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How To Become a Junior Data Scientist: Tips & Advice

8 minute read | March 20, 2024
Monica J. White

Written by:
Monica J. White

Ready to launch your career?

In an era where big data is transforming virtually every aspect of our digital lives, embarking on a journey as a junior data scientist is a compelling career choice. This path demands an inquisitive mind, analytical prowess, and a keen interest in unraveling the mysteries hidden within vast datasets.

The role of a junior data scientist is as diverse as the data itself, encompassing areas like predictive modeling, data visualization, and machine learning. Unlike careers with rigid academic roadmaps, becoming a junior data scientist involves a combination of formal education, hands-on experience, and continuous learning.

This comprehensive guide will detail the essential steps to navigate your journey toward becoming a junior data scientist. Whether you’re a recent graduate passionate about data or a professional transitioning into the field, our 9-step roadmap will provide valuable insights and resources to excel in this dynamic and rewarding profession.

What Does a Junior Data Scientist Do?

A junior data scientist collects, cleans, and analyzes data to extract valuable insights. This involves working with large datasets, programming languages like Python or R, and various data analysis tools. Junior data scientists also assist in creating machine learning models, performing statistical analysis, and visualizing data to help organizations make data-driven decisions.

Understanding the Role

Junior data scientists work closely with senior data scientists and data engineers to support the entire data science pipeline. They assist in data collection, cleaning, and transformation, ensuring data is ready for analysis. 

Junior data scientists also participate in developing predictive models and algorithms, although their level of involvement may be more limited compared to senior colleagues. 

What Does a Day in the Life of a Junior Data Scientist Look Like?

A typical day for a junior data scientist can vary depending on the organization and specific projects. 

They often start their day by reviewing their project goals and priorities. Data preprocessing is a significant part of their work, which involves cleaning and organizing data to make it suitable for analysis. Junior data scientists spend considerable time writing and debugging code, primarily in languages like Python or R, to analyze data and create machine learning models.

Collaboration is key, as they work closely with cross-functional teams, including data engineers, domain experts, and business stakeholders, to align data science efforts with business objectives. Meetings are common to discuss project progress, present findings, and plan future steps.

Job Description

Here are the roles and responsibilities you’ll find in most junior data scientist job descriptions: 

Key Responsibilities:

  • Assist in data collection, cleaning, and preprocessing to ensure data quality.
  • Collaborate with senior data scientists to develop and implement machine learning models.
  • Perform statistical analysis and hypothesis testing to derive actionable insights.
  • Create data visualizations and reports to communicate findings to stakeholders.
  • Assist in running A/B experiments. 
  • Develop features from raw data for ML model training.
  • Support data-driven decision-making by providing analytical support and recommendations.
  • Stay updated with industry trends and emerging technologies in data science.


  • Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field (e.g., Computer Science, Statistics, Data Science)
  • Proficiency in programming languages such as Python or R
  • Familiarity with data manipulation libraries (e.g., pandas, NumPy) and data visualization tools (e.g., Matplotlib, Seaborn)
  • Basic understanding of machine learning concepts and algorithms
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Excellent communication and teamwork abilities
  • Attention to detail and a passion for working with data

How To Become a Junior Data Scientist

Follow these nine steps to launch your career:

Get Educated

Most junior data scientist positions require at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as computer science, statistics, or data science. While a bachelor’s degree provides a solid foundation, some roles may prefer or even require a master’s degree or higher. 

Alternatively, you can seek out data science or machine learning programs, certifications, online courses, and bootcamps from reputable institutions. These programs offer practical knowledge and hands-on experience, which are invaluable assets in the field.

Learn to Code

Proficiency in programming languages is the backbone of a junior data scientist’s skill set. While several programming languages are used in data science, Python and R are two of the most widely adopted. Start by mastering one of these languages and expand your skills to include others as needed.

Hone Your Skillset

Mastering the required skills empowers you to extract insights from data, build predictive models, and drive data-informed decisions. Without a strong foundation in hard and soft skills, you won’t be fully equipped to tackle the field’s challenges and complexities.

Technical Skills

The exact skills required will vary slightly from job to job, but it’s important to be confident in around five to seven of the areas on this list:

  • Python or R Programming
  • Data Manipulation (pandas, NumPy)
  • Data Visualization (Matplotlib, Seaborn, ggplot2)
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Machine Learning Algorithms
  • SQL and Database Management
  • Data Cleaning and Preprocessing
  • Data Modeling and Feature Engineering
  • Big Data Tools (e.g., Hadoop, Spark)
  • Version Control (e.g., Git)
  • Data Ethics and Privacy
  • Cloud Computing (e.g., AWS, Azure)

Soft Skills

When it comes to soft skills, the more, the better. Aim to improve in all of the following areas continuously: 

  • Problem-Solving
  • Critical Thinking
  • Communication
  • Teamwork and Collaboration
  • Attention to Detail
  • Time Management
  • Adaptability
  • Curiosity and Continuous Learning
  • Data Storytelling
  • Business Acumen
  • Project Management
  • Ethical Decision-Making

Learn the Tools of the Trade

Tools like those listed below facilitate data collection, analysis, visualization, and model deployment. They allow you to streamline complex tasks, improve reproducibility, and transform raw data into actionable insights, making them indispensable in the data science ecosystem. 

  • Python

    For data analysis, machine learning, and data manipulation.

  • R

    Especially for statistical analysis and data visualization.

  • Git

    Version control for collaborative coding.

  • AWS

    Cloud computing platform for data storage and processing.

  • Jupyter

    An interactive notebook for code, text, and data visualization.

  • SQL

    For querying and managing databases.

  • TensorFlow

    For deep learning and neural network development.

  • Tableau

    A powerful data visualization tool.

  • Spark

    Ideal for big data processing and analysis.


Practicing and applying your data science skills in real-world situations is paramount to becoming a proficient junior data scientist. It bridges the gap between theory and practical expertise, fostering a deep understanding of data analysis, machine learning, and problem-solving. This hands-on experience is invaluable in a rapidly evolving field like data science.

Here are some of the best ways to practice your data science skills:

Sample or Open-Source Projects

Engaging in sample or open-source projects provides an excellent opportunity to apply your data science skills. You can collaborate on existing projects or initiate your own, exploring diverse datasets and real-world challenges. These data science projects showcase your abilities, build your portfolio, and enhance your problem-solving prowess.

Volunteer or Freelance 

Volunteering or freelancing in data science projects allows you to gain practical experience while contributing to meaningful causes or helping businesses with data-driven solutions. It hones your skills, offers networking opportunities, and can lead to paid opportunities as you build a reputation in the field. You can find non-profit organizations specializing in data, such as DataKind or Data Science for Social Good


Hackathons are intensive, time-bound events where you work with a team to solve specific problems using data and technology. These competitions foster creativity, teamwork, and rapid problem-solving. Participating in hackathons enhances your skills and exposes you to innovative solutions and potential employers or collaborators.

Pursue an Internship

Internships offer hands-on experience within professional settings, allowing you to apply your skills and gain real-world insights. Internships also provide a platform to learn from experienced colleagues, understand industry practices, and potentially lead to full-time positions, kickstarting your career in data science. They can be hard to come across, so frequent job boards and communities to hear about the latest opportunities. 

Find a Mentor

Having a mentor in the field of data science can be transformative. A mentor can guide you, share experiences, and provide valuable career development and skill enhancement advice. Seek out mentors through networking events, online communities, or professional organizations. Their expertise and insights will help you navigate challenges and accelerate your growth as a data scientist.


Cultivate relationships with fellow data scientists, industry professionals, and experts. Attend conferences, meetups, and online forums to connect with like-minded individuals. A strong network opens doors to job opportunities and fosters collaboration, knowledge sharing, and exposure to diverse perspectives that can fuel your success in the field.

Work Toward the Job You Want

To land your dream role as a junior data scientist, taking deliberate steps and preparing strategically is crucial. Here’s how to position yourself for success:

Build a Strong Resume and LinkedIn Profile

Craft a compelling resume highlighting your skills, projects, and achievements. Your LinkedIn profile should mirror this, showcasing your expertise and networking potential within the data science community.

Prepare for Interviews

Prepare for interviews by practicing technical questions, discussing your projects confidently, and researching the company. Effective interview preparation can make all the difference in securing your desired data science position.

What Is the Average Salary of a Junior Data Scientist?

A junior data scientist makes an average of $127,628 annually in their first year of work. However, depending on skills, the company, and the location, salaries can reach as high as $196,000.

What Does the Career Path of a Junior Data Scientist Look Like?

The career path of a junior data scientist is a journey of growth and specialization. Here’s an overview of the typical stages:

Becoming a Junior Data Scientist: Real-Life Examples

Learning about real people who have become data scientists is the best way to get a realistic idea of the path in front of you. Here are a couple of recommendations.

Julia Fei

Julia is a data scientist working for Spotify in New York City. Watch this video to learn what the role is like and what daily tasks you can expect to contend with.

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Priya became a data scientist after college (though she didn’t have a computer science degree). Learn from her tips and insights on landing an entry-level data science job and dealing with salary expectations.

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Junior Data Scientist FAQs

Here are the common questions people ask when considering a career in data science. 

Is data science a stressful job?

Data science can be demanding due to tight deadlines and complex problem-solving. However, a supportive work environment and effective time management can help mitigate stress.

Which degree is best for a data scientist?

While a computer science, statistics, or data science degree is common, data scientists come from diverse backgrounds. The key is to have a strong foundation in math, programming, and data analysis.

How long does it take to become a junior data scientist?

The time varies based on prior knowledge and learning pace. Typically, it takes 1-3 years of education and practical experience to qualify for a junior data scientist role.

Can you be a data scientist without coding?

Coding is a fundamental skill in data science. While non-coders can work in related roles like data analysis, coding proficiency is essential for most data scientist positions.

What is the difference between a junior data scientist and a junior data analyst?

Junior data scientists focus on developing machine learning models and predictive analytics, while junior data analysts primarily handle data reporting, visualization, and descriptive analytics. Both roles involve data but differ in their depth of analysis and responsibilities.

Since you’re here…
Curious about a career in data science? Experiment with our free data science learning path, or join our Data Science Bootcamp, where you’ll get your tuition back if you don’t land a job after graduating. We’re confident because our courses work – check out our student success stories to get inspired.

About Monica J. White

Monica is a journalist with a lifelong interest in technology, from PC hardware to software and programming. She first started writing over ten years ago and has made a career out of it. Now, her focus is centered around technology and explaining complex concepts to a broader audience.