Despite misunderstanding career requirements, 53% of students want to work with data

Research by Experian has revealed that many students are actively considering a career in data, despite holding misconceptions about the skills required to do so

Many of today’s students misunderstand the qualification and skill requirements needed to succeed as a data professional, according to new research by Experian, but despite this, more than half (53%) are considering pursuing a career in the field.

After conducting a survey on 2,001 UK adults (16+) currently enrolled in education, Experian found that more than two-thirds (68%) of students believe they must acquire key qualifications in maths and/or science in order to work with data – an incorrect perception that prevents them from becoming data specialists. Almost three-quarters (72%) also believe they would need specific data-related expertise to even apply for a job in the field.

Regardless of this, however, many students are still keen to work with data, in roles such as data analysis (29%), data science (21%) and data engineering (16%), while 67% of respondents felt companies should make more effort to promote available data roles.

Global tech and digital industries are still largely tackling a considerable gender imbalance, and this study showed that the trend unfortunately continues into the data field, with men being significantly more likely to consider a data-focused career than women (60% vs 48%).

The findings follow a recent report published by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS), which shines a light on the UK’s growing data skills shortage, with up to 234,000 data-related openings currently vacant. Failure to address the issue could hinder the government’s ambition for the nation to become a world leader in data, as outlined in the National Data Strategy. As such, it’s positive that so many of today’s student cohort are showing an interest in data.

“While it’s encouraging to see that a growing number of graduates and apprentices are now considering a career in data, we need to do more by working alongside the government to educate and create awareness around data roles with a broader, more diverse range of students” – Jonathan Westley, Experian

Jonathan Westley, chief data officer for Experian UK&I and EMEA, commented: “The pandemic has shown the growing importance of data and the role it can play in overcoming some of societies biggest challenges. The National Data Strategy is testament to this view, but achieving the government’s ambitions will continue to be an uphill struggle if there’s not enough talent working in the data industry.

“While it’s encouraging to see that a growing number of graduates and apprentices are now considering a career in data, we need to do more by working alongside the government to educate and create awareness around data roles with a broader, more diverse range of students. Those in education today are increasingly being driven by the idea of finding a career in which they can make a real difference, and we need to showcase the power of data for good in sectors from healthcare to education.”

Now, Experian is calling on businesses and government to collaborate on initiatives that could entice more students from a diverse range of backgrounds into careers working with data. With the study finding that one in five students (21%) feel businesses should showcase how people can make a difference to society by pursuing a career in data, and one in four (25%) agreeing that a fresh focus on data skills and training is needed in the education system, it’s clear the demand is there.


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