Earning a college degree takes more than time and effort—it requires a significant financial investment. With college costs on the rise, how can a prospective student ensure he or she gets the best bang for their education bucks? According to a report from Thrivent Mutual Funds highlighted in a recent edition of Forbes magazine, choosing a major that can translate into a data science career is one way to ensure that your career earning power will allow you to pay off those student loans quickly. The Thrivent Mutual Funds 100 Best Careers in America categorizes jobs by the amount of education needed to land a job in a field: an associate’s degree or certification, a four-year degree, or an advanced degree.
Careers were ranked based on the income you can expect and also on the availability of jobs in the field. The report notes that both factors are important. A career that pays well in a field where job opportunities are shrinking (for example, aerospace engineering) might not be the best long-term path for someone who wants their education to pay off over the long haul. Likewise, a career with very high demand but low salary might mean guaranteed employment, but at a low wage (for example, hair stylists are in high demand, but the median salary is low). Among the top careers for those with four-year degrees, data science-related fields fared extremely well. Software developer ranked number 1 on the list followed by computer and information systems manager. The median pay tops $100,000 for both and the fields are growing fast. Other jobs that require data science literacy and analytics competence also made the top 10 on this list, including computer systems analyst, information security analyst, and management analyst.
Of course, many of the fastest growing, highest paying career choices require data literacy and an ability to analyze data even if they are not data science jobs per se. Financial managers, for example, make high salaries in a growing field, and must be able to sift through mountains of data to spot trends, understand markets, and make the best decisions for their clients. Web developers, the top career on the list of jobs requiring a two-year degree or certificate, often manage large, database-driven websites where data management, data access, and search engine optimization are crucial to success. Is an understanding of data, how to use it, manage it, and act on it, the newest foundational skill essential for career success in the 21st century? Probably so. It can also help you with very practical concerns, for example interpreting the automatic diagnostics that are done daily on your new car so you can figure out a better route to work and improve your gas mileage. How to afford that fancy data-driven car? A data science education that opens up many well-paying career opportunities is a good place to start.