Data Science

Do Big Data Jobs Pay Big Data Dollars?

Do Big Data Jobs Pay Big Data Dollars?
Big Data encompasses more than just large data sets and how they're generated. Image from Unsplash
Poornima Apte profile
Poornima Apte May 7, 2019

A master's in data analytics can boost your salary by 27 percent...if that's not reason enough to keep reading, what are we even doing here?

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Google “vacation in Cancun” and, the next thing you know, those words (paired with Insta-worthy images of palm trees and umbrella drinks) will stalk you around the web. And, while we’re at it, how is it that your local grocery store emails you coupons for the brands you use the most, at precisely the moment you’re ready to purchase?

These miracles of modern commerce are the result of Big Data, a growing field within data analysis and data science and an increasingly common currency—so much so that Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella called it “the new electricity,” meaning that Big Data now powers everything.

But Big Data encompasses more than just large data sets and how they’re generated. These tremendous volumes of data are meaningless without professionals to harness their insights, which is where data scientists come in—and why a master’s degree in data analytics can be so valuable. Big Data analytics gives you access to the corridors of power veining through businesses of all kinds, from retail to travel and hospitality and manufacturing.

According to PayScale, the average data analyst salary is $66,638 per year which, in comparison to the average compensation in many other tech jobs isn’t such an impressive sum. But what is especially encouraging is the job market for data specialists, which has fulfilled IBM’s predicted growth of 16 percent in the five years leading up to 2020, and is expected to remain sky-high. While a master’s in data analytics can positively impact your take-home pay (bumping the aforementioned sum modestly), additional factors such as geography, experience and areas of expertise affect salaries in data analytics.

The master’s in data analytics payoff

According to PayScale, the average salary upon completion of an undergraduate degree in business data analysis is $71,000 per year. On average, a master’s degree in data analytics increases earning potential by $14,000, hiking total comp to $85,000 per year.


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What are the top master’s in data analytics jobs?

Once you have your master’s in data analytics, the positions you’re likely to find will include Big Data analyst, data architect, data visualization engineer, and business analyst. As Big Data continues to evolve, the job market will, too. Graduates can expect their career paths to grow from basic data analysis—which involves the gathering, cleaning and visual presentation of data—into more complex roles as data scientists, creating data analytics tools and outcome prediction.

Jobs top earners with a master’s in data analytics find include:

  • Data Architect: Average salary = $132,214, with a range from $84,000 to $175,000 per year. Data architects understand the design and structure of data to optimize their manipulation for best results, and integrate analytics tools into database systems to improve analytics solutions.
  • Director of Analytics: Average salary = $135,214, with a range from $87-183K. Analytics directors oversee teams of data analysts, creating forecasts based on data analysis to drive decision making. They’re also responsible for the business development angle of the equation, serving as the first pass between data analysts and the C-suite.
  • Data Engineer: Average salary = $96,427, with a range from $68,000 to $137,000 per year. Data engineers create algorithms to identify patterns in large sets of data (i.e. machine data analytics) and also detect anomalies that might point to underlying inefficiencies or problems. They are perhaps best known for troubleshooting analytics applications.
  • Data Scientist: Average salary = $78,000, with a range from $59,000 to $155,000 per year. Much like data engineers, data scientists develop predictive and prescriptive algorithms built on clean data sets, and also design Big Data analytics tools.
  • Senior Business Analyst: Average Salary = $89,966, with a range from $68,000 to $122,000 per year. Senior business analysts recommend data-driven business solutions, and are especially adept at making the case for data analytics.

What else affects the average data analytics salary?

While a master’s in data analytics increases earnings potential significantly, a variety of other factors impacts compensation.

Location influences both demand and pay. Regions rich in tech jobs, such as Silicon Valley, Boston, and increasingly, New York City, register a high demand for data analysts, even as they’re also magnets that attract talent. According to PayScale, San Francisco, New York and Washington D.C. offer the highest data analytics salaries, with median pay between 8-25 percent higher than the national average. Seattle and Boston are next.

Experience is also significant in determining how much you’ll earn in Big Data, as the average salary increases from $54,000 to $63,000 with five to 10 years of work under the belt. More than 20 years of experience can bring that sum to $66,000—not a very substantial increase, which probably indicates lateral movement of the sample size polled (participants were fewer than 500).

Certifications supplement data analyst skills after earning a master’s in data analytics. SAS, for example, offers a global certified data scientist program. Staying abreast of technologies by taking courses or even learning on the job can increase your salary as a data analyst.

If data indeed is the new electricity, a data analyst can work in pretty much any industry. While work in data analytics does give you flexibility, the industry you pick will also dictate salary. In general, agriculture and retail pay on the lower end of the spectrum. Mining and professional and tech services companies register the highest average salary for data analysts, in neighborhoods slightly north of $100,000 per year.

Time to upgrade

While a variety of factors impact exactly how much you’ll earn in data analytics, the bottom line is that a master’s degree puts you on a higher playing field. Given that Big Data and Big Data analytics are expected to be part of tomorrow’s landscape for a good long time, a graduate degree seems well worth the effort, especially since most programs are flexible and can be tailored to accommodate full-time careers.

(Updated on January 5, 2024)

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Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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