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What Does a Data Scientist Do?

Sandi Johnson
Sandi Johnson

Data scientists use an extensive understanding of business, combined with technical skills and statistical knowledge, to create methods for organizations to collect and interpret data. A data scientist helps an organization determine the questions that need answers, develops the methodology and technological tools needed to collect pertinent data, and builds the statistical models needed to derive answers from the data collected. In short, these professionals have the technical skills and business understanding needed to help an organization make decisions or develop useful products and services for customers, based on the analysis of data.

The exact particulars of a data scientist's job vary based on the industry in which the professional works. One data scientist might focus on the programming needed to gather specific data, while another uses existing tools in unique ways to further enhance the accuracy or effectiveness of data. Still another data scientist might combine existing tools and specially made tools to collect and analyze data in a way that helps the organization offer a new service or product.

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Woman posing

For example, data scientists help develop many of the convenience applications used on social networking websites. Data is collected about each individual’s employment and educational history, then this information is compared with current affiliations. Based on each individual’s history and current connections, an application makes recommendations for additional connections, possible job leads, or products and services of interest to individual members. Results typically display on the user’s home page or main profile screen. Using technical skills and creativity, the data scientists who developed these applications helped each website create a more useful user experience.

Similar applications allow a data scientist to collect, analyze, and report information about website visitors, in-store shoppers, and other customer information. Depending on the goals of the organization, such information may be used to create custom shopping experiences or test various marketing strategies. Many websites, for example, have applications that display tailored advertisements based on customer behavior. Before launching these applications, a professional data scientist had to program a means to collect customer information, analyze it, and produce an appropriate result to display.

Different industries and, in fact, different companies within the same industry, have different needs when it comes to daily tasks completed by a data scientist. While the tasks may differ, the skills needed remain the same. Professionals in this line of work need programming and other technical skills in order to develop appropriate tools to collect and manipulate data. Additionally, such professionals need creativity and critical thinking skills, as well as the ability to understand business needs, in order to know what data to collect and the different ways to interpret information.

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