Friday, November 13, 2015

How can I become a data scientist?

I previously described the basic skill set of a data scientist. But how can you go about learning the skills needed to be a data scientist? There are many people looking to get into data science, from undergraduates in computer science, statistics, or other quantitative disciplines to industry professionals looking to reinvent themselves mid-career. One size certainly does not fit all, so here are a variety of ways to learn a basic skill set.

Teaching yourself

It is quite possible to teach yourself many of the "nuts and bolts" data science skills using nothing more than a computer and the many excellent books available on data science topics. You can start by looking at the book list on this site. Self-teaching requires you to be self-motivated and to be able to navigate to the right resources for you to learn. Self-teaching skills means that you lack credentialing or accreditation, but if you become proficient in a skill enough to put it on your C.V., that might be all that is needed. Further, if you self-teach a subject, then you can be more confident going into a class or a workshop on the subject at a later stage. 

Non-university online courses and certifications

There are now several low cost, low barrier entry options for learning data science skills online. You won't go far wrong if you start with Coursera's Data Science and Big Data specializations.  These can be taken in their entirety, or you can take individual courses of interest from the specializations. Udacity offers what they call Nanodegrees, including Data Analyst and Machine Learning Engineer specializations. 

Residential workshops and bootcamps

There are several residential options that offer training in a physical location, often on a weekend or in an intense multi-day program. These are generally either hosted by a company or non-profit, with an emphasis on practical skills. Prices vary immensely. Lists of bootcamps and workshops can be found at Skilledup, CourseReport, and ClassCentral

Formal academic programs

Numerous universities are now offering formal qualifications in data science and related subjects such as data analytics. For a list of current M.S. programs related to data science, take a look at the Masters in Data Science website. Several institutions also offer certificate programs that require fewer courses to be completed than a masters, usually four graduate courses, and many of these certificates have options for online instead of residential study. A list of certificate programs can also be found on the Masters in Data Science website.

Some institutions are starting to offer formal online M.S. degrees including Indiana University (for full disclosure I am part of this program), Berkeley, Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern, and Texas A&M

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