Australia’s top tier data scientists are still pulling in huge salaries despite a slight decline in pay levels among the elite ranks of the profession. 

One in 10 data analytics professionals surveyed for the 2016 IAPA Skills and Salary survey commanded annual pay checks in advance of $220,000 a year.

The median income remains stable at $130,000 after spiking in recent years. However entry level salaries are growing strongly, suggesting a tight labor market where businesses have little choice but to buy the skills they can find.

According to the study’s authors, “The median salary of the bottom decile has increased by 11 per cent year on year to a median of $80k, which bodes well for the graduates beginning to emerge from the new masters of business analytics and data science university degrees that we saw established last year.”

However they also note that the increase in the bottom decile is offset by a 3 per cent reduction in the median salaries of the top decile.

The hotspots this year include information media and telecommunications which experienced a $15k increase in median salaries year on year. It joins finance, insurance and iInformation technology as the notable high paying sectors.

“In fact, all of the highest paying sectors experienced salary growth, suggesting continued competition in the labour market for experienced analytics professionals seeking to join well established internal analytics teams.”

Analytics has come to the fore in business planning as companies shift to more data-driven decision making. In the report the authors note, “The pace of innovation continues with the next year marked by mobile technologies, cyber-security, cloud technologies and big data disrupting organisations significantly.”

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are still regarded as a little over the horizon in terms of implementation, however the move to equip organisations with skills in this field is gathering pace.

“While significant disruption is expected from artificial intelligence (AI) in two to three years, the industry is seeking machine learning and AI skills in 2017 – preparing for, or perhaps bringing on, the rise of AI in business,” say the authors.

Indeed, across the board, skill building is the number one priority. “For the first time since the inception of the IAPA Skills and Salary survey, we’ve made ground in executive and organisational awareness of analytics and insights with a 25 per cent reduction year on year in respondents citing this as their greatest challenge compared to 2015. “

“The focus has instead shifted to developing capability, with ‘Developing new skills’ (50 per cent) and ‘Time for innovation’ (46 per cent) emerging in 2016 as the biggest challenges.”

Analytics professionals are struggling however to find the right talent. The study says, “67 per cent of managers say applicants are under skilled. Whether that is because managers are asking for ‘unicorns’ or the strong demand is drawing less skilled analytics professionals to apply for more highly skilled positions, both managers and analytics professionals will need to adjust their skills expectations and attainments to meet the burgeoning demand for analytics in business.”

Gender diversity

The gender balance in the professional is approaching parity however the pay gap remains.

“Reports of analytics teams being 47 per cent gender balanced and just a nine per cent pay gap* also speaks to a sector attracting and valuing female talent ahead of the average 1:3 gender balance ratio of technology organisations,” say the authors.

“More ground needs to be covered for equality but we applaud analytics managers and analytics professionals for leading the pack in gender diversity.”

*For the record a nine per cent pay gap is still appalling.

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