How Is The Hot New Field Of "Data Science" Different From Dull Old Marketing Research?
April 14, 2013, 02:44 PM
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From the NYT:

HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW calls data science “the sexiest job in the 21st century,” and by most accounts this hot new field promises to revolutionize industries from business to government, health care to academia. 

The field has been spawned by the enormous amounts of data that modern technologies create — be it the online behavior of Facebook users, tissue samples of cancer patients, purchasing habits of grocery shoppers or crime statistics of cities. Data scientists are the magicians of the Big Data era. They crunch the data, use mathematical models to analyze it and create narratives or visualizations to explain it, then suggest how to use the information to make decisions. 

In the last few years, dozens of programs under a variety of names have sprung up in response to the excitement about Big Data, not to mention the six-figure salaries for some recent graduates.

I started in the marketing research field in 1982, working on the "purchasing habits of grocery shoppers" using the new flood of data from checkout scanners. By 1987, we had all purchases from about a tenth of the supermarkets in the country. My wife worked on "tissue samples of cancer patients" in 1987. 

I wouldn't discourage people from getting interested in these kind of fields, but “the sexiest job in the 21st century?"

People make a lot of money by (roughly in order) owning things, selling things, and motivating and managing (and firing) people. Analyzing stuff is fine work to get paid to do if you have an analytical personality, but, in the long run, don't expect to get paid like the sales guys.