Data science continues to be one of the hottest areas for IT employment in the U.S., but the type of data job you pursue and the area in which you live have a huge impact on your earning potential.
Job board Indeed.com recently took an in-depth look at the differences between data analysts and data scientists, and the results were enlightening for anyone considering or pursuing a career in data analysis.
Overall, the average data scientist earns $121,189, while the average data analyst makes $65,364. That's a whopping 86% increase for the data scientist.
Not surprisingly, those high data scientist salaries are attracting more job seekers than for data analyst jobs. Indeed.com saw an 8% increase in people searching for data science jobs between 2017 and 2019, but the number of people looking for data analyst jobs decreased by about 8%. Actual postings for both kinds of jobs has been on the rise, but while data science job postings climbed up at 55%, data analyst postings only grew 7%.
But before you commit yourself to a new career in data science, you should know that these jobs require a lot of skills. Most data scientists have at least a master's degree, and they are expected to have in-depth knowledge of machine learning, as well as coding languages like Python, R, and Java. Data analysts, on the other hand, need only a bachelor's degree and more familiarity with structured data technologies, like SQL and Microsoft Excel.
Perhaps the most interesting finding in the study was the location of the top-paying jobs for each type of role. Data scientist positions pay the best in the large cities -- primarily on the East and West Coast. The high cost of living in these areas mean that the exceptionally high salaries don't actually go as far as they might in other parts of the country.
By contrast, the best-paying data analyst positions are in the center of the country -- primarily the South and the Midwest. Here, the lower cost of living means that those salaries stretch a lot farther than you might expect. And in fact, the difference between the top-paying data science jobs and the top-paying data analyst jobs is much closer than it appears at first glance when you factor in the cost of living.
In defining the two roles, Indeed said:
"Data analysts sift through structured data that easily fits into the rows and columns of a spreadsheet or database (e.g., what people have listened to on Spotify, retail store purchase histories, medical records) to uncover hidden insights and trends that aren’t immediately obvious."
"Data scientists are qualified to do the work of a data analyst…and much more. They often interpret bigger, more complex datasets, including both structured and unstructured data (e.g., Netflix video thumbnails, social media activity, audio files). Plus, they design experiments -- after all, they are data “scientists” -- to solve advanced problems with code and build predictive models and machine learning algorithms."
The following slides take a closer look at the top five highest-paying cities for data analysts and the top five high-paying cities for data scientists.
Data Analysts: #5
According to Indeed.com, the fifth best-paying US city for data analysts is Atlanta. The average data analyst in the city earns $65,000, which equates to $66,657 when adjusted for cost of living.
Atlanta has the tenth largest economy in the country, and the 18th largest in the world. Its top employers that might hire data analysts include Delta Air Lines, Emory University (including its healthcare system), AT&T, Coca-Cola, UPS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many other retail, healthcare, and financial services companies.
Population in the city is just under half a million and growing, probably due in part to the fact that the city is much more affordable than others its size. Average household income is $53,843, and the average home price was $262,600 in 2016.
Data Analysts: #4
Data analysts earn slightly more in another southern city -- Dallas. The average is $67,625 per year, but due to the city's slightly higher expenses that equates to about $66,999 when adjusted for cost of living. Median household income is $47,243 (which is slightly lower than in Texas as a whole), and average home price is $299,275.
With a population over 1.3 million, Dallas is the ninth largest city in the U.S., and when you include the entire Dallas-Ft. Worth area, the number of residents climbs to 7.8 million, making it the seventh largest in the nation. Top employers that might hire data analysts include American Airlines, Bank of America, Texas Health Resources, Baylor Health Care System, Lockheed Martin, JP Morgan Chase, and others.
Data Analysts: #3
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis took third place for data analyst pay. There the average annual salary is $69,750, the equivalent of $75,457 when adjusted for cost of living. That's because the cost of living in this midwestern gem is significantly lower than the national average. Buying a home will likely cost you just $174,823, on average, and the median household income is $40,346, lower than in the state as a whole.
Top employers that might hire data analysts in the city include Anheuser-Busch, BJC Healthcare, Boeing, Mercy Healthcare, Emerson Electric, Express Scripts, Monsanto, and others.
Just over 300,000 residents call the city known for the giant arch home, and the population has been on the decline.
Data Analysts: #2
Des Moines, Iowa
The second-best-paying city for data analysts is another midwestern city that often gets overlooked -- Des Moines. The city has just over 200,000 residents, but despite its small size, it is home to some large companies, particularly in the insurance and financial services industry. Its top employers include Wells Fargo, UnityPoint Health Partners, Principle, MercyOne, Nationwide, John Deere, and others.
Part of what sets Des Moines apart is its very low cost of living. The average data analyst salary of $77,983 is the same as $82,272 elsewhere. Homeowners pay an average of just $145,225 to buy a house in the city, and the average household income is $49,203.
Data Analysts: #1
San Antonio, Texas
Data analysts looking to max out their earning potential should take a look at San Antonio. The city pays an average of $83,017 to data analysts, or $87,666 adjusted for cost of living.
San Antonio has around 1.5 million residents and is growing very quickly. The average home price is $176,188, and median household income is $49,268. Top employers that might hire data analysts include the local military base, USAA, Methodist Healthcare System, Zachry Group, Valero Energy, iHeartMedia, and others.
Data Scientists: #5
Los Angeles, California
The fifth-best U.S. city for data scientist salaries is Los Angeles, where the average annual income for data scientists is $129,309, or $106,421 adjusted for cost of living. The second largest city in the country, L.A. has a population of 13.1 million (18.7 million in the metropolitan area). Median household income in the city is $54,432. The exorbitant home prices in the city help drive up the cost of living; the average home price in 2016 was $809,939.
Top employers in the area that might employ data scientists include UCLA, government agencies, Kaiser Permanente, Northrop Grumman, Providence Health & Services, Walt Disney Co., Allied Universal, and others.
Data Scientists: #4
Another large city is fourth on the list. Chicago is the third largest city in the country with 2.7 million residents. Average data scientist salaries in Chicago are $111,590, or $107, 350 adjusted for cost of living.
While housing prices are a little high in Chicago, they aren't nearly as astronomical as in California. Average sales price in 2016 was $322,429, and the median household income was $53,006.
Top employers in the Windy City that might hire data scientists include government agencies, Northwestern Memorial Healthcare, Advocate Aurora Health, the University of Chicago, Amita Health, United Continental, Amazon.com, JPMorgan Chase, and others.
Data Scientists: #3
San Diego, California
Third place on the list went to San Diego, which pays data scientist an average of $141,831 or $118,712 adjusted for cost of living. San Diego is the eighth largest city in the country with a population of 1.4 million.
Like other parts of California, San Diego has very high housing costs. The average home sales price in 2016 was $663,679. But incomes are also very high -- $71,481 for the median household in the city.
If you're looking for a job in data science in the city, you might consider one of the largest employers, like the U.S. Navy, UC San Diego, Sharp HealthCare, Qualcomm, Dexcom, Kaiser Permanente, or Scripps Health.
Data Scientists: #2
Data scientists in Boston make a little bit less than those in San Diego, but their take-home pay is actually higher when you adjust for cost of living. The average data science salary in the city is $134,883, the equivalent of $119,871.
Just under 700,000 people live in Boston itself, but 4.8 million live in the larger metropolitan area, which is the tenth-largest in the country. Median household income is $63,621, and the average home price in 2016 was $639,086.
Top employers in Boston include Partners HealthCare, Beth Israel Lahey Health, University of Massachusetts, Harvard University, Boston University, Boston Children's Hospital, Alexion Pharmaceuticals, and Aramark Corp.
Data Scientists: #1
San Francisco, California
The highest-paying city in the country for data scientists outstrips the others by quite a large margin. San Francisco pays data scientists an average of $170,305, but due to the high cost of living, that is the equivalent of $128,240 elsewhere. Home prices in the city averaged over $1 million in 2016, and the median household income is $103,801.
San Francisco is the 13th largest city in the country with 883,000 residents. When you combine it with San Jose and Oakland, the entire area has about 4.7 million people, many of whom work in the technology industry. The area's top employers include Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Genentech, Hewlett Packard, Gap, McKesson, PG&E, and others.Cynthia Harvey is a freelance writer and editor based in the Detroit area. She has been covering the technology industry for more than fifteen years. View Full Bio