By the Numbers: Making Sense of Job Titles in Analytics

There are many job titles in the burgeoning field of Data Analytics, but how are these titles defined? What skills do job seekers need to develop to be a Business Intelligence Analyst, a Data Scientist, a Data Engineer, or another of the multiplying job titles in the field? Students – as well as many employers- are asking these questions. The answer, it turns out, is difficult to find. Sure, there are articles and blog posts that propose distinct definitions for these jobs, but do these articles reflect observable trends in the job market? Employers at the recent Analytics Career Panel hosted by the Rutgers Master of Business and Science program on October 22, 2015 noted that businesses are creating their own titles and there is little agreement or standardization in the field. The panelists were able to give broad examples of how jobs are conceptualized, such as noting that business intelligence analysts often work with more summarized data than other data occupations encounter. In the end, though, even the employers had difficulty explaining trends in skill needs in these job titles.

Previous work to analyze trends in the data science job market has used data from individuals currently working in data science positions to form a picture of various jobs. Harris, Murphy and Vaisman (2013), for example, found that many people working in data science jobs require similar skills, but emphasize these skills differently. In addition, some studies have relied on other sources, including on-line job postings, to analyze software requirements across multiple job titles (Muenchen, 2015). No studies were found, however, that analyzed demand-side data regarding the skills employers are seeking for particular job titles and within particular geographic areas, which can provide an important look into how much consensus exists among employers regarding the key skills entry-level applicants need for particular jobs.

Digging into Job Postings Data to Understand Analytics Jobs

Using a tool called Labor Insight from Burning Glass, which de-duplicates, parses, and allows you to mine data from on-line job postings, we examined the skills most frequently sought by employers across thousands of on-line job ads.  We set out to answer these three questions:

  1. What are the key differences in the skills required for different analytics job titles?
  2. Do these skill requirements – and demand for particular job titles - vary by metropolitan area or are they relatively stable across the nation?
  3. What skills, if any, are in demand nationally across multiple analytics job titles? In other words, what skills are valuable for many different job titles?

We examined job postings data in Labor Insight from the last 12 months across various analytics job titles and major metropolitan areas. We selected job titles commonly talked about in articles and blogs related to data science, but then whittled down our selections to include only those titles that had at least 500 jobs advertised nationally. To help students and other entry-level jobseekers, we limited our analysis to jobs requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree and 5 years or less experience. The job titles found included Data Scientist, Data Engineer, Data Analyst, Business Intelligence Analyst, Consultant (Analytics), and Big Data Software Developer.

While this analysis has the potential to show jobseekers and employers what trends, if any, are emerging in terms of the skills sought for particular job titles, there are limitations to this work. Not all jobs are advertised on-line and not all of those on-line are captured by Burning Glass (Though they do have a robust system to obtain – and de-duplicate - as many as possible. See here: http://burning-glass.com). The unstructured nature of job ads can make them difficult to completely de-duplicate, however, and to parse effectively. Also, not all job ads include the same types of information. Since this data includes only the skills that are listed in job ads, we may not be able to form a full picture of the job duties or, without further analysis, understand how large groups of skills cluster together. Unfortunately, this type of meta-analysis of the skills is beyond the scope of this small project. Finally, since these job titles are new, as Vorhies (2014) points out, it is possible that a job one employer labels as Data Scientist, may actually be seeking skills that another employer has labeled as an entry-level data analyst and vice versa. On this last point, however, our hope is that when we see broad agreement on key skills for a job across job postings, that what we are observing is an emerging consensus among employers that such skills are important for the job titles advertised.

Analytics Titles & Job Skills by the Numbers: 2015

Title: Data Scientist

Data Scientists are one of the most frequently advertised job titles in the Analytics field. There were 7,753 on-line job postings for Data Scientists across the U.S. In the last 12 months, according to our analysis of Burning Glass data. Python was the most commonly requested programming language, though still only about half of all job ads for Data Scientists included this. About half of all ads also focused on Machine Learning and SQL, while 43% required Mathematics. About 1/3 of the ads for this title were seeking people who had R, data mining, Hadoop, SAS, and/or JAVA skills. Looking across the skills requested in these job ads, it appears that employers expect Data Scientists to develop strong foundational knowledge in math, machine learning, and data mining and related concepts, as well as a range of software and programming expertise, which may vary from R at one job, to SAS at another. See Table 1 for a list of the top 15 skills sought for Data Scientists.
 

Table 1. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Data Scientists in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

Title: Data Engineer

There were a total of 3,600 qualified job postings for data engineers in the U.S. in the last 12 months.  A large majority of postings (78%) for Data Engineers require SQL. Approximately half require skills in big data, generally, as well as the ability to operate key software for analytics, including Hadoop and Python, as well as skills in more general web-based programming platforms, such as JAVA. Over 40% of job ads also seek people who are skilled in ETL. Beyond this, however, less than 1/3 of job ads agree on other skillsets. See Table 2 for a list of the top 15 skills in demand for Data Engineers.

Table 2. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Data Engineers in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

Title: Data Analyst (Analytics Specialty)

While there are many job postings for data analysts, in general, we found only 785 that contained terms related to analytics, such as data science, analytics, big data, etc. See Table 3 for a list of the Top 15 skills in demand nationally for this title over the last year.

Table 3. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Data Analyst (Analytics Specialty) in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

More than two-thirds of the job ads required SQL and data analysis skills. From here, though, consensus seems to diverge. Nearly 40% of ads requires SAS and 35% specifically asked for skills in mathematics.  Data mining, big data, and Python skills were required for less than a third of these jobs. See Table 3, above, for a list of the top 15 skills in demand for Data Analysts in analytics. The lack of demand for specific analytics and programming skills beyond SQL and SAS may suggest that employers are labeling these jobs as more entry-level, in general, than some other titles.

Title: Business Intelligence Analyst

There were 4,086 qualified job postings located for Business Intelligence Analysts in the U.S. See Table 4, below, for a list of the top 15 skills in demand for this job in the U.S. over the last 12 months.

Table 4. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Business Intelligence Analyst in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

Once again we can see that nearly two-thirds of all the job ads for Business Intelligence Analysts require SQL, but beyond this there is a sharp drop-off in consensus among employers regarding the key skills demanded for this job title. Forty-one percent require data warehousing skills and nearly a quarter focus on Tableau, ETL, and Business Analysis skills. To the extent that there is some consensus, it appears that employers expect Business Intelligence Analysts to be responsible for maintaining and extracting information from databases with an emphasis on creating reports and visualizations that managers can use. The lack of consensus around many skills needed for this position, however, may also signal that employers are using people in this type of job in quite different ways within their organizations.  Given the breadth of business problems addressed with analytics, this variety is perhaps not surprising. 

Title: Consultant (Analytics)

There were 3,705 job postings for consultants working in the analytics area. To narrow the field, we only searched for consultants that had at least one keyword related to data analytics (e.g., data science, data engineering, big data, analytics, and others).  See Table 5 for a list of the top 15 skills in demand for Analytics Consultants in the U.S

 

Table 5. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Consultant (Analytics) in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

While there are a large number of jobs advertised for Analytics Consultants, there is little evidence of consensus across job postings regarding the skills needed. Skills in SAS were in demand for just over 1/3 of all job postings for this job title and SQL, economics, and mathematics were in demand for around ¼. Beyond this, however, other skills were in demand in less than 1/ 5 of all job ads.

Given that consultants are called in to businesses of all types to solve a wide range of problems, it is not surprising that there is little agreement on the skills required for the job. Overall, employers appear to expect Consultants to have a variety of foundational knowledge in areas ranging from mathematics, economics, business intelligence, and data management, warehousing, and analysis, as well as the ability to program common software, including SAS, SQL, and R. Consultants, perhaps, are the generalists of the Analytics world.

Title: Big Data Software Developer

Big Data Software Developer job ads totaled 1,347 for the period we analyzed. See Table 6 for the top 15 skills in demand for Big Data Software Developers.
 

Table 6. Top 15 skills in on-line job ads for Big Data Software Developer in the U.S. November 23, 2014-November 23, 2015

There is strong consensus among employers that Software engineering (87%) and big data (75%) are core skills for this position. In addition, approximately two-thirds of job ads for these positions require JAVA and/or Hadoop, while somewhat fewer than half require Python. About 1/3 require Hives and SQL. Not surprisingly, this is a programming-heavy job that requires a strong background in software development and distributed computing as well as the ability to program in multiple languages and platforms.

Conclusions

Some analytics job titles appear to be more well-defined in the job market than others.  There is significant consensus among job ads regarding several core skills needed for Big Data Software Developers, for example. It is clear that these jobs focus on software engineering and blend in big data and related analytics skills to a lesser extent. The high level of consensus, however, may be due to the fact that Software Developers are not a new, emerging occupation, so there has been an opportunity for some consensus to develop in the labor market about core skills for this position. The additional focus on analytics software is also not surprising.

There is also some emerging consensus on the top skills needed for Data Engineers and Data Analysts in analytics, with the former focused on a wider breadth and depth of analytics and related programming skills, and the latter being more specialized in applications like SAS in addition to SQL/MySQL. However, there is less agreement across job ads regarding which skills are critical for jobs including Business Intelligence Analysts and Consultants, especially. Anecdotal information from employers suggests that Business Intelligence Analysts tend to be involved in developing data visualizations for managers, though this was not evident in the Top 15 skills for this job title (It was, however, in the top 15 for Data Analysts).

Overall, one of the more striking trends is that one skill, SQL, is in the top 1 or 2 demand skills for at least 4 of the six job titles examined. This indicates that most companies have their data in some sort of database that is accessible via SQL, making this a core skillset across multiple analytics jobs.
How can students make sense of it all when determining which courses to take to launch your career in a particular direction? Given that many of the skill requirements of many job titles lack clear consensus among employers, and many require similar skills, taking a broad approach that focuses on the skills that have broad levels of agreement associated with them would seem to be a safe bet.

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References

Harris, H., Murphy, S., Vaisman, M. (2013) Analyzing the Analyzers: An Introspective Survey of Data Scientists and Their Work. O’Reilley. Accessed on December 02, 2015 at: http://www.oreilly.com/data/free/analyzing-the-analyzers.csp

Vorhies, W. (2014) How to Become a Data Scientist. Data Science Central Blog. Accessed on December 02, 2015 at: http://www.datasciencecentral.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-become-a-data-scientist

Muenchen, R. (2015) The Popularity of Data Analysis Software. Rforstats.com blog Accessed on December 20, 2015 at: http://r4stats.com/articles/popularity/