How to Become a Data Scientist
Nov 20, 2020
a woman looks at a phone

So, you want to learn how to become a data scientist. Good choice! Data science is one of the buzziest and most lucrative fields to emerge in the past decade, and for good reason. It’s the secret sauce behind the innovations that make our lives more efficient – speech recognition, search engine optimization, food delivery, and self-driving cars, just to name a few.

Data scientists can be found powering nearly every industry in the world right now, not just tech, and there are a myriad of ways to dip your toes in.

What is a data scientist?

 “Data Science” is a nebulous term and data scientists wear many hats, including mathematician, statistician, and computer scientist. The main responsibility of a data scientist is to wrangle big sets of structured or unstructured data from sources like social media feeds, smart devices, and emails then transform them into a more usable format that can help solve business or organization-related challenges. Data scientists create software algorithms, analyze and process data, support machine learning, and create personalized data products for decision-making. They also communicate and work closely with IT teams and businesses to help them grow. 

How to become a data scientist

Becoming a data scientist has a lot of appealing perks—job security and generous pay, for starters—but it also requires extensive training and hard work. If you want to be a data scientist, you have to be fully committed. 

So how do you begin? Here are some first steps.

Learn to love data.

One of the foundational skills you’ll need to succeed as a data scientist is love for what you’re doing. It sounds pretty darn obvious, but without a lot of love for and curiosity about the work, it will be hard to find the motivation to move forward in a field that can be fairly challenging.

Think about what you’re curious about. Are you interested in what makes a person click on a news article, how many trails are in your city, how many women have served in government throughout history, or how much the cost of textbooks has risen overtime? There are an infinite number of questions you can ask that data can help solve. The first steps to loving data are to ask lots of questions and practice looking for the answers. You might even create your own databases to see how you can visualize and share what you learn.

Get familiar with the basics of data science.

An important step that you can take right now is familiarizing yourself with basic data science terms and databases. Becoming a data scientist requires a solid understanding of coding languages, mathematics theory, and data modeling. On the technical side, you’ll need to understand or become familiar with things like:

  • Statistics and machine learning
  • Coding languages like SAS, R, or Python
  • Writing SQL theories
  • Data visualization and reporting
  • Data mining and cleaning
  • Workflow and collaboration skills

There are lots of languages and skills to keep track of, which is why structured courses are especially helpful to the budding data scientist.

Get your secondary education.

Getting your foot in the door as an entry level data scientist often requires at least a bachelor’s degree in data science or a related field like mathematics or statistics for most employers. That said, if you’ve got a degree in a different field or even just a lot of grit, initiative, and innate curiosity, you can learn most data science skills by enrolling in a bootcamp or an online data scientist course.

Enroll in a free data science bootcamp or online course.

Many online schools, such as the NYC Data Science Academy and DataCamp offer two to three month-long data science bootcamps that give you a focused dive into the field as well as hands on experience for your portfolio. Bootcamps vary in length, cost, and skillset, and because of their limited length, they may not be able to provide you with the depth of experience you need to land a job. Many require previous experience and some can get on the expensive side. You can find a list of top-rated data science bootcamps at Switchup to see which may be the best fit for you.

If you’re not quite ready to commit to a full-length course, no worries. There are several free data science courses you can take to dip your toes in the water before completely diving in.

Join a data science community.

Data science is ever evolving, and it helps to have a network of peers by your side who are doing similar work. There are lots of data science communities you can participate in online that can help you find the code you need, build models, network and collaborate with other data scientists, and discover fresh content.

A few communities worth looking into are: 

  • Kaggle: With close to 3 million members, Kaggle is one of the largest data science communities in the world. Here you can use over 50,000 public datasets and 400,000 public notebooks to aid in your analysis. 
  • Data Science Central: DSC provides data scientists with a platform for social interaction with other data scientists, forum-based support, and the latest tools and trends in the industry. 
  • Stack Overflow: Stack Overflow is a great resource for all of your burning coding questions. It’s helpful for both web developers and data scientists. 
  • IBM Data Community: Data scientists can find blogs, forums, webcasts, presentations, and the latest research on IBM.

Become a data scientist at Lambda School

Bootcamps and communities are a good start for a budding data scientist, but they often only skim the surface of the things you need to know, and they can be fairly costly. A data science course from Lambda School is a great way to get the depth of a 4-year degree at a fraction of the cost and time.

Our full and part-time Data Science courses give individuals like you an intensive online learning experience with an end goal of getting you a career in data analysis, machine learning engineering, businesses analysis, digital marketing, and more. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • Python
  • SQL
  • Data Visualization
  • Machine Learning
  • Linear Algebra
  • Databases
  • Statistics and Modeling
  • Natural Language Processing

You’ll attend live, online lectures led by industry experts who will train you on industry-current tools and techniques for data science. You’ll also learn how to analyze a variety of data, build reproducible analyses and data-powered systems, understand how to communicate and build on your insights, and have the chance to contribute to and build real products with a team of students that you can showcase in your portfolio. 

At Lambda, we offer deferred tuition options like Income Share Agreements and Retail Installment Contracts that allow you to pay nothing until you’re making $50,000 a year in a qualified position. If you’re not hired, you don’t pay tuition, simple as that. 

Learn more about how to start a career in data science at Lambda or start your application now.

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