31 December 2015

East Africa: Big Data Is a Big Deal - 5 Careers to Consider Now

Big Data is trending worldwide and creating new jobs, some of which don't even exist yet. It's only expected to get bigger too, particularly in Africa.

Researchandmarkets.com forecasts that the Big Data market in the Middle East and Africa will grow at a CAGR (the average rate of an investment's growth over time) of 45%.

So what exactly is Big Data, anyway? Big Data consists of large data sets, such as cell phone records or the activity of Facebook users. The individual data points alone don't tell you much, but when taken together, they can lead to important insights.

Big Data is still a new field, and as it expands in East Africa, so will the job opportunities. You can get in ahead of the game by preparing yourself for a career in the field now and working your way up the ladder. Here are five promising jobs sure to position you competitively for the data boom ahead.

(Salaries are monthly averages in Kenya. Pay estimates are based on interviews with experts in the field and Salary Explorer.)

Data Analyst

What the job entails: The job title sums it up - a data analyst specializes in the analysis of data. He or she collects numerical information and presents the results in graphs and charts. A data analyst can identify trends and create models to predict the future.

What you need: A bachelor's degree in statistics, mathematics, or economics is required for most entry-level jobs, and a master's degree, especially in math, statistics, computer science, or the sciences, is necessary for upper-level jobs. Good communication skills would come in handy too.

What it pays: Entry-level positions start at Ksh80,000 (US$782), but with experience, you can make as much as Ksh300, 000 (US$2,931) or more according to your skills.

Data Support Specialist

What the job entails: Data support specialists provide the technical support that keeps data platforms humming along smoothly. They help with everything from application support to data quality to system security. They also identify data platform issues and provide solutions.

What you need: For entry-level jobs, you can get by with a Diploma in Information Technology, but many employers prefer a degree in the field.

What it pays: Entry-level jobs start at Ksh60,000 (US$586), but with experience, one can earn as much as Ksh150,000 ($1,465) or more.

Researcher

What the job entails: Researchers collect data using a variety of techniques, ranging from simple data aggregation to complex data mining. They develop charts, graphs, and tables to explain their results. Researchers are essential across a wide range of fields, from public health to advertising to science.

What you need: A bachelor's degree in math, statistics, computer science, data science, or the social sciences is required. Experience with programs such as SQL, Visual Basic, Java, LINUX/UNIX, and Tableau, among others, will give you an advantage over the competition. Good communication skills are an added value.

What it pays: Entry-level jobs begins at Ksh80,000 (US$782) and can go up as high as Ksh300,000 (US$2,931).

Data Visualization Designer

What the job entails: Data visualization designers conceptualize, design, and create compelling visualizations from data. They translate the numbers into accurate and easy-to-digest formats. They regularly collaborate with data scientists, analysts, and researchers. They're often required to learn new tools and explore different ways of displaying data.

What you need: A bachelor's degree is required, preferably in statistics, analytics, applied statistics, applied mathematics, computer science, or a related field. You'll also need experience with relational databases, familiarity with the latest visualization tools, and programming knowledge. Good communication and teamwork skills are an added advantage.

What it pays: This is a relatively new role on the market, and salaries start at Ksh100,000 (US$977) for entry-level roles and go up to Ksh500,000 (US$4,884) for more senior positions.

Business Analyst

What the Job entails: Business analysts assess a business and suggest improvements. They solve organizational problems and help make business practices and procedures more efficient. Depending on their skill sets, they may even design new computer programs or tools to improve business processes.

What you need: Most entry-level jobs require a degree or diploma in business. Senior roles often require project management and/or consulting experience. You'll also need strong interpersonal skills and the ability to work across departments.

What it pays: Operations analysts earn an average of Ksh18,000 (US$176) per month. The average pay for business analysts jumps to Ksh66,000 (US$645), while business systems analysts earn an average of Ksh170,000 (US$1,661) or more for management roles.

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