What do you want to be one you grow up? A data scientist, of course! Though ultra popular, the modern field of data science is relatively new. It’s still developing, which makes it incredibly hard for youngsters to get into it early. Kids can take coding courses to see if they want to work with computers, or writing courses to see if they are burgeoning journalists, but data science is more confusing. Data science requires no single skill set, and most degree programs are very new and sometimes even of questionable value. So how can excited students get into the field of data science?
In order to get into data science, it’s paramount to first understand its history. While “big data” is a modern day buzzword, data science isn’t entirely new or revolutionary. Students of data science aren’t taught strictly “data science” skills, rather they must become skilled in a variety of disciplines. Early data scientists didn’t have degrees in Big Data. They were computer scientists and statisticians who filled a new gap created by emerging technologies and possibilities. Data scientists must not only be knowledgable in code, they must be able to understand complex algorithms and love solving problems.
Going into data science means acquiring several useful skill sets that can be employed across several sectors, from pharmaceuticals and research to marketing and technology. But it also requires a lot of commitment. Luckily, there’s plenty of online courses to start the fire. Try testing out an Introduction to Data Science course on an online education platform like Coursera or Udemy. It’s hard not to get excited about data science after seeing all the possibilities! Follow that up by trying your hand at programming, either in R or Python. In school, be sure to take statistics, perhaps even an advanced class. If all these topics still interest you, you may be looking at a career in data science. You can also try courses in linear algebra or machine learning to further test the waters.
Will you need a degree to become a data scientist? Probably. In fact, 88% of data scientists have a master’s and 46% have a PhD. Most of these scientists, however, never took specialized “data science” courses. Many of them started in related fields and then turned their skills toward data science. The real question is what should you study to become a data scientist?
The answer is heavily dependent on the individual. More surprisingly, employers and working data scientists hold a lot of skepticism over specialized “data science” degrees. Not every degree program is worthwhile, and many programs are simply repackaged existing courses with no deeper understanding of data science. Some insiders recommend getting a BA in statistics to create a solid theoretical foundation for your career.