I've been very interested in data-mining and machine-learning for a while, partly because I majored in that area at school, but also because I am truly much more excited trying to solve problems that require a bit more thought than just programming knowledge and whose solution can have multiple forms. I don't have a researcher/scientist background, I come from a computer science background with an emphasis on data analysis, I have a Master's degree and not a PhD. I currently have a position related to data analysis, even if that is not the primary focus of what I'm doing, but I have at least some good exposure to it.
As I was interviewing some time ago for a job with several companies, and got to talk with a few recruiters, I found a common pattern that people seem to think that you need to have a PhD to do machine learning, even if I may be generalizing a bit too much (some companies were not really looking especially for PhDs).
While I think it's good to have a PhD in that area, I don't think this is absolutely necessary. I have some pretty decent knowledge of most real-world machine learning algorithms, have implemented most of them myself (either at school or on personal projects), and feel pretty confident when approaching problems involving machine-learning / data-mining and statistics in general. And I have some friends with a similar profile who seem very knowledgeable about this also, but also feel that in general companies are pretty shy about hiring in data-mining if you're not a PhD.
I'd like to get some feedback, do you think a PhD is absolutely necessary to have a job very focused in that area?
(I hesitated a bit before posting this question here, but since it seems to be an acceptable topic on meta, I've decided to post this question on which I've been thinking for a while.)