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Data Science Education

By Steve Jones,

One of the good skills to have for a data professional is how to analyze data. Most of us could learn more about data science and data analysis for some aspect of our jobs. We are data professionals, so we should understand how to analyze data. I'd expect that a competent data professional would be able to put together a report on some set of data that means something to an end user. If we administer systems, then analyzing usage (index, space, etc) is a skill we need. If we write code, sooner or later we're going to write some report for a client. Either way, we need to perform some sort of analysis.

How can you learn more? There are lots of resources available. I thought it was interesting that Microsoft has teamed up with edX for their own data science degree. While there are mixed feelings on this, I think edX has a good platform and strong partnerships for teaching. There are other places, such as Coursera, that are doing the same thing, offering a variety of courses online.

In fact, it appears that quite a few educational institutions and businesses are starting to increase their data science related offerings. There's a good summary of some of the options in a piece from Dataversity. In response to all the demand, or at least perceived demand, there is everything from a boot camp getting you up to speed on some quick analytic techniques and tools to full degree programs. Some programs have different levels, depending on the amount of statistical knowledge you have.

Learning something about statistics is probably the best way for most people that would like to get started. I've seen quite a few people start learning by reviewing some statistics techniques. From Buck to Mala, putting your own learning down in a blog will force you to ensure that you actually understand the principles. As for getting started, there are lots of great books you can buy, or read information online. One note, be careful and double check the information written on random blogs. Or check out places like the Khan Academy.

In some sense this reminds me to the rush to get a CNE in the early 90s, or the many boot camps that appeared to help people a MCSE certification in the mid to late 90s. Lots of people passed the tests, but weren't very qualified, which has contributed to the general distrust of certifications today. I hope that doesn't happen too much today, though I'm sure it will to some extent. The chance to make more money, or just find a job, will drive lots of people to look for quick wins.

While I'm sure some of you will get better jobs, perhaps making a lot of money with minimal data science experience, I hope many of you continue to learn and improve your skills in the data analysis area over time, whether you are paid to be a data scientist or not.

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