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What’s the Starting Salary for a Data Scientist?

Joshua Weinstein - December 29, 2020

People who learn to code have many career options.  Data scientists are coders who utilize analytical skills to manage large amounts of data.  Programmers who work as data scientists earn high starting salaries that grow exponentially with each year of experience.  According to the 2018 Burtch Works Study , the average starting salary for an entry-level data scientist is $95,000 .  However, starting salary for data scientists can vary greatly based on a few factors.  We’ve highlighted two of those factors below so you’ll know what your labor is worth.

Data scientist manage information.


Geographic location profoundly impacts the starting salary for data scientists.  For example, an entry-level data scientist in California can earn an average of $10,000 more than an equally-qualified candidate in Washington.  Data scientists still make more than the national average in most locations. Check out the table below to get an idea of how your region stacks up against the national average.

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As you might expect, salaries in Silicon Valley top the charts.  While California may initially sound appealing, keep in mind that the cost of living is astronomical.  Depending on your lifestyle, the extra cash might not do you any good after taxes, rent, and fuel. Data scientists are in demand across the country, so chances are there’s a high-paying job waiting just down the road.


You don’t need a degree to become a data scientist, but it may bump your starting salary a little bit.  Currently, most data scientists have college degrees. According to the 2018 Burtch Works Study , at least 90% of current data scientist have a college degree, with the majority possessing a Master’s or PhD.  The sample size of the study makes it challenging to determine what non-college grads will make, but all indications point to a similar number.

Interestingly, the statistics indicate that salaries rise more with experience than education.  Due to data scientist shortages, many companies don’t care where (or if) you went to college. If you can do the work, you’ll earn the pay.  The Burtch Works Study also mentions the incredible success of coding bootcamp graduates in the data science field.  If you don’t want to spend four years in school, you can attend a coding bootcamp instead.

You’ll need an education to be a data scientist, but experience matters more than degrees.

How to Become a Data Scientist

You’ll need proper education to become a data scientist.  You can go back to college, but four-year universities are expensive and time-consuming.  Instead, you can enroll in an immersive coding bootcamp. A coding bootcamp will teach you everything you need to know in a matter of months, not years.  If you choose this route, you’ll need to find a bootcamp that specializes in data engineering. This part of the process can be tricky, but Career Karma will set you up with the perfect program right away.

Unlike college, many coding bootcamps won’t charge you a dime until you’re successful in the industry.  Coding bootcamp is a proven way to break into the tech industry, but it’ll take some grit and determination.  If you want to ditch your job and build a career in data engineering, all you need is persistence, a great coding bootcamp, and a little guidance.  Career Karma will get you through the process and set you up with the community you need to succeed.

Anybody can become a data scientist with the proper skills.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Joshua Weinstein

About the author: Joshua Weinstein is a senior staff writer focusing on future of work and alternative education programs.

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