How to Become a Data Scientist Without a Degree: Organizations are using data science to turn data into a competitive advantage by refining products and services.
Indeed, data scientist work is exciting. So it’s not strange if you choose to become a data scientist.
And for those who are wondering if it’s possible to become a data scientist without a degree, this article specifically addressed this case.
I’ll show you everything you need to know about becoming a data scientist, from what to study to essential skills, a salary guide, and more!
Stay with me.
Can I Become a Data Scientist Without a Degree?
You probably are wondering if you have a chance of becoming a data scientist without a degree.
The answer is, “Yes, it’s possible.”
And the awesome part is that just you’ve passed the first step by indicating interest in data science.
So, if you’re doubtful about this fact, let me show you that you can become a Data Scientist without a degree.
I used to be a Project Manager at Ontario. You know what that means; I studied Project Management.
Now, I’m a Data Scientist.
Crazy right? how to become a data scientist from scratch
Mere looking at this case, anyone could tell that I was far from data science.
Well, it took me a lot of effort to get to where I’m now. I had to do a lot of learning online after work.
Then I learned Machine Learning on my own during my Master’s program to meet up with my peers who are already grounded in this field.
Why am I explaining this? I want you to understand that I was once in a similar position as you!
With the experience I’ve gone through, I can say that a degree in any prerequisite course for Data Science is helpful, but not necessary.
Since I’ve been on both sides of getting a degree and learning to become a data scientist online, I can grant you my own perspective on this question.
I say getting a Master’s in Data Science is the easiest way to get into the field. But if you’re not ready to spend $60,000 on tuition, selfdiscipline should be your next apparel.
That’s the only way you can successfully become a data scientist without a degree.
I hope this will help you in making your decision.
Before we get into the details of what to do to become a data scientist, let’s understand what data science is about.
What is Data Science?
Here is a simple definition of data science:
Data science combines various fields including statistics, scientific methods, and data analysis to extract value from data.
Data science reveals trends and produces information that companies can use to make better decisions and create more innovative products and services.
Most importantly, it enables machine learning (ML) models to learn from the vast amount of data passed to them rather than relying primarily on business analysts to see what they can discover from the data.
Those who practice data science are called data scientists and combine a number of skills to analyze data collected from the web, smartphones, customers, sensors, and other sources.
Data is the foundation of innovation, but its value comes from the information data scientists can obtain from it and then act on it.
What Skills Do a Data Scientist Need if You Don’t Have a Degree (and How to Learn Them)
Here are the basic skills any aspiring data scientist must have especially if you don’t have a degree.
1. Mathematics
Deep mathematical knowledge is needed to become a good data scientist.
Although some accept this fact, others still think that mathematical knowledge is not required since most statistical analyses are mostly carried out via programming.
For instance:
Linear algebra, including multivariate calculus. You can learn Linear Algebra for free at Khan Academy.
Regression, including the ability to handle both linear and nonlinear models appropriately. You can learn about Linear Regression at Coursera.
Probability theory, including Bayes’ Law and Central Limit Theorem. You can learn about probability and data at Coursera.
Numerical analysis, including time series analysis and forecasting. You can learn about time series forecasting at Udacity.
Core machine learning methods, including clustering, decision trees, and kNN. You can learn about machine learning for free via Stanford University’s course on Coursera.
If you’re of the opinion that mathematics is not such an important skill for a data scientist, this might be for the fact you didn’t enjoy math in school.
However, in the world of data scientists, the data represents realworld concepts, unlike the driven mathematical formulas.
2. Statistical Methods
A solid understanding of statistics is probably the most important skill for data scientists.
In fact, all the programming, math, and software skills in the world won’t help you if you don’t understand how to accurately and fairly analyze and report statistics.
For example, if you don’t understand when it is appropriate to report the median or mean for a given set of values, you can produce outlierbiased output and as such tell a misleading story.
Also, if you don’t understand confidence interval theory, proper sample size, and statistical significance, you could end up making definitive statements that should be the other way around.
All good data scientists differ in their chosen skills and technologies, but they all share a deep understanding of statistics.
To start, take a basic statistics course that focuses on calculating statistics manually or using statistical software such as IBM’s SPSS.
You must also learn to report statistics fairly, accurately, and clearly.
READ ALSO: How to Become a Data Analyst without Experience in 2023
3. Programming Tools and Techniques
Programming helps data scientists in a number of ways.
They can write scripts to automate one of the most timeconsuming tasks in data science: cleaning and preparing data for analysis.
They can also write scripts to transform data from one format to another. For example by transforming the result of an SQL query into a carefully formatted CSV report.
Or, conversely, by keeping the CSV data in a relational database.
In most cases, data analysis is done using specially designed libraries to eliminate most of the repetitive or complex calculations involved, such as pandas.
R is much more difficult to adapt to use cases outside of its core focus on statistics and visualization.
4. Machine Learning
Machine learning is the means by which computers can learn (and improve) tasks without being explicitly programmed.
In the world of data science, machine learning is finding increasing application in the world of data science.
Machine learning techniques can be used to make datadriven decisions and predictions and have many applications in data science.
How to Become a Data Scientist without a Degree – Improving Your Chances
Data science is the most researched field. Not until 2020, Data science has been the most sought field in America.
Since this is a recent field, there is a very low probability that applicants will have an actual data science degree.
So, to make up for that, here are five key steps that will allow you to become a data scientist without a degree.
The steps are:
1. Gain Necessary Prerequisite Knowledge
As earlier stated above, gaining the required skills, especially within the prerequisite of data science is one of the easiest ways to become a data scientist.
Data science has roots in disciplines like Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics.
So, start by gaining knowledge about mathematical concepts like calculus, linear algebra, probability, discrete math, programming, etc.
Also, you can learn Python and R, the two most popular languages in the field of Data Science.
2. Learn and Understand Data Science
The second most important step to becoming a data scientist is to learn and understand data science.
Understand what data science is, and the role of a data scientist in reallife situations.
Understanding these facts will make your learning easy because there are various components in data science like data extraction, cleaning, transformation, visualization, and prediction.
It is also important for you to know at least basic algorithms like linear regression, logistic regression, kmeans clustering, etc.
3. Explore and Solve RealTime Case Studies
Once you’ve got a good knowledge of data science, the next step is to source for different case studies.
For example, explore how big enterprises are using data science to help them improve the organization and its profits.
Exploring and trying out numerous case studies will open up your understanding of data science.
It will help you in finding out problems to solve, and how to approach solving a particular problem.
When you’re done exploring, the next is to work on live projects.
You’ll gain handson experience in solving reallife problems as it will improve your data science skills.
Because data science is a more practical field, you attain true knowledge by actually solving real problems.
4. Get Certified
Once you’ve solved a good number of realworld problems, the next step is to get a certificate.
Having an official certification will show the world or your potential employees our skills in Data Science.
This means a certificate will practically improve your chances of becoming a Data scientist.
Some of the companies that offer certifications in Data Science are Microsoft, Cloudera, SAS, etc.
Here is a list of some of these certifications –
SAS Certified Data Scientist
Cloudera Certified Associate: Spark and Hadoop Developer Certification
Microsoft Certified Azure Data Scientist Associate
5. Build a Portfolio
Creating a portfolio will reflect the work you’ve done in the field of data science.
While exploring reallife case studies and solving live projects, you can enrich your portfolio through these various data science projects.
This can increase your presence on websites like Github, Linkedin, Kaggle, Tableau Public, etc., hence grabbing the attention of many job recruiters.
Depending on the type of work you want to do, you can create your portfolio in three different ways.
For a position that requires machine learning, you will need to have a portfolio that reflects projects that involve machine learning algorithms.
If the job role is data analysis, a data analysis portfolio can help you demonstrate your skills in transformation, cleaning, visualization, etc. of data.
Finally, if the job role is storytelling, building a storytelling portfolio, will help translates a business problem into data science.
6. Join a Community
Another way to become a data scientist without a degree is by joining the data science community.
A lot of online platforms exist. Some of these platforms allow you to participate in data science competitions.
Through these competitions, you can gain reallife experience that you can include in your portfolio.
This community will expose you to the right employees.
Resources To Help You Become a Data Scientist Without a Degree from scratch
If you want a comprehensive selfpaced program that covers everything from the basics of data analytics to working with machine learning algorithms.
below are resources that can bolster your knowledge of data science skills and concepts.
 Statistics
 How Bayes Theorem, Probability, Logic and Data Interact – This short primer on the Springboard blog covers the basics of probability and logic, and how they interact with data.
 Think Stats – This book by O’Reilly Media explains statistics from a programmer’s perspective and is a handy guide to the stats knowledge you’ll need as a data scientist.
 Mathematics
 What math subjects would you suggest to prepare for data mining and machine learning? – This thread on the Stats Stack Exchange covers a selfmade curriculum of math topics you’ll need to know to succeed in data science.
 15 Mathematics MOOCs for Data Science – This blog post sources a variety of free online courses that can help you with your math skills.
 R/Python
 Data science sexiness: Your guide to Python and R, and which one is best – This guide explains the differences between R and Python and how you can learn both.
 SQL
 W3Schools SQL Introduction – This tutorial from W3schools can help you learn data science with the basics of SQL.
 18+ Best Online Resources for Learning SQL and Database Concepts – This list contains resources to help accelerate your SQL learning.
 The SQL Tutorial for Data Analysts – This free interactive tutorial to SQL by Mode will take you from learning the basics of SQL to applying it to realworld cases.
 Business Knowledge
 The Data Science Process – Springboard’s sevenday email course will help you frame your data science insights in a way that will change business outcomes.
 Guide to Data Science Jobs – Springboard’s guide to data science jobs gives you an overview of what business knowledge you need to be a successful data scientist.
 Data Visualization
 A Dramatic Tour Through Python’s Data Visualization Landscape – This guide walks through the rich data visualization landscape in Python, covering the tools you can use to visualize your results.
 FlowingData – Nathan Yau’s blog is one of the web’s leading authorities on data visualization tools and techniques.
Final Thought
Learning data science without a degree involves a bit of risk.
From the above mentioned, we went through six important steps to take if you want to become a data scientist even without a degree.
Don’t be scared, just make sure you follow the steps above and you’ll be well on your way down a path many have already taken: getting into data science without a data science degree.
FAQs About Becoming a Data Scientist Without a Degree
What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Data Scientist?
To become a data scientist, no formal qualifications are necessary. However, certain abilities and proficiencies are demanded of any data scientist. Data scientists, for example, are required to be conversant in programming languages such as SQL and Python. Data scientists must also be able to create and manage data pipelines, clean and wrangle data, and extract insights from massive data using statistics and probability.
Is Data Science Hard To Get Into?
The answer here is yes and No for me, as it all depends on the individual taking the course. While the function of a data scientist is less codingoriented than that of a software engineer, it still takes time and effort to learn and develop the necessary abilities. With a weekly study commitment of 1520 hours, a comprehensive data science Bootcamp can take up to six months to complete. Those who need to attend beginner programming classes to become acquainted with Python will require more time.
Can You Become a Data Scientist Without a Computer Science Degree?
In a short, yes. Many data scientists lack a college degree in a related discipline (or, in some circumstances, none at all). What important to firms is that a data scientist have the necessary technical and soft capabilities.
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