How to Become a Data Scientist – On your own

Big Data, Data Sciences, and Predictive Analytics are the talk of the town and it doesn’t matter which town you are referring to, it’s everywhere, from the White House hiring DJ Patil as the first chief data scientist to the United Nations using predictive analytics to forecast bombings on schools. There are dozens of Startups springing out every month stretching human imagination of how the underlying technologies can be used to improve our lives and everything we do. Data science is in demand and its growth is on steroids. According to Linkedin, “Statistical Analysis” and “Data Mining” are two top-most skills to get hired this year. Gartner says there are 4.4 million jobs for data scientists (and related titles) worldwide in 2015, 1.9 million in the US alone.  One data science job creates another three non-IT jobs, so we are talking about some 13 million jobs altogether. The question is what YOU can do to secure a job and make your dreams come true, and how YOU can become someone that would qualify for these 4.4 million jobs worldwide.

There are at least 50 data science degree programs by universities worldwide offering diplomas in this discipline, it costs from 50,000 to 270,000 US$ and takes 1 to 4 years of your life. It might be a good option if you are looking to join college soon, and it has its own benefits over other programs in similar or not-to-so similar disciplines. I find these programs very expensive for the people from developing countries or working professionals to commit X years of their lives.

Then there are few very good summer programs, fellowships and boot camps that promise you to make a data scientists in very short span of time, some of them are free but almost impossible to get in, while other requires a PhD or advanced degree, and some would cost between 15,000 to 25,000 US$ for 2 months or so. While these are very good options for recent Ph.D. graduates to gain some real industry experience, we have yet to see their quality and performance against a veteran industry analyst. Few of the ones that I really like are Data Incubator, Insight Fellowship,  Metis Bootcamp, Data Science for Social Goods and the famous Zipfian Academy programs.

Let me also mention few paid resources that I am a fan of before I tell you how to do all that for free. First one is the Explore Data Science program by Booz Allen, it costs 1,250 $ but worth a single penny. Second one is recorded lectures by Tim Chartier on DVD, called Big Data: How Data Analytics is transforming the world, it costs 80 bucks and worth your investment. The next in the list are two courses by MIT, Tackling the Big Data Challenges, that costs 500$ and provides you a very solid theoretical foundation on big data, and The Analytics Edge, that costs only 100 bucks and gives a superb introduction on how the analytics can be used to solve day-to-day business problems. If you can spare few hours a day then Udacity offers a perfect Nanodegree for Data Analysts that costs 200$/month can be completed in 6 months or so, they offer this in partnership with Facebook, Zipfian Academy, and MongoDB. ThinkFul has a wonderful program for 500$/month to connect you live with a mentor to guide you to become a data scientist.

Ok, so what one can do to become a data scientist if he/she cannot afford or get selected in the aforementioned competitive and expensive programs. What someone from a developing country can do to improve his/her chances of getting hired in this very important field or even try to use these advanced skills to improve their own surroundings, communities and countries.