Almost every industry has the potential to benefit from data science. However, most companies develop a problem when it comes to launching a data science team: They don’t know where to start, how to scale, or how to align data science to business outcomes.
Enter data science consulting.
Data science consultants help bridge the gap for businesses, offering guidance and expertise– and companies pay handsomely for it.
Here are some average rates for how much data science consultants make:
Note all numbers are for U.S. consultants
Ultimately, how much a data science consultant earns does depend on factors like experience, the industry you’re in, whether you’re working freelance or with a data science consulting company, and the business value you can deliver.
For example, top-tier data science consultants easily make over $200K per year. And the average data scientist salary in the U.S. is around $120K with additional in bonuses.
The most simple answer is that data science consultants help clients leverage data and build data infrastructure. Think of a consultant as an expert guide.
The consultant is embedded within the company, to execute specific projects or to provide guidance and expertise. Data science consultants typically serve two purposes:
Project-Based - Many consultants are hired to build specific data science solutions for clients. They’re paid a project-based rate – typically a minimum of $5,000 to $7,000 depending on the complexity of the project – and they deliver solutions tailored to the client’s needs. For example, a consultant might be hired to build ETL pipelines, perform exploratory data analysis, build predictive models, and/or deploy models for the client.
On-going business intelligence - Consultants may also be hired to provide ongoing expertise to help clients solve high-level business problems. They’re embedded in the business and may provide technical training, debug or tune existing models, and/or deploy and maintain specific data science solutions.
Many junior-level data scientists choose consulting to gain exposure to a variety of projects and to work with a variety of businesses and stakeholders.
Ultimately, what data science consultants earn depends on a few key factors, including:
Experience - The more experience a consultant has, the more they can charge. Typically, entry-level data science consultants earn $200-$250 per hour (with 1-5 years of experience), while experienced consultants charge $350 per hour (with 5+ years of experience.)
Location - Market rates are also heavily dependent on location. Average data science consultant salaries in San Francisco are around $137,000 annually, for example. In Austin, TX, data science consultants earn almost $110,000 per year on average.
Company vs Freelance - Consultants who work at a data science consulting firm, such as Quantumblack, can usually earn more than freelance consultants. For example, salaries for consulting companies start at $130,000 (Quantumblack). Freelance consultant salaries are largely dependent on client bases and hours. They also are more variable in income depending on how much work you can bring in.
Scope of Services - Finally, the project complexity affects costs. Rates for a machine learning consultant typically start at $300 per hour, 50% more than standard data science consulting rates.
Freelance data science consultants are self-employed professionals. Freelancers must not only be experienced data scientists; they’re also responsible for prospecting for clients and projects. Therefore, salaries for freelance data science consultants can vary widely.
An entry-level data science consultant, for example, may spend 50% of their time prospecting for clients. As freelancers progress and build a client base, their earnings can rise exponentially. One study of data analytics freelancers found an average rate of $97.50. Factors that can affect rates for freelancers include:
Many data scientists join consulting firms and work on projects specifically for the firm’s clients. Data science consulting firms offer some of the best salaries. Here’s a look at top data science consulting salaries by company:
Along with additional cash bonuses and compensation, which can range from $10,000 to $20,000, working as a data scientist at a consulting firm can be very lucrative.
However if you’re looking to get a job in data science, likely big tech companies like Meta (Facebook) or Google will pay more for full time data science hires.
The upside of working at a consulting company would be to learn how to start your own freelance business later down the line.
On average, in-house data scientists earn more than consultants. This is likely due to the wide variance in what consultants can earn. A quick comparison of data science salaries:
Despite the wage gap, there are key benefits to working as a data science consultant. They include: