Data Market Observations August 2023

The demand for data science and analytics talent continues to grow rapidly in the UK.

However, the supply of qualified candidates has struggled to keep pace. As a result, competition for top data science talent remains fierce among employers.

According to our research, data scientist roles remain among the hardest to fill in the UK. The average time to hire for a data scientist is now over 60 days, up from 45 days a year ago. Recruiters cite a lack of applicants with the required technical and analytical skills as the primary cause of delays. Soft skills like communication and business acumen are also highly sought after.

Salaries for data scientists have risen accordingly. The average data scientist in the UK now commands a salary of £65,000-£85,000, with senior roles paying £90,000 or more. Engineers with data science skills like machine learning expertise can earn even higher rewards. Large technology firms and hedge funds have been especially aggressive with compensation packages.

The talent shortage has led many employers to explore new strategies for finding and developing data professionals. Partnerships with universities to fund degrees and offer work placements are increasingly common. Retraining programs help transition skilled people from other fields into data careers. Some companies look abroad, sponsoring work visas for talent from overseas.

While data science graduates are still in short supply, UK universities have responded to the talent gap. 14 of the UK's top schools now offer master's degrees related to data science, up from just 5 three years ago. Enrolment in these programs doubled in that period. Still, most graduates get hired before completing their coursework.

The UK government has made building data science talent a priority under its AI and data grand strategies. New research centres, PhD grants, apprenticeship programs and other investments aim to strengthen the pipeline long-term. Immigration policy has also been updated to enable highly-skilled migration in certain priority fields like AI.

Demand for analytics talent with business expertise also continues to rise sharply. Data analyst and business intelligence roles remain among the most in-demand in the UK.

The supply-demand imbalance has forced employers to explore creative solutions, from partnerships with universities to accelerated training programs. However, with limited candidates and intense competition, hiring challenges persist.

Through our conversations, a few critical skill gaps rose to the top. Advanced machine learning expertise was universally cited, especially in neural networks, natural language processing and image recognition. Cloud platform capabilities were also sorely needed, particularly AWS, Google Cloud and Azure.

But we also uncovered softer skills in short supply. Presentation, visualisation and storytelling capabilities rated as high priorities - but difficult to find. Business acumen and strategic thinking ranked as highly desired as technical proficiency.

In other words, modern data scientists must not only mine insights, but compellingly convey their impact to influence decisions. Technical depth must align with communication breadth and business savvy.

As data matures from a niche capability to an enterprise-wide priority, demand for analytics skills will only intensify across every sector. For the foreseeable future, the supply-demand imbalance seems likely to persist. Companies prepared to train existing staff, hire abroad, or explore creative solutions will be best positioned to build effective analytics teams.

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Author Bio


Michael started MBN to deal with what he perceived as a weakness within the recruitment industry and its lack of deep domain expertise in the areas of data, analytics and technology. 15 years on, MBN is a hugely successful and market leading provider of People Solutions to disruptive and fast moving businesses seeking the very best talent to support their strategic intent. MBN’s success has come about through leadership and passion to collaborate and build communities of stakeholders. In recent years this has been evidenced through organising and facilitating two of the UK’s most compelling networking groups: Scotland Data Science & Technology and Blockchain Scotland Meet-Up Group. With such groups playing a pivotal role in helping to surface unmet clients’ needs and helping to build links with an enhanced candidate pool, he has also used this as a platform for growth by hosting events such as ScotChain, CityChain and Data Talent 2.0. Outside of MBN, he continues to act as an advisor and mentor to a number of start-ups, charities and third-sector organisations and have provided support to many government agencies seeking to understand the evolving complex landscape of Data Talent Acquisition.