Business Insider's story about a Google developer who makes $3 million a year caused something of a furor this week, despite the fact that IT World could not confirm whether this $3 million man actually exists. So how much do companies pay the bearers of the hottest job title in tech: data scientist? The answer is not as much as you might think.
Tech publisher O' Reilly surveyed the 2012 and 2013 attendees at the Strata Conference in Santa Clara, California and the Strata and Hadoop World events in New York, some of the top data science events in the world. Respondents came from 34 countries including the U.S. but O' Reilly, rather bizarrely considering the subject, does not provide numbers on the total number of respondents.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an software developer in 2012 was $93,000. Glassdoor's statistics show that the average total compensation for a Google engineer, including bonuses, is $144,546. The median salary of the U.S. data scientists surveyed by O' Reilly was $110,000.
Two major factors caused big variations in salaries. The first was the tools used by respondents. O' Reilly analyzed the correlations between tools and found two clusters. The Hadoop cluster contains R, Python, most of the Hadoop platforms, and a variety of machine learning, data management, and visualization tools which are designed to be used with large data sets. The SQL/Excel group contains more traditional, query-based tools such as Excel, SAS, and several SQL/RDB tools.
Users of the tools in the Hadoop cluster got paid more, and the figure climbed the more tools they used. The median salary was $85k for those who do not use any tools from the Hadoop cluster and climbed to $125k for those who use at least six.
The other major factor influencing data scientists' salaries was the type of company for which they worked. Early stage startups actually pay the most, a median salary of $130k, while those working in the government and education sectors languished at the bottom of the scale at $80k. Public companies paid a median salary of $110k.