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March 11, 2021

Data Salaries Get a COVID Bump

Data science and application development skills centered on AI, machine learning and cloud deployments remain in high demand, pushing salaries higher in a pandemic year that strained enterprise infrastructure.

According to a salary report released by the career website Dice, average salaries for data and other technologists rose to $97,859 in 2020, a 3.6 percent annual increase. The increase reflects growing demand for data scientist, cybersecurity analysts and DevOps engineers deploying more machine learning workloads to production.

Tech workers are also gaining some leverage in the job market, placing greater emphasis on health insurance in response to COVID-19 and larger employer contributions to 401(k) accounts.

By region, Silicon Valley again topped the salary list, up 2.4 percent last year to an average of about $126,000. Average salaries in New York City, the headquarters of a growing number of data science and business intelligence startups, jumped 11.6 percent last year to $114, 240, Dice reported.

The Big Apple’s data science hiring surge was led by Amazon Web Services and Facebook along with early fintech adopters Bloomberg, JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Charlotte, N.C., a banking hub, recorded the biggest jump in annual tech salaries, 13.8 percent. Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Anthem Blue Cross were among the top recruiters of data scientists, according to the salary survey.

Boston, San Diego and Baltimore rounded out Dice’s top-five salary list. Baltimore’s 5.5 percent rise in tech salaries is noteworthy, perhaps indicating the former manufacturing hub and port is making its own digital transition fueled by world-class healthcare and biomedical firms. Maryland, home to many bioscience companies, recorded the largest increase in annual salaries, a hefty 13.1 percent. New Jersey, home to several pharmaceutical giants and biotech firms, led the nation in average annual tech salaries at $111,233.

The only U.S. city recording a decline in annual salaries for tech workers was Seattle, which dropped 2.6 percent to $106,723.

The Dice survey’s list of highest average salaries by occupation reflects the accelerating migration of data and analytics tools to the cloud. IT managers and “cloud engineers” are among the highest paid positions with annual salaries in the $135,000 to $145,000 range.


Further down the list in terms of average annual salary were “data architects” ($133,000) and data scientists (approaching $120,000). Salaries for data scientist increased at an annual rate of 12.8 percent, second only to cybersecurity analysts (16.3 percent).

(Dice noted that its sample size for those two job categories was less than 100 respondents, acknowledging its research data is “not statistically valid.”)

The salary survey found that critical data science skills include data pipeline development along with training and deploying “classification algorithms.”

It took employers an average of 49 days to hire data science candidates. Demand for data scientists is meanwhile forecast to grow 19 percent over the next decade.

As “data becomes increasingly valuable to businesses across nearly every industry, the demand has significantly increased for data scientists who can successfully analyze data in ways that executives and employees can use to make their business grow,” the Dice survey concludes.


Meanwhile, demand and annual salaries for data engineers responsible for building and maintaining data infrastructure, including everything from data preparation to storage, are also forecast to grow. Key skills include database and data warehouse management, most of it cloud based.

Application categories driving demand for data scientists and engineers along with DevOps specialists include machine learning, natural language processing, application containers and MapReduce.

The Dice survey of registered job seekers and site visitors was conducted between Sept. 29 and Dec. 9, 2020. The survey generated 9,143 completed responses, Dice said.

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