Data Profession Job Satisfaction: Beware Of The Drop

Is Data Scientist still the sexiest job of the 21st century, or has it been replaced by Data Science Engineer, by Epidemiologist, or even Podcaster?

Recent KDnuggets Poll probed Data Professions job satisfaction, and here are the results and analysis, based on 477 responses in late March / early April.

Most interesting findings include

  • Job satisfaction has declined for ML Engineers, Data Scientists, Data Analysts
  • job satisfaction for Data Scientists starts high, then drops around 2-4 years, and later increases if they are able to stay in the profession long enough to acquire needed skills
  • Job satisfaction remained about the same for Data Engineers, Managers/Directors, and Professors
  • CDO / CAO have the highest job satisfaction, followed by Machine Learning Engineers and Professors. Data and BI analysts have the lowest job satisfaction (see Fig. 1)

Here is a highlight of the analysis – job satisfaction by position/title.

KDnuggets Poll: Job Satisfaction by Position

Fig. 1: KDnuggets Poll: Data Profession Job Satisfaction by Position.

We note that CDO (Chief Data Officer) / CAO / VP position has the highest job satisfaction, followed by Machine Learning Engineer, Professor, and Data Engineer.

Data Scientists are the largest group but are in the middle for job satisfaction

BI/ Data Analysts have the 2nd lowest job satisfaction.

The lowest job satisfaction is for the “Other” group – perhaps those are people who want to be Data Scientists or Machine Learning Engineers, but are not able to?

For this analysis we compute the weighted job satisfaction for a group X as

Weighted_Job_Sat = 2* Very_satisfied(X) + Satisfied(X) – Unsatisfied(X) – 2* Very_unsatisfied(X),

where Satisfied(X) is the fraction of respondents who were satisfied, etc.
For simplicity, we will abbreviate weighted job satisfaction as “job satisfaction” in the rest of this analysis.

Fig. 2 compares job satisfaction with a similar KDnuggets job satisfaction poll in 2018.
We see that job satisfaction has declined significantly for Machine Learning Engineers, Data Scientists, and especially Data / BI Analysts. It has remained about the same for Professors, Data Engineers, Managers/Directors, and for the unhappy “Other” group.
It has increased for Students and Software developers, but their numbers are not large enough to be statistically significant.

Poll 2021 Job Satisfaction Trend

Fig. 2: KDnuggets Poll: Data Job Satisfaction, 2018 vs 2021.

We also asked “How many years have you been in this job/position?”, and the respondents skewed towards the more junior range – see Fig. 2, with the median around 2.5-3 years range.

Poll: Years in the current job

Fig. 3: KDnuggets Poll: Years in the current Job/Position

For two most common positions: Data Scientist and BI/Data Analyst, we examined the job satisfaction vs years on the job, and results are striking – see Fig. 4.

Poll 2021 Job Satisfaction Data Scientist Analyst Years

Fig. 4: KDnuggets Poll: Job Satisfaction for Data Scientists and Data Analysts over the years

We see that job satisfaction for Data Scientists starts high, but then decreases around 2-4 years, as the reality of the job sets in. If the data scientists stay in the job long enough to overcome this “drop” then job satisfaction increases again.

So, advice for beginning Data Scientists: Beware of the drop! Things will get better if you stay long enough in the profession to acquire needed skills!

Data Analysts job satisfaction takes a different trajectory, increasing after a few years but then dropping if they stay too long and are not able to advance.

The poll participation by region was

  • Europe, 33%
  • US/Canada, 30%
  • Asia, 20%
  • Latin America, 8.6%
  • Africa/Middle East, 4.8%
  • Australia/NZ, 3.8%

Finally, we examined the job satisfaction by region.
Data professions in Latin America has the highest job satisfaction (0.8), followed by Australia/NZ (0.56), Europe (0.43), US/Canada (0.26). Asia had the lowest (-0.12).

Poll 2021 Job Satisfaction by Region

Fig. 5: KDnuggets Poll: Job Satisfaction by Region

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.


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