The rapid growth of a market for specialized skills possessed by very few workers is part of the reason the Harvard Business Review recently predicted that 'Data Scientist' would become "the sexiest job of the 21st century."
That may be true. But so far, that specific job title remains almost as rare in advertisements for skilled technologists as it is among the population of IT workers as a whole.
In September 2011, leading IT job site Dice.com posted only five ads looking for a Data Scientist, a defining job title for big data projects. On Sept. 28 of this year, there were 43. "In percentage terms that's impressive, but the actual number is still pretty small," said Dice.com managing director Alice Hill.
[ For more on hiring to meet the demands of big data, see Tech Alone Not Enough To Manage Big Data. ]
On Jan. 3, 2012, a search for "big data" turned up 216 ads on Dice.com; on Sept. 28, there were 794 results. That's an increase of 368%, but 794 ads totals just .92% of the 86,000 or so technology jobs listed on Dice.com at any one time.
The fields of big data and data science are still so new that few people refer to them by name, according to Shalini Das, research director, for the Washington, D.C.-based CIO Executive Board.
Searching on specific product names endemic to the big data universe is easier, Das said. Dice.com's Hill agrees. "We've been getting hits on Hadoop forever, but we're seeing a lot of growth in searches for 'data modeling,' 'NoSQL,' 'MondoDB,' 'Pig,' 'Glass,' 'Jetty' -- all the related data-modeling, data-manipulation skills around big data," she said.
Taking all the related keywords and corresponding skills into account, the number of ads for jobs involved with big data projects increased by 75% during the past year, according to research firm WantedAnalytics, which gathers and studies trends in corporate hiring.
"If you look at the overall market, [job] postings have been relatively steady since February; there's about 2% growth," Hill said. "That's compared to overall IT unemployment of something like 3.6%."
So what's the outlook for big data hiring? Full employment at a premium salary for IT professionals with real skills and experience in data analysis.
"We haven't seen firm numbers on the kinds of premiums being paid, but anecdotally we're hearing [skilled] people are hard to find, and when you do find them, it takes an extra salary bump to get them to move from their current job," Hill said. "We've seen a lot of recruiting efforts at the Ph.D. level, to get people as they're finishing their degrees; there's a lot of demand for people with specialties in data modeling and data science."
"If you're qualified for 'the sexiest job of the 21st century,'" said Dice.com spokesperson Jennifer Bewley, "you'd better not be sitting on the sidelines."
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