My Observations on the Data Science Job Market in Singapore

I am told that the second batch of DSI students from GA have just graduated, and that the third batch will begin next week. General Assembly is steadily churning out classes amid high demand from people who are interested to enter the industry… and for now they still remain the only provider in Singapore offering a full-time immersive.

I have been reflecting about the job market for data science of late, having come across several Quora and LinkedIn discussions on the state of the industry in terms of supply and demand for talent. My observation is that demand for data science talent is higher than ever before, but employers are asking for the sky when it comes to job requirements. Aside from the paper qualifications (Masters and many, many job descriptions asking for PhDs), candidates are expected to show working knowledge of a long list of technical skills. Quite a few expect expert knowledge with 5-7 years of experience in data science and machine learning when the industry itself is only that young in terms of recent interest.

Where do you find such people from in a small country like Singapore? Most likely, from those who have done undergrad in CS/Math/Stats and who are well into their mid careers in the industries they studied for. Supply for four-year degree holders with a specific focus on data science are still about 3-4 years away. That leaves the market with two pools of candidates – the first being the traditional CS/math dudes who are likely to be very senior (and very expensive), and a much larger, second pool of candidates consisting of people from other industries looking to get a foot in the door.

Intuition suggests that the high demands of employers, coupled with the fact that they tend to fight only for candidates from the first pool, leaves many from the second pool with nothing much to grasp at. I think this is a very sad realisation. What these candidates lack in terms of experience, they can make up for in terms of pure interest and passion for learning what they don’t yet know. The unfortunate reality is that few employers are willing to ‘take their chances’ with these fresher faces, instead sticking to their old school requirements of ‘PhD in Stats/Math’ as a crude way of filtering out applicants.

I should mention that there are always exceptions, and that the best and brightest from the second batch of candidates is likely to forge ahead despite their ‘less technical’ background. I also think that on the employer end, startups often tend to be the ones more accepting of people who may not necessarily have the paper qualifications.

Where is the hiring market in Singapore going towards then? My guess is that 1) the bar for entry is only going to get higher as more and more graduates enter the market, leading employers to discriminate towards those with better qualifications and 2) supply will ramp up, but will still be insufficient to meet the needs of an increasing number of companies who are beginning to realise that they need data science talent.

For my classmates who are still looking out, hang in there. Keep pushing and improving yourself while searching for your job.

For those who are anywhere in between (i.e. from other industries), I hope the above gives some insight on what the market is like as of early 2018. It is not going to be easy so be prepared for a fight!

With all the above, I realise it is just an opinion. I like hearing alternative viewpoints so feel free to comment and shoot me a reply if you do not agree!

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