Is it time we scrap the title 'Data Scientist'?

Posting date:19 Dec 2018

I recently asked my network to describe the ideal data scientist; but, the truth of the matter is - the ideal data scientist doesn’t exist.

Not because of the candidate-short market we find ourselves in or the lack of professionals old enough to hold both a MSc and PhD in Data Science or relevant field but because of the wide range of requirements organisations have for Data Science professionals.

Shaun McGirr is Head of Data Science & Business Intelligence at Cox Automotive. Despite holding two BA degrees and a PhD in Political Science; on the Half Stack Data Science Podcast, he urges businesses to understand whether a PhD with multiple post-doctorates is really necessary for their needs. He believes that for 99% of them, it will be counter-productive.

On the other side of the spectrum sits a company I met with recently who required a Machine Learning specialist with a PhD, post-doctorate and further doctorate from a better post-doctorate group. The person must also have no prior commercial experience as they believe you are so far from the cutting edge in a commercial environment - you essentially de-skill. 

There is such a contrast from company to company that there is no single definition belonging to a Data Scientist causing a whole heap of trouble for the organisations looking to find them. A perfect professional with an MSc, PhD and further post-doctorate may be flawless for one organisation but they would be deemed over-qualified and out-of-touch by others.

The term ‘Data Scientist’ seems to incorporate so many varied roles and responsibilities, is it time to create more specific job titles – each with their own unique requirements?

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