Data Science & Big Data Career Paths

data science big data career paths

Navigating the world of data science can be as complex as the data sets that these professionals work with. As the field continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the array of job roles and career paths have expanded, encompassing a multitude of specializations ranging from Data Analysts and Machine Learning Engineers to Data Scientists. This dynamic landscape offers a wealth of opportunities, but it can also create confusion for those looking to embark on or advance their careers in data science.

In this blog, we aim to demystify these career paths in data science, offering clarity on the progression of roles, responsibilities, and skills needed for each. Whether you are a budding data enthusiast looking to break into the field, a seasoned professional seeking advancement, or an industry expert considering a shift in specialization, this blog will provide you with a clear roadmap to navigate your data science career journey.

Data Science Career Paths

As we delve into the exploration of data science career paths, it’s important to understand that this field is not monolithic. Instead, it’s a confluence of several interrelated domains, each with its own unique set of roles, responsibilities, and progression paths. For the purpose of this guide, we’ve categorized these into six high-level career paths: Data Analyst, Data Engineer, Data Scientist, Machine Learning/AI, Specialized Roles, and Management and Leadership. Each of these paths further branches into several sub-paths, representing more specific areas of expertise or progression. Here is the list of career path and sub-paths:

data science big data career paths

  1. Data Analyst: This path focuses on analyzing data to draw actionable insights.
    • Business Intelligence:
      • Business Intelligence Analyst: A Business Intelligence Analyst uses data to help the company make more informed business decisions by analyzing and interpreting data trends.
      • Business Intelligence Developer: A Business Intelligence Developer designs, develops, and maintains business intelligence solutions to enable data-driven decision making.
      • Business Intelligence Engineer: A Business Intelligence Engineer builds and maintains the systems and tools that enable business intelligence, often working closely with data architects and data analysts.
    • Data Analytics:
      • Junior Data Analyst: A Junior Data Analyst is an entry-level role where the individual assists in collecting and analyzing data to help companies make better business decisions.
      • Data Analyst: A Data Analyst interprets data and turns it into information which can offer ways to improve a business, thus affecting business decisions.
      • Senior Data Analyst: A Senior Data Analyst has a higher level of experience and often takes on more complex tasks and projects, including designing and implementing data-driven strategies for their organization.
      • Data Analytics Specialist: A Data Analytics Specialist applies advanced data analysis techniques, develops predictive models, and advises on the interpretation of complex data sets.
      • Data Analytics Manager: A Data Analytics Manager oversees a team of data analysts and ensures that the team’s data analysis efforts align with the company’s strategic goals.
  2. Data Engineer: This path involves designing, building, and maintaining the data architecture of the organization.
    • General Data Engineering:
      • Junior Data Engineer: A Junior Data Engineer is an entry-level role where the individual assists in developing, testing, and maintaining architectures such as databases and large-scale data processing systems.
      • Data Engineer: A Data Engineer is responsible for designing, developing, constructing, installing, testing, and maintaining data management systems.
      • Cloud Data Engineer: A Cloud Data Engineer specializes in designing, developing, and managing data pipelines and infrastructure in cloud environments, utilizing cloud technologies and services to enable scalable and efficient data processing and storage.
      • Senior Data Engineer: A Senior Data Engineer holds a higher level of experience and typically takes on complex projects, designing and leading the implementation of data flows to connect operational systems, data for analytics, and business intelligence systems.
      • Lead / Principal Data Engineer: A Lead Data Engineer manages a team of data engineers and oversees the design, development, and maintenance of a company’s data engineering infrastructure.
    • Architect:
      • Data Architect: A data architect designs and oversees the construction of an organization’s data infrastructure, ensuring data integration, storage, security, and scalability to meet business needs.
      • Big Data Architect: A big data architect specializes in designing and implementing solutions for handling large and complex datasets, leveraging distributed computing frameworks and technologies to extract valuable insights from big data.
      • AWS Data Architect: An AWS data architect designs and implements data solutions on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) platform, utilizing AWS services and technologies to architect scalable and cost-effective data systems.
      • Azure Data Architect: An Azure data architect designs and implements data solutions on the Microsoft Azure platform, leveraging Azure services and technologies to create robust and efficient data architectures.
      • Principal / Lead Data Architect: A Principal data architect is a senior-level role responsible for setting the overall data strategy, defining data standards and best practices, and guiding the design and implementation of complex data systems and architectures within an organization.
  3. Data Science: This path encompasses roles that use scientific methods, processes, and systems to extract knowledge and insights from data.
    • General Data Science:
      • Junior Data Scientist: A Junior Data Scientist is an entry-level role that involves applying statistical and machine learning techniques to analyze data, develop models, and extract insights to support decision-making processes.
      • Data Scientist: A Data Scientist uses statistical analysis, machine learning algorithms, and programming skills to uncover patterns and insights from data, solve complex problems, and develop predictive models for business applications.
      • Senior Data Scientist: A Senior Data Scientist is an experienced professional who leads and contributes to advanced data science projects, mentors junior team members, and collaborates with cross-functional teams to derive strategic insights from data.
      • Principal Data Scientist: A Principal Data Scientist is a senior-level role that combines deep technical expertise with leadership responsibilities. They drive the strategic direction of data science initiatives, define best practices, and provide guidance on complex data problems.
      • Data Science Manager: A Data Science Manager oversees a team of data scientists, providing guidance and support in executing data projects, managing stakeholder relationships, and ensuring the successful delivery of data science solutions within an organization.
    • Leadership:
      • Head of Data Science / Director of Data Science: The Head of Data Science or Director of Data Science is a leadership role responsible for overseeing the strategic direction, operations, and execution of data science initiatives within an organization, managing teams of data scientists, and driving innovation in data-driven decision-making processes.
      • Senior Director / VP Data Science: A Senior Director Data Science is a high-level leadership role that combines extensive experience in data science with strategic decision-making responsibilities. They provide vision, leadership, and guidance to multiple teams of data scientists, shape the data science strategy, and collaborate with senior executives to drive business outcomes through data-driven insights.
  4. Machine Learning/AI: This path includes roles that create and implement machine learning models and AI solutions.
    • Machine Learning:
      • Machine Learning Intern: A Machine Learning Intern is a temporary position where an individual gains hands-on experience in machine learning techniques, assisting in the development and implementation of machine learning models and algorithms under the guidance of experienced professionals.
      • Machine Learning Engineer: A Machine Learning Engineer applies machine learning techniques to design, develop, and deploy scalable and efficient machine learning models and systems, working with large datasets and collaborating with cross-functional teams.
      • Machine Learning Specialist: A Machine Learning Specialist focuses on a specific area within machine learning, such as natural language processing (NLP), computer vision, or deep learning, applying advanced algorithms and techniques to solve complex problems in their specialized domain.
      • Machine Learning Manager: A Machine Learning Manager leads a team of machine learning engineers and specialists, overseeing the development and deployment of machine learning models and systems, providing technical guidance, and aligning machine learning initiatives with business goal.
  5. Specialized Roles: This path includes roles with specific domain expertise.
    • Research:
      • Research Scientist: A Research Scientist conducts cutting-edge research in data science, exploring new methodologies and techniques to advance the field and contribute to scientific publications and breakthrough discoveries.
      • Research Engineer: A Research Engineer bridges the gap between research and practical application, leveraging data science research to develop and implement real-world solutions, often focusing on scalability, efficiency, and optimization.
    • Specific Domain Expertise:
      • Computer Vision Engineer: A Computer Vision Engineer specializes in developing algorithms and systems that enable computers to understand and interpret visual data, such as images and videos, for applications like object detection, image recognition, and video analysis.
      • NLP Engineer: An NLP Engineer focuses on natural language processing (NLP) and develops algorithms and models to enable computers to understand, interpret, and generate human language, facilitating applications like sentiment analysis, chatbots, and machine translation.
      • Autonomous Vehicle Technician: An Autonomous Vehicle Technician is responsible for maintaining and troubleshooting the hardware and software components of autonomous vehicles, ensuring their safe and reliable operation.
      • Deep Learning Researcher: A Deep Learning Researcher conducts research and development in the field of deep learning, exploring and advancing the capabilities of neural networks and developing innovative deep learning architectures and algorithms for various applications.
  6. Management and Leadership: This path is for individuals who take on leadership roles, managing teams, and driving strategic decisions.
    • Data Leadership:
      • Data Lead: A Data Lead is responsible for overseeing and coordinating data-related initiatives, ensuring data quality, managing data projects, and providing guidance to a team of data professionals.
      • Head of Data: The Head of Data is a senior leadership role that sets the strategic direction for data management, governance, and analytics within an organization, driving data-driven decision-making processes and overseeing data-related functions.
      • Data Science Lead: A Data Science Lead guides and manages a team of data scientists, providing technical leadership, defining the data science strategy, and ensuring the successful execution of data science projects and initiatives.
      • Data Analytics Lead: A Data Analytics Lead oversees a team of data analysts and is responsible for driving data analysis projects, developing insights, and providing data-driven recommendations to support business decisions.
      • Manager Data Management: A Manager Data Management oversees the data management processes within an organization, ensuring the efficient storage, organization, and retrieval of data, and implementing data governance practices.
      • Data Operations Manager: A Data Operations Manager is responsible for managing the operational aspects of data infrastructure and systems, ensuring data availability, integrity, and security, and optimizing data processes for efficiency and effectiveness


In conclusion, this exploration of data science career paths has shed light on the diverse and evolving opportunities within the field. From the foundational paths of Data Analyst and Data Engineer to the specialized realms of Data Science, Machine Learning/AI, and Specialized Roles, individuals can navigate a dynamic landscape that suits their unique skills and interests. Additionally, the significance of effective leadership and management in driving data-driven strategies has been emphasized, highlighting the pivotal roles of Data Science Managers and Heads of Data.

For aspiring Data Analysts, the progression from Junior Data Analyst to Data Analyst and Senior Data Analyst offers a pathway to delve into data analysis and gain expertise in extracting insights. Those aspiring to be Data Engineers can embark on a journey from Junior Data Engineer to Data Engineer, Senior Data Engineer, and potentially move into leadership positions as Lead Data Engineers. Data Scientists can carve their path from Junior Data Scientist to Data Scientist, Senior Data Scientist, and Principal Data Scientist, shaping the direction of data science initiatives. Machine Learning/AI professionals can chart their course from Machine Learning Intern to Machine Learning Engineer, Specialist, or Manager, aligning their careers with cutting-edge advancements. Specialized Roles provide avenues for individuals passionate about domains such as computer vision, NLP, or autonomous vehicles, while Management and Leadership paths enable experienced practitioners to guide teams and drive data strategies as Data Science Managers, Heads of Data, or Directors of Data Science. If you would like to learn more, feel free to drop a message.

Ajitesh Kumar
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Ajitesh Kumar

I have been recently working in the area of Data analytics including Data Science and Machine Learning / Deep Learning. I am also passionate about different technologies including programming languages such as Java/JEE, Javascript, Python, R, Julia, etc, and technologies such as Blockchain, mobile computing, cloud-native technologies, application security, cloud computing platforms, big data, etc. For latest updates and blogs, follow us on Twitter. I would love to connect with you on Linkedin. Check out my latest book titled as First Principles Thinking: Building winning products using first principles thinking. Check out my other blog,
Posted in Big Data, Career Planning, Data Science, jobs, Machine Learning.

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