want to work there, you generally must apply for a visa from the U.S. Department of State (DOS), unless a visa is not required for people from your country. You may visit DOS’ Travel Without a Visa page for more information.

This makes things troublesome for non-US applicants. It is difficult to get a data science interview and be considered for a position if the company you’re applying for isn’t convinced you’re the right person for the respective role. As a rule of thumb, smaller companies tend to be more open to sponsoring foreign applicants. And if you want to work for a larger corporation, you might explore the option of getting hired in a different country and gradually communicate that you want to be transferred to the US.

It really depends on your home country and which company you want to work for – whether it is a multinational enterprise or not. This will determine what kind of visa options can you rely on. By all means, you should learn the basics about L, H1B, and TN visas depending on that.

That said, a visitor visa can be helpful for attending an interview at the very least (although nowadays people all over the world are more and more open to Zoom meetings and an initial introduction online).

The next important topic we would like to discuss is job boards.

Data Science Job Boards in the US

Junior candidates will find plenty of suitable opportunities on popular websites like CareerBuilder, Glassdoor, Indeed, Job2Careers, Monster, Nexxt, Resume-Library, Snagajob, US.jobs, ZipRecruiter, and, of course, LinkedIn.

In addition, It’s great if you can keep an eye on industry-leading blogs such as KDnuggets and subscribe to email newsletters such as datascienceweekly.org.

What Is the Data Scientist Salary in the US?

How about compensation? What is the salary you can expect if you manage to become a data scientist in the US?

After all, many people are excited by this career path in this country because it is among the highest-paying opportunities in the entire job market.

As you probably know, Glassdoor is the best place to see some actual salary data reported by people working in the data science industry.

The average data scientist salary in the US is \$113,309 per year. This figure is based on a pretty large sample - 6,606 salaries. The range Glassdoor provides is very wide, though. Data scientist salaries in the US start from around \$83k and could reach \$154k.

Which companies pay the most?

The highest salaries shown on Glassdoor are paid by Cisco and AirBnB while the lowest was reported at Booz Allen Hamilton.

Data scientist salary in the US

Which Universities Offer the Best Data Science Education in the US?

How about education? Which are some of the best universities offering a Master's in Data Science in the States?

According to Forbes columnist and fellow instructor in the 365 Data Science Program, Bernard Marr, the top 3 data science Master's programs in the world are based in the US and are:

  • MIT - Master of Business Analytics
  • Stanford - MsC in Statistics: Data Science
  • Carnegie Mellon - Master of Computational Data Science

Besides these programs, there are a few others that deserve an honorable mention, too:

  • Harvard’s Master of Science in Data Science
  • University of Washington's Master of Science in Data Science
  • The University of Texas at Austin's Master of Science in Business Analytics

Best data science master's programs in the US

But, of course, you can become a data scientist even if you do not graduate from a target school. Truth be told, it’s mostly about your skills.

Let’s take a look at the most popular programming languages in the US for that matter.

What Are the Best Programming Languages for Data Science in the US?

We studied several hundred data scientist profiles on LinkedIn and saw that Python tops the list. 29.6%. of data scientists in the US use it as their primary coding language. R comes in second with 22.8%. SQL is number 3 with 22%. And Java is a distant fourth with 5.2%.

Best programming languages, according to data scientists in the US

In another study, we researched 1,170 job postings in the US to see things from the employer’s perspective. This second study showed a similar picture – 32% of job ads mentioned Python, 25% R, 22% SQL, and 5.6% Java.

Best programming languages, according to data science job offers in the US

So, we can conclude that Python is the most popular programming language for data science in the US and R comes in second. No surprise there.

What Data Scientist Skills Are Required by US Employers?

When it comes to data scientist skills, the most frequently mentioned ones are:

  • Machine Learning
  • Statistics
  • Python programming
  • Data analysis
  • Algorithms
  • Computer science
  • Data visualization
  • Statistical modeling
  • Predictive modeling
  • Statistical analysis system

Most in-demand data scientist skills in the US

In terms of popular machine learning techniques, we have:

  • Deep Learning
  • Clustering
  • NLP
  • Predictive modelling
  • TensorFlow
  • Neural Networks
  • Scikit-learn
  • Keras
  • Decision trees
  • CNN
  • Supervised machine learning
  • Support vector machine
  • RNN
  • Computer vision

How Many Years of Data Science Experience Do You Need in the US?

How many years of experience does the typical data scientist have in the US?

20% had more than 5 years of experience on the job.

33% have worked as a data scientist for 3 to 5 years.

Another 22.6% have between 2 and 3 years.

15% between 1 and 2, and 8.5% started in the last twelve months.

Required experience for data scientists in the US

Which Are the Best Industries for Data Science in the US?

In terms of employment by industry, we have Technology and IT, which outweigh the rest of the sectors significantly – almost 72% of US data scientists in our LinkedIn sample were employed in Tech firms.

What Are the Best US Locations for Data Science Jobs?

Finally, we examined the states in which we saw the highest number of data scientist job postings – here is a nice visualization, which shows that California, Virginia, Washington, and New York top the list.

We certainly hope that this article will be helpful to anyone who wants to become a data scientist in the US. Remember, knowing where you want to get is the first step to getting there.

Top 12 states with the highest number of data science job offers in the USA

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Ned Krastev

Co-founder of 365 Data Science

Ned is a Master of Finance at Bocconi University with years of advisory experience in some of the world’s top international enterprises. A visionary and co-founder of 365 Data Science, he has helped thousands of students gain competitive advantage through his courses Introduction to Excel, Advanced Microsoft Excel, Data Analysis with Excel Pivot Tables, Python for Finance, and Introduction to Tableau.