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Read this before taking a Data Science course

The most complete and practical guide to the top data science courses today
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Andrea Tallarita
Andrea Tallarita

So you’ve decided you want to take a Data Science course. Now all you have to do is go on Google, find the course with the most comprehensive curriculum, and just sign up. Right?

Not quite!

There is actually a sequence of steps – and several insider secrets – that you should be aware of if you want to take a Data Science course. This article is going to reveal to you all of them, and provide you with the most updated list of the best Data Science courses out there today.

We’ve also provided an exhaustive FAQ at the end, to make sure that any doubts you still have on this topic will be cleared.

CONTENTS

Step 1: SQL, Python, R, SAS – the Data Science languages

While there are numerous technical tools used in Data Science, the fundamental distinction you must be able to make is between the major programming languages. These are SQL, Python, R and SAS.

Python is by far the most widely used of the four, for the simple reason that it is a general purpose language with applications much broader than just Data Science. It’s also highly intuitive and easy to use. You will find the majority of courses linked here offer Python, and with reason. It’s a perfect starting point for many fields in programming and we recommend starting from there too.

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SQL is very popular with a great deal of businesses, but is much simpler and more limited than all the other options here, being employed only for comparatively basic data operations. It should certainly be part of your curriculum if you want to cast a wide net when looking for jobs in Data Science. Be aware, however, that it will not be sufficient by itself to work as a Data Scientist/Analyst.

R is a highly popular language in academia, less so outside of it. It should be your port of call if you intend to study data in the context of scientific or academic research.

Finally, SAS is enormously important, but only in very specific fields, like government, banking and biopharma. It can certainly open some excellent doors, but it’s not an ideal starting point unless you already know exactly where you will work.

Step 2: Which Data Science course is best for beginners?

Do not start your journey by signing up for a full-fledged Data Science course.

This is so important, it’s worth saying again: do NOT commit to the lengthy and sometimes expensive process that is a full Data Science course as your first step!

Instead, ease your way into the topic with tutorials that are customisable, beginner-friendly, and inexpensive (or even free). A great deal of subscription-based platforms will let you sign up for a month at fairly cheap prices, and try your way around.

We have selected three excellent options you can start from:

data science certificate freeCodeCamp logo

Available courses

  • Data Visualization
  • Data Analysis with Python
  • Machine Learning with Python

Duration: approx. 30 hours (self-paced)

Price: Free

What you should know: Arguably the most famous resource to learn coding for free, this platform allows you to either take the models we suggest above, or else start completely from scratch with the fundamentals of programming. If you’ve never written a line of code in your life, then start here.

software developer online training Khan Academy logo

Course: AP®︎/College Computer Science Principles

Duration: Not provided

Price: Free

What you should know: Slightly less specific to pure Data Science than the other options here, Khan Academy nonetheless offers a more academic and theoretical approach to the topic.

software developer online training Alison-logo

Course: 

  • Introduction to Data Science

Duration: 2-3 hours

Price: Free

What you should know: The short course we linked above is a good way to get your feet wet with Data Science. If you enjoy the Alison platform, they offer several other courses in Data Science, inclusive of a wide range of other skills, so definitely check out their curriculum.

Step 3: Which course is best to become a Data Scientist?

Now that those foundational courses have furnished you with a basic understanding of what Data Science is and what working with it is like, you will have to choose one of several learning paths.

Option #1: Online Data Science courses

The average Data Science course out there will be a self-paced, self-learning program, sometimes offering additional services in the form of occasional 1-on-1 consultations with instructors, but mostly leaving you to your own means.

Their primary advantage is their flexibility: you can usually learn in your own time and take subjects in whichever order you prefer. If this is what you’re looking for, then here are the top online Data Science courses available in 2024.

Course price:

$39.99

Duration:

Self-paced, inclusive of 55.5 hours of lectures

What you should know:

A bundle containing 7 different courses which cover a very wide range of topics and tools in Data Science (Python, R, Streamlit, Keras). This is probably the most theory-heavy of the options in this list and the closest one to an academic course in terms of topics covered. Be aware that if you intend to take all 7 courses, this will be quite time-consuming – the 55 hours indicate the duration of the video lectures alone, not the study time!

 

Course price:

$199.98 for the course + $19.99 for 6 months of 24/7 assistance

Duration:

125+ hours

What you should know:

A well-rounded course with an emphasis on AI and machine learning. While mostly a self-learning program, GeeksforGeeks also offers some live guidance and a 24/7 line to answer questions. The price should not be taken at face value, as there appear to be discounts occasionally (our own research found an initial offer bringing down the total to $89.98).

Subscription price:

Monthly: $49.00. Annual: $294. Lifetime: $823.20

Duration:

10 months (5 hrs/week), Self paced

What you should know:

A wonderfully customisable resource, Dataquest offers a great variety of learning paths which allow the user to learn specific, desired skills or tools (e.g. Tableau). It also helpfully lets you sample the first few lessons of each course before you sign up. However, make sure you know what you want to learn, and how long you plan to use the platform for, or you risk wasting some time and money. This is an excellent resource, but it presupposes that you know what you’re doing.

data science certificate codecademy logo

Subscription price:

€17.49 per month, variously discounted for students and teams.

Duration:

Variable depending on the course, usually between 16 and 40 weeks.

What you should know: 

One of Codecademy’s advantages is that it offers discrete, shorter courses which can be combined to learn the precise topics you are looking for. It’s an excellent starting point for the beginner which will also allow you to branch out into intermediate Data Science topics as well.

 

Coursera-logo

Subscription price:

€36 / €53 monthly, depending on the subscription type

Duration:

6 months at 10 hours a week

What you should know: 

One of the most reputable courses on this list alongside the IBM certificate listed above, this course has the distinction of preparing you for a sequence of further, more advanced courses by Google which offer some of the most respected certificates in the industry. Bear in mind that unlike most other options on this list, this course focuses on the R programming language, not on Python.

.

software developer online training EdX logo

Course price:

€796

Duration:

1 year at 3-6 hours per week

What you should know: 

Though among the more expensive options on this list, the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate is an extensive course with an outstanding reputation, and among the most valuable certificates. Note that edX has a very wide offering in Data Science courses, so it’s worth visiting their website and considering what other courses they offer if you’re not entirely satisfied with this one.

 

software developer online training Udacity logo

Course price:

€927 or €359 monthly

Duration:

3 Months at 10 hrs/week

What you should know: 

We selected this particular course for its broad approach, but in truth Udacity offers a wide selection of options that will let you specialise in exactly the skills you are looking for. While comparatively expensive, Udacity courses also tend be very professionally designed, and intended to prepare you for real work in the industry.

 

data science certificate Udemy logo

Course price:

€94.99 for the course, or €29.99 per month subscription

Duration:

Self-paced, inclusive of 32 hours of lectures.

What you should know: 

Though titled a ‘bootcamp’, this is a self-learning, self-paced course. We have selected this option as one of the most comprehensive on this platform, but please be aware that Udemy offer an extraordinarly varied selection. If this doesn’t look like the course for you, have a look at the many alternatives on their platform.

 

software developer online training Pluralsight Logo

Subscription price:

€26 monthly

Duration:

Self-paced.

What you should know: 

Pluralsight has a somewhat different approach than most other providers on this list. Rather than having a few big courses, it offers instead a wide number of short learning programs on a variety of different topics. The advantage is of course the ability to customise your learning, and the platform is also comparatively inexpensive.

 

Subscription price:

Monthly: €49.00. Annual: €159.96 Bi-annual: €139.92

Duration:

10 hours (minimum)

What you should know:

A course with a clear focus on Python, included a helpful, dedicated module on Statistics. Also offers the option of previewing some of the material before you study it. The 10 hour duration reported on the site, however, should be taken with a grain of salt – the curriculum certainly does not look like it can be completed in such a short time.

Option #2: Data Science bootcamps

A Data Science bootcamp is a highly intensive type of course, but also one in which you are not alone. You will usually work as part of a class, under the supervision of an instructor, and supported by a Career Service department.

Bootcamps are generally more challenging and expensive than regular courses, but are also more closely aligned with the job market, and will usually equip you with practical skills intended to let you find a job.

In the following list, the category “Funding Assistance” refers to whether a bootcamp offers support from its services in terms of finding a sponsor to cover the cost of your tuition fees. Where the bootcamp does not offer this support, it may still be possible to find a sponsor independently.

The category “ISA”, on the other hand, refers to whether there are income-sharing agreements available for the bootcamp – sponsorship systems in which you are loaned the money for the tuition, but don’t start repaying it until you have found a job and are being paid.

The top bootcamps for Data Science in 2024 are the following.

wbs coding school logo digital marketing coursePrice: €10,500

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 15 weeks

Part-time: 24 weeks

What you should know: A job-oriented bootcamp exploring Data Science and machine learning in depth, this program puts students together in an instructor-led class and has them completing project-based work in groups. It also offers the unique ‘hybrid’ bootcamp model, combining remote lessons and work on-site, although it’s possible to complete the bootcamp fully online if preferred.

Price: $15,995   

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: No

Full-Time: N/A

Part-time: 18-34 weeks

What you should know: This learning program includes a strong section on machine learning algorithms of the sort that are employed in modern AI. For those who feel that may be beyond their ambition, it also offers a less wide-ranging Data Analytics & Visualization Bootcamp.

Price: Variable by location

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 8 weeks         

Part-time: 24 weeks

What you should know: LeWagon boasts a huge number of campuses spread over all six continents of the world, though the majority find themselves in Europe. This means that no matter where you are from, there are good odds that you’ll have the option to complete a full bootcamp at one of their locations. It is also possible to study fully online for those who prefer that.

Price: Ranging from €7,000 to €12,000

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 9 weeks        

Part-time: 24 weeks

What you should know: The Ironhack program teaches Data Analytics, which is narrower as a discipline than full Data Science, but it’s also one of the quickest bootcamps out there. At only 9 weeks of duration, it’s suitable for those who wish to learn and start applying their skills as quickly as possible. 

Price: $8,500

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: No

Full-Time: N/A 

Part-time: 36 weeks

What you should know: This is a part-time only program, designed for those who wish to learn Data Science while doing something else on the side. Note that Springboard offers a variety of career tracks, including Data Analytics, Data Science, Machine Learning, and Data Engineering, allowing you to specialise in the skills of your choice.

Price: €5400

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 12 weeks      

Part-time: N/A

What you should know: This course is targeted particularly for those who wish to specialise in Data Analytics, as opposed to the more general field of Data Science. It also offers the option of learning wholly remote, or alternatively taking the entire course on one of their campuses, which are located in various French cities as well as in Lisbon.

Price: $16,900   

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: No

Full-Time: 15 weeks      

Part-time: 40 weeks

What you should know: Flatiron School offers an all-round program with project-based teamwork designed to prepare you for the world of work. For those who are located in or near Denver and New York, the option to study on campus rather than remotely is available.

Price: €9800       

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: No

Full-Time: 12 weeks      

Part-time: N/A

What you should know: Spiced Academy offers programs in both Data Analytics and Data Science. Their bootcamps can be completed online, but for those resident in Berlin, there is also the option of completing the entire program in person on their city campus.

Price: $15,950   

Funding assistance: Yes

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 16 weeks      

Part-time: N/A

What you should know: General Assembly offers two distinct programs depending on what you want to learn: Data Analytics, which is narrower and more specific to that particular job, and Data Science, which has a broader focus.

Price: €8990       

Funding assistance: No

ISA: Yes

Full-Time: 20 weeks      

Part-time: 40 weeks

What you should know: CareerFoundry has a different approach than most other bootcamps, in that rather than asking you to attend a class at regular hours, it gives lessons and assignments intended to be completed independently, and offers instructor support on a request basis. It’s an option for students who are looking for a flexible program that will let them work at their own pace.

Option #3: University courses in Data Science

University courses in Data Science are by far the most exhaustive on the topic, largely because they include a great deal of theoretical knowledge, even of the type that isn’t actually used in a professional setting.

The best university courses will depend on your location and the languages you speak, and there are thousands of them offered around the world, so a list of that particular type is beyond the scope of this article.

Having said that, if you’re keen on an academic approach you might want to check out providers like edX and Coursera, as some of the Data Science courses they offer have been designed and/or validated by prestigious universities around the world.

Now onto our FAQ!

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What is Data Science?

Data Science is the academic and/or professional discipline that deals with gathering, sorting, cleaning, analysing and presenting data, usually by means of standardised programming tools. It’s among the most sought-after professions in tech right now.

Is Data Science hard?

Data Science is not as hard as most people think it is. Most of the actual mathematics is done by the computer, and what you need is the expertise and the patience to use the right IT tools. That said, Data Science is very much about crunching numbers, so if that is not your jam, you will definitely struggle.

How much maths do I need for data science?

The most frightening question! In order to learn Data Science, you should have at least a high-school level understanding of statistics, algebra and calculus. It’s not necessary to know the sort of advanced maths they teach at university, at least not to get started in the field.

If you wish to look into this question any further, we’ve written an extensive article answering exactly that question, how much maths do you need to learn Data Science.

Can I learn Data Science in 3 months?

It is possible to learn enough Data Science in 3 months to start building your own projects and to apply for junior positions in a related field. It is absolutely not possible to master Data Science in 3 months, and perhaps not ever – there are just too many tools and specialisms in the field for any one person to become an expert on them all.

Which place is best for a Data Science course? 

Location is becoming increasingly less relevant as more and more education shifts online. For most people, the best place to learn Data Science is from the comfort of their home, by studying remote. Even many university courses are accessible this way.

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Which Data Science course is the most future-proof?

Naturally, academic qualifications in Data Science – particularly post-graduate degrees like Masters and PhDs – are those that will stay relevant on your curriculum the longest. Be aware, however, that tech is an extremely fast-changing field, and that all courses – even university degrees – are ultimately perishable.

The way to counter this is to make sure you start working as early as possible after completing your course. Thus, make sure you select a learning program that is oriented towards the modern job market.

Do I need a certificate to do Data Science?

Most Data Science courses nowadays offer a certificate, the value of which will depend on your location and what kind of job market you’re working in. For more advanced certificates offered by institutions like the Open Group, DASCA, or the SAS Institute, or for specialised ones like the Microsoft Certified: Azure or the Google Advanced Data Analytics Professional Certificate, please refer to our guide to Data Science certificates in 2024.

What sort of job can a Data Scientist do?

A professional with the skills to work as a Data Scientist can usually cover a wide variety of other roles, particularly in the field of analysis: Data Analyst, Financial Analyst, Marketing Analyst, Web Analyst, Product Analyst. For those with a more advanced level of skill it’s also possible to work as a Data Engineer, a Data Architect or a Data Administrator. We’ve written an extensive guide on what a Data Science graduate will be doing on their first job which we recommend you check out!

And that brings our guide to a close! We hope it helped to clarify the way forward for learning Data Science. Now go forth and make the field your own!

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