So you have fallen in love with tech and decided to make the leap to an online coding program. By now, you have already narrowed down the best online coding program to fulfill your professional goals and requirements and weighed whether a part-time bootcamp schedule will fit your individual, family, and professional needs best. Next, you need to decide which Lambda School program best suits your skills and interests. Answering this question can be particularly challenging as someone new to tech. This post will help make the distinctions between the popular web development track and the newer, fast-growing data science track, crystal clear so you can pick the best program for you.
To start, it can be helpful to understand the fundamental differences between data science and web development.
Full Stack web development is a field focused on the user experience and involves building, creating, and maintaining websites. This can include web-based internet applications, electronic businesses, and social network services such as Facebook or Twitter.
Web developers use interdisciplinary skills, including web design, graphic design, web publishing, web programming, and database management to create web applications. Web developers are often considered creative-minded and team-oriented based on the types of projects they work on and teams they work for, and are proficient coders, good at creating websites from scratch.
Unlike data scientists, however, no knowledge of math or statistics is needed within the field. In comparison to data scientists, web developers often spend longer spans of time on bigger projects, such as a website, which will take longer to launch. This means web developers often report gratifying, tangible project outcomes, constant opportunities to showcase creativity in their work, and a rewarding feedback loop.
Data science is a field used for analysis, prediction, forecasting, and optimizing data in the field. Data scientists use math, statistics, and algorithms to analyze data using a combination of domain expertise and programming skills to find patterns and extract meaning.
By applying machine learning algorithms to audio, video, text, and images, data scientists produce artificial intelligence (AI) systems capable of performing tasks normally requiring human intelligence. In response, these systems give clients valuable feedback that can translate into tremendous business revenue that will help them make decisions and learn to be more efficient. In other words, data scientists focus a majority of time on analysis, with some time on programming and development.
Data scientists are often considered analytical, masterful at cleaning, analyzing, and manipulating data, and proficient at creating reports. They work both on teams and alone, but on shorter projects with more succinct project timelines than web developers. Knowledge of statistics and mathematics is required in this field.
While both have some intersecting skills, they lean on different professional strengths and hold different salary potential. For example, web developers make over $75,000 per year on average, while data scientists make over $95,00 on average, with earning potential in some growing AI fields topping mid six figures.
While both tracks hold tremendous earning potential, with data scientists showing 37% annual growth and “Full Stack Engineers” showing 35% annual growth according to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, it is worth noting the exponential future needs and potential of Machine Learning and AI, bolstering the demand for data scientists now and well into the future. In fact, data science has topped the report for three years running, citing AI as a significant contributing factor.
In addition to weighing future trends, it’s important to select your track based on your unique skill set, strengths, and interests. For instance, are you a more creative thinker and do you enjoy programming? Web development might be best suited for you. Are you drawn to statistics and interested in automation? Data science might be right up your alley. As you get curious about your own preferences, Lambda School’s fun Choose Your Course Quiz will help you identify your initial inclinations, such as how you prefer to work, how you solve problems, and how you perform in high stress situations.
Consider also the most common data science and web development traits, characteristics, and professional skills:
Now that you have a better sense of the differences between web developers and data scientists, it can be helpful to look at the big picture to identify which track will be best suited for your life. Consider the following about web development:
1. The user experience drives the work of a web developer. Being focused on the user experience adds another element to the web development role in that sometimes you will work with teams or directly with clients in order to execute the product. This can be both creatively rewarding and frustrating, but it is important to know up front how well you work in these interdisciplinary team environments.
2. Web development is popular… for a reason. Many in the tech industry may speak about web development like it is a saturated field, but this is misleading. This is because there are an estimated 26.9 million web developers worldwide (and growing), according to a 2020 Global Developer Population and Demographic Study by The Evans Data Corporation. This is, in part, because the term “web development” is eleven years older than the term “data scientist” and the field has had a hefty head start. But also consider that the demand for web developers has grown with the growth of industry, as every modern business requires a web presence. As you search for online web development programs, many will include a full stack web development course, but not every online program will offer a robust data science program.
Web developers are generally happy in their field, topping the list as the best tech job according to Glassdoor’s annual report on the 50 best jobs in America for 2020. Many tout that out of all the coding professions, web devs typically find entry-level work the quickest out of coding programs, and in this pandemic economy are able to more easily find remote work than any other tech field. Thus, the demand is high and steady in this ever growing and desirable field.
Now that you have a better sense of web development, it can be helpful to consider the bigger picture questions about data science. Consider the following:
1. The hiring process can be different. Although data scientists are in high demand, hiring in this growing field can take longer and may benefit from networking and other partnering. Typically, positions are available at larger companies. This means the job search and even the job culture may be different than someone in the web development field, who may have more flexibility in the types of opportunities available to them. Additionally, a majority of data scientists already in the field currently hold Master’s degrees, although as more enter the field from coding programs that demographic continues to shift. This does not mean a Master’s degree is required or more desirable, although for some it may feel like a barrier to entry. Thankfully, coding programs such as Lambda School offer employment support by way of Student Success Coordinators, Career Coaches, and mentors to prepare students to begin their job searches with the tools and confidence they need and even provide a Job Search program to help connect Hiring Partners with new graduates.
2. Data science is consistently ranked as a fast-growing field. Not only has data science climbed the job charts since the term was coined in 2008, but it is in the Top 20 Fastest Growing Occupations in the US according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with 31% projected growth over the next 10 years. Not only is it a great field for someone who loves to learn and experiment, but it’s also a great profession for someone willing to take a chance and explore new opportunities. Data science is a field for problem solvers who look to answer essential questions to provide valuable feedback and keep businesses running and profitable. There is great value and job security in providing this service, and for those filled with passion for numbers, great satisfaction as well.
3. What does an accelerated data science program look like? Prior to the more recent popularization of online data science bootcamps and programs, students were only able to gain data science skills through traditional channels like a Master’s degree in mathematics or accounting. This demonstrates the data science track requires rigorous mathematical study and understanding of a significant breadth of content. As you select your program, be mindful of how comprehensive the curriculum will be and how much support you will receive moving through it. For instance, Lambda School’s Data Science Program helps students pursue a career in applied statistics and machine learning with a curriculum focused on Python, SQL, data visualization, machine learning, linear algebra, databases, statistics and modeling, natural language processing, and more. The full or part time program includes job preparation, supportive mentorship, and an invaluable peer-to-peer support network frequently cited by students as the most valuable tool in getting quick questions answered and staying motivated. Additionally, unlike some other comparable Data Science Programs, Lambda School offers Computer Science coursework and group labs projects which can be used for an individual’s portfolio, both of which give students a value leg up in the field. To find out more about our program, visit the Lambda School admissions process page.
At the end of the day, both the full stack web development and data science fields hold different strengths but are deeply rewarding with great financial and professional possibilities for those willing to work hard. And if you have prior coding experience, you may be a fit for our new Enterprise Backend Development program, jointly developed with Amazon. Consider where your curiosity might take you, and follow your passion as far as your potential is calling.