How to move into a career in Healthcare Data Science


This is about pursuing healthcare data science career, and it applies to all fields.

You have an exciting time ahead of you!  Every single healthcare company, from big to small, needs data scientists!

Getting there will take some work. Looking for positions on most job boards is as painful as sifting through hot ashes, and the actual application process is a huge time sink. As a friend of mine once said, “The only thing worse than work, is lookin’ for work.”

First and foremost: Update your LinedIn profile. Find a company you’d be willing to work for, and search on LinkedIn for people with titles you’re interested in who work at that company. Reach out to them and say you’re looking for a role like theirs. Read about the company–its LinkedIn posts, its public announcements, its strategic direction. See how it distinguishes itself from its competitors. This information will help you in interviews. Furthermore, it’s crucial that your LinkedIn profile be machine readable. All the improvements you make to allow bots to read your profile also make it easier for humans to read your profile. While it’s fun to have fun with non-traditional styles and formatting, you’re potentially asking dozens or hundreds of people/bots to spend 1.8 seconds on your profile and make a decision about whether to hire you. Make it as easy as possible for that decision to be “yes!” Consider how your profile can look more like the people whom you reached out to.

You are in a great position if have a full-time job already, so you have the luxury that you are not panic-searching, and you can take the time to apply for long shots: big changes in your role, or responsibility level, or salary. You didn’t spend all this time and energy at MIDS for a tiny change!

One easy approach is to bank on your data science skills and apply for data science-requiring jobs at a major healthcare institution.  Big institutions have all kinds of translational roles—translation into a manager position, translation between medicine and engineering, translation between bench research and clinical practice—and they hire people all the time who are strong in one area who show promise and interest in the other even if they don’t have experience in it. Don’t be afraid to apply to something you’re interested in, as long as you meet the minimum requirements. (eg: If they require an MD for the position who is licensed to practice, only apply if you have an MD.)

Start with the city you want to live in, and find the two or three biggest healthcare providers in that area.  Go to their career page and look for jobs in data science.  Most of them are hiring—yes, even now!  It’s fairly common to see a national company spin up a whole new data science team, from entry-level coders to team leads and managers and directors.

Obviously you should utilize your personal networks too.  Find people at a company you’d like to work for that you can approach, and ask them to talk to you about working at the company. Ultimately, ask them to forward your resume to the hiring manager. To facilitate that, give them a specific job posting ID that they can reference. Send your resume and a 1-2 sentence description of what you’re looking for to all your friends and family. I’m serious! Everyone you know should be aware of who you are and what you’re looking for. Your parents may be tradespeople who love to work with their hands, but two weeks from now, your mom may be talking to someone who mentions something about healthcare AI, and they could say “Oh, you know my child does AI!” and they recite your blurb. Send it to me, and send it to your classmates or coworkers. I presume many of you are scanning job boards, and you can post openings you see to each other.

Another approach is to look at the jobs boards for the major research universities in your city.  What’s great is in the US, public university salary ranges are public, so you can sort by salary(!) and zero in on open data science roles.  Literally, just turn off all the filters and sort by salary. Data science roles are easy to identify because the only ones that pay more are positions for tenured professors, medical doctors, and coaches.

The CDC is a billion-dollar industry all on its own and is constantly hiring. Same for more or less every drug company, every oil company, and every bank.

Even if you are happy in your current role, cobble together a 2-3 long-shot applications every year. You can always say no later. You never know when it might be time to say yes. If nothing else, it’s good to practice interviewing! Keep an eye open to know what is available, and who is interested in you, and what they’re willing to offer.

Good luck, and use the comments below to keep me posted!