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Job opportunities and salaries in data science have boomed in India, as the pandemic-driven digital transformation boosts demand for high-end skills.

Data science professionals with 3-10 years of experience get annual salaries in the 25-65 lakh range, while those with more experience can command pay packages upwards of 1 crore, according to recruitment firm Michael Page’s 2021 India Talent Trends report. Experts with more than 15 years of experience can get paid up to 1.8 crore, it said.

Companies are hiring data science professionals to help capture various types of data and derive meaningful insights from them.

This can often be a complex process; hence, employers are willing to offer high salaries to data scientists and data engineers.

“The demand for data science professionals is at an all-time high, and the supply hasn’t been able to catch up, leading to an acute shortage of talent. Firms are willing to pay a premium, along with other benefits and long-term incentives, in order to attract and retain employees—leading to an increase in the overall compensation levels," said Karan Madhok, associate director, Michael Page India.

The main difference between data engineers and data scientists is one of focus. While data engineers are involved in building the infrastructure and architecture for data generation, data scientists are mainly concerned with performing advanced mathematics and statistical analysis on the collected data.

“Rapid growth and demand in digital transformation and advanced analytics have led to a surge in demand for data science professionals in key technology areas such as artificial intelligence, analytics, internet of things, blockchain and quantum computing," said Saran Balasundaram, founder and chief executive officer (CEO), Han Digital, a talent consulting company.

“As more and more companies move to the cloud, the need for data science and engineering talent will further increase."

The shortage of skills in data science is evident from how long it takes to find such professionals.

“The time taken to hire engineers in general is six-to-eight weeks, while the time to hire data scientists is 11-12 weeks. Also, the starting salary for data science professionals is 15-20% higher than other roles in engineering," said Anshuman Das, cofounder and CEO of talent acquisition company CareerNet.

Data science professionals also command better salary hikes both internally and during job changes.

“When changing jobs, generally people demand 25-30% hike, but data scientists demand a 35-45% hike. The average annual pay hike for them falls between 20-30% compared with 15-20% for the rest of the employees," Das added.

As people try to upskill themselves in high-demand jobs, Jigsaw Academy, an institute for data science training, has seen a 50% increase in the enrolment rate for its data science programs in the last 12 months.

“Data and its manipulation is a formidable arsenal that businesses possess. With advanced technologies, organizations are slowly but steadily becoming data-driven," said Gaurav Vohra, co-founder and CEO, Jigsaw Academy.

Data science-related courses are also gaining popularity at B-schools as employers prefer to hire management graduates with technical skills.

“Courses on business analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning are the most popular courses among IIM-B students. It helps them target core analytics companies as well as those that look for a combination of analytics and management skills during placements," said professor U. Dinesh Kumar, chairperson, MBA in business analytics, IIM Bangalore.

While demand for data science experts has grown across sectors, IT services companies employ the majority (40%) of the data science talent pool in India, followed by global in-house centres or captives in India with a 30% market share, according to Han Digital.

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