If you enjoy working with information and data, you will definitely want to know how to become an information scientist.
Over a decade of working in this field, I have seen many young people struggle to get this job because they don’t know where to start.
You’re lucky because the steps below will help your career path be easy. Keep scrolling to discover!
Before you learn how to get this job, you need to understand the job duties, roles, and work environment.
In simple terms, information scientists work with data and information. They know a lot about:
- Organize and manage information and data
- How different fields work
You will often find them working in the following areas:
Regarding their roles, they make systems to gather, store, and organize information. So they help find information quickly and easily. Also, they use math and technology to find patterns in big data sets.
In today’s world, where data is vital, these people help companies and groups to make good choices.
So what are the daily tasks of an information scientist? Many people think this job will only have to work with information and data in research labs. But my duties are much more interesting than that, specifically:
- Gather information from different places and make sure it’s correct and updated.
- Use computer skills to find essential information in the data.
- Create systems to store information to find it easily when needed.
- Answer FOI requests.
- Make graphs and charts to show the information in a clear way that people can understand.
- Work with other experts in different fields to understand what the data means.
- Advise on what to do based on the information.
- Train and supervise assistant staff.
In short, my job is to make sense of information, help others understand it, and use it to make good choices and find new ideas.
Some places where information scientists work include:
- Technology companies
- Healthcare institutions
- Financial institutions
- Academic and research institutions
- Government agencies
- Consulting firms
Depending on your expertise, you can pick from these fields and locations. Of course, each will give you a different work environment.
I work in a technology company. I have a comfy office where I use a computer to study data, write code, and make reports. Here, I focus and get things done.
I usually meet with coworkers from different parts of the company to talk about projects. Sometimes, I work from home or anywhere with the internet.
Once in a while, I go to the factories to collect information because I work in a technology company. If you work in the medical industry, you occasionally go to the hospital to collect information.
Before getting into specific guides, I must emphasize that this work requires a deep knowledge of information and data. Thus, you have to spend a lot of time studying and gaining the needed degrees. Here are the specific steps:
Learning programming languages is the first step to getting this job. Why? Because as an information scientist, you’ll deal with lots of data, and coding helps you work with it well.
These languages help you clean up data and organize it. For example, you can use codes to quickly sort through large amounts of data and find what you need.
The most common languages for this job are Python, R, and SQL:
- Python has a rich ecosystem of libraries such as NumPy and pandas. So it’s ideal for data manipulation and analysis.
- R is for making graphs and learning statistics.
- SQL is handy when you’re dealing with databases.
To start, you don’t need to be a programming expert. Begin with the basics, like knowing how commands work and how to write simple programs. Then, practice with real data and small projects to get better.
Besides, online courses and tutorials can help you learn programming step by step. Also, I recommend joining online communities to learn from others and share your progress.
You can’t get this job without a degree. So the most vital step is earning a Bachelor’s degree. What you learn in universities will be very useful for your future work. After graduating, you will have a deep understanding of:
- Working with information
- Using computers to organize information
- Big sets of data
- Keeping information safe and private
To begin, look for universities that offer degrees in:
- Computer Science
- Information Science
- Data Science
- Related disciplines
I recommend seeking ones that provide practical experience through projects and labs.
After finishing your Bachelor’s degree, getting job experience is like practicing what you’ve learned. You can use the skills you gained in real situations.
Besides, you’ll face different problems in real jobs. Solving these problems teaches you new things and helps you think better.
In this process, you can learn about the latest trends and tools people use. Moreover, working lets you meet other people in your field. They can help you study and maybe even help you find better jobs in the future.
To get job experience, you can choose one of the following:
- Internships: Work as an intern where you help and learn in a workplace. You can seek internships in companies or research institutions focusing on information analysis, information management, or related fields.
- Entry-level jobs: Start with beginner jobs like a junior information analyst. These jobs help you learn while working.
Usually, finding an internship is the easiest way to gain experience. After completing the internship, you will be retained and appointed to an official position if you have performed well.
Besides a Bachelor’s degree, you should have one (or a few) certifications to prove you have top-notch skills in this field.
Moreover, many companies look for certified pros when hiring. So it can open doors to better job positions.
When you choose a certification, look for one that matches your skills and career goals. Some popular ones are:
- Certified Information Systems Security Pro (CISSP)
- Certified Information Pro (CIP)
- Certified Analytics Pro (CAP)
Remember, each has its own needs and focus areas. After choosing the suitable one, invest time preparing for the exams.
In fact, you don’t always need a Master’s degree to get this job. Some firms accept a Bachelor’s degree. Yet, having a Master’s degree can make you more qualified for better jobs.
For basic jobs, a Bachelor’s degree is okay. But if you want higher positions or to be really good at some parts of this field, a Master’s degree is helpful.
Also, if you’re interested in doing research or teaching, this degree can be a step toward that. So, how to get a Master’s degree? Like a Master’s degree, you need to explore universities offering Master’s degrees in the field you want to learn.
Don’t forget to evaluate tuition costs, scholarships, and financial aid options because these programs often require solid financial resources.
Why do you need a portfolio? Instead of just saying you’re good in this field, your portfolio provides actual evidence of projects you’ve worked on.
Your portfolio reflects your style and expertise. It’s like creating your own brand as an information scientist.
If you have no experience building a portfolio, check out my tips below:
- Select projects: Choose projects that show different skills. It could be information analysis, visualization, programming, or any related task.
- Describe clearly: Explain each project clearly. What was the problem? What did you do? What were the results?
- Visuals matter: Use graphs, charts, and visuals to make your work easy to understand.
- Share code: If you’ve done programming, share snippets of your code to show your technical abilities.
- Include your process: Explain how you approached the project to show how you think and solve problems.
- Online platforms: Create a website or use platforms like GitHub, LinkedIn, or Behance to host your portfolio.
- Regular updates: Keep adding new projects to your portfolio as you complete them.
Building a portfolio is like building a showcase of your talents. It lets you prove you’re more than just words: you’re a skilled information scientist ready to take on real-world challenges.
At this point, I believe you have enough knowledge, skills, and confidence to apply for this position.
You can begin by searching for job openings that match your skills and interests. I recommend looking on job boards, company websites, and pro networking platforms.
Then, create a resume highlighting your skills, education, and the projects in your portfolio. You should tailor it to each job by emphasizing the skills and experiences most relevant to the position.
Don’t forget to craft a cover letter introducing yourself. You can explain your interest in the role and highlight how your skills align with the job.
If your application is successful, you’ll have an interview. Before participating in the interview, I recommend researching the company, reviewing common interview questions, and preparing examples of how your skills match the job.
After attending an interview, you can send a follow-up email to express your gratitude and reiterate your interest in the position.
Remember, the process might vary from company to company. But staying organized, showcasing your skills, and well communicating your passion for the role will increase your chances of landing the job.
Even if you have got this job, you must continue to hone and develop your skills as the field is constantly changing.
You can learn from your seasoned colleagues to better understand your workflow and how to do your job well.
Over time, as you present yourself as an excellent employee, you can advance to higher positions with better salaries.
You need to hone both soft skills and hard skills if you want to get this job and achieve success in the future.
- Computer languages: Know how to use Python, R, and SQL to do data tasks.
- Working with information: Be good at cleaning up data, doing math with it, and using tools to understand it better.
- Using databases: Understand how to store and find information in organized systems.
- Information visualization: Make graphs and pictures that show information in a way people can understand.
- Handling big data: Know about big data tools like Hadoop, Spark, and cloud-based that help with really huge amounts of information.
- Using special tools: Use libraries like Pandas, NumPy, Scikit-Learn, and TensorFlow for data manipulation, analysis, and machine learning.
- Critical thinking: Think deeply about problems and find solutions.
- Problem-solving: Be great at finding answers, even if the problems are tough.
- Communication: Speak clearly about information, even if the person you’re talking to doesn’t know much about it.
- Teamwork: Work well in teams, as this field often involves teaming up with domain experts, analysts, and coders.
- Attention to detail: Be careful about the small things when working with information.
- Curiosity: Be willing to learn new things and stay updated with what’s new.
- Adaptability: Being flexible and open to new approaches and technologies as this field evolves.
Usually, it’ll take you 5-7 years to get this job, depending on your path, learning pace, and the level of expertise you aim for.
It might take about 3 to 4 years to finish a Bachelor’s degree for a basic job. But for more advanced roles, a Master’s degree could take 1 to 2 years after your Bachelor’s.
Then, gaining experience through internships, projects, and jobs could take months to years.
The job outlook for information scientists is quite promising. The field is expected to grow by 21% from 2021-2031. And there will be around 3,300 job openings/year over the next decade.
In 2023, the average yearly pay for this job is around $135,978 and can go up to $198,941 for senior positions.
Overall, the field not only offers good job prospects but also provides a high salary. The demand for skilled information scientists is rising with the increasing reliance on data and information.
As a result, it’s a favorable career choice for those interested in working with information, computers, and technology.
So we went through the journey of how to become an information scientist. From the first step of learning programming languages to applying for this position, the process requires a lot of time and effort.
But if you have enough passion and perseverance, I believe you will get this job and achieve much success! Good luck!