Data scientists barely existed in the minds of IT managers, let alone C-suite executives, just a few years ago. Given today’s rate of change with advancements in Information Technology and as capabilities evolve in a globally competitive landscape – is there room in your executive team for a data scientist to ensure your business is taking advantage of the current technology trends?

The sorts of salaries these rarefied tech pros now command has meant theirs is a new professional.

The reasons for this don’t need much explaining. Except to say that as more and more aspects of our business and personal lives occur within digital environments, the ability to collect and interpret data will become as routine as business accounting, or recruitment. It won’t be a choice anymore.

But in the meantime, it’s worth taking note of the dynamics currently informing the market for data science professionals in order to figure out not only whether you can afford to hire one or more of them, but also whether they actually have the skills that your business needs.

“Data is the net natural resource for business. And while it’s seemingly bountiful and increasing, talented analytics professionals are essential to discover, interpret and present the insights that will help drive better business”, state the authors of the 2016 IAPA Skills and Salary Survey released earlier his year this year.

The Institute of Analytics Professionals Australia is the peak industry body representing Australia’s growing crop of data analytics and data science professionals.

Kicking off in 2012/13, the IASP Skills and Salaries Survey has become an important barometer of the local data analytics industry generally, while providing valuable insights into exactly what skills are most in demand where, and who’s getting paid what for what.

The report found the median salary for Australian data scientists remained steady at $130k.

However, respondents from the four highest paying sectors reported notable salary increases, suggesting continued competition in the labour market for experienced analytics professionals seeking to join well established internal analytics teams.

Data scientists in the ‘information media and telecommunications’ industry commanded the highest average salary of just over $150k, up from around $133k in 2015. Finance and insurance was second by a whisker with just under $150k, up from about $145k in 2015, when it held first place.

Graduates get a raise

The other big winners were data science graduates, who received starting salaries on average $11k more than during 2015.

Interestingly, this salary-jump for graduates coincided with a notable increase in the gap between actual skills and the expectations of employers.

Close to 70 percent of senior data analytics professionals said entry-level applications were unskilled.

“Whether that is because managers are asking for “unicorns” or the strong demand is drawing less skilled analytics professionals to apply for more highly skilled positions, both managers and analytics professionals will need to adjust their skills expectations and attainments to meet the burgeoning demand for analytics in business,” said the report’s authors.

The upshot of this is that for those smaller organisations serious about developing their data capabilities, there are definite risks associated with hiring people out of university, while the high costs of hiring experience professionals may be prohibitive.

It may make more sense, therefore for many businesses to consider seeking help from experienced managed services providers with specific expertise in big data analytics and data science.