2021 Guide to Online Data Science Certificates and Courses

Data science uses scientific methods and algorithms to extract insights and answer questions hidden in the data of a business. Data scientists help businesses improve their performance by measuring results and creating forecasts that inform business decisions.

The title “data scientist” continues to expand and encompass a wide range of positions. Because data scientists can serve a number of different functions and purposes, there are specialized online programs and boot camps teaching the specific skills needed for a desired area of expertise.

Read on to learn why data science is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and how online data science courses might help you achieve your career goals.

Can You Become a Data Scientist Online?

Yes, you can. There are many data science certification programs, boot camps and courses that can help you land a job in this field. Before immersing yourself in the world of big data, consider taking a data science short course to see if this field is right for you.

If you’re sure that big data is the perfect fit, the next step is to figure out which academic path you wish to take. Big data technology companies look to hire specialized professionals focusing on particular areas such as natural language processing (NLP), computer vision, or Internet of Things (IoT). Online courses are a great way to learn a data science specialization on your own time, and there are many options to choose from to fit your learning preferences.

Topics in Data Science Online Courses

A well-rounded data scientist is constantly learning new tools, technologies and ways to approach data that are offered in various training programs. Boot camps and schooling offer online data science courses that teach the following topics, separated into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels:

Beginner Topics

  • Discrete mathematics
  • Linear algebra
  • Multivariable calculus
  • Statistical learning
  • Predictive modeling
  • Retrieving and cleaning data
  • Statistical inference
  • Regression analysis and models
  • Developing data products
  • What’s in a data scientist’s toolbox?
  • Reproducible research
  • IT management

Intermediate Topics

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Data mining
  • Bioinformatics
  • Genomics
  • Mathematical modeling of dynamical and biological systems
  • R programming
  • Applied plotting, charting, and data representation
  • Programming languages
  • Storytelling and effective communication

Advanced Topics

  • Text mining
  • Applied social network analysis
  • Natural language processing
  • APIs and web scraping
  • Spark and MapReduce
  • Probability
  • Deep and neural networks
  • Building and maintaining networks

Some online courses end with a capstone project that showcases a student’s ability to synthesize the lessons learned. These capstone projects are a hands-on way to build your portfolio and help you gain confidence in your abilities as a data scientist.

Is a Data Science Certificate Worth It?

An online data science certificate is beneficial to anyone interested in becoming a well-rounded data scientist. For those who are new to big data or are thinking about changing careers, a certification in data science can be the starting point for a lifelong career. If you are a veteran in the field, certificates are great when you need to learn the latest skills and techniques. They can also be a great negotiating point when discussing a raise with your employer.

Being a certified data scientist opens up possibilities. You’ll learn about new tools, emerging technologies and new methods to extract data insights. Since data science is always evolving, data science certificates and courses are often the only way to learn the latest information.

Data Science Graduate Certificate vs. Master's in Data Science

How does a data science certificate compare to a master’s in data science degree? While the curriculum covers similar topics, each comprises different teaching styles and applicant requirements.

  • Students enrolled in a master’s degree program will cover data science-related topics in much greater detail than in an online data science certificate program.
  • Students are required to have an undergraduate degree in a related field before applying to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the prerequisite courses. The prerequisite coursework varies depending on your specialization, but they are typically topics such as probability, analysis, computer science and computer systems.
  • Master’s programs are offered on campus and online. These programs usually take much longer to complete than a certificate course and are more expensive.
  • Data science graduate certificate programs have different enrollment requirements than master’s programs. Students may be required to have a mathematical background, but many courses offer additional learning or a high-level overview to bring students up to speed.
  • The curriculum for online data science certificates ranges from one week to just under a year, which provides students with a fast-tracked course schedule.
  • In some cases, a data science certificate is offered as an introductory program to help graduates transfer into master’s in data science programs. Students need only to complete the rest of the required courses instead of enrolling in a completely new program.

There are many benefits to earning a graduate certificate or a master’s in data science, but it all comes down to you. Be honest with yourself when choosing your program and do your due diligence to find the best fit for your learning style, the amount of time you can spend learning and, of course, the budget that you have to further your education.

Demand for Data Scientists and Career Growth

Data scientists provide solutions for businesses looking for answers hidden in their data. Learn the skills you need for a promising future in big data or show your bosses just how much potential you have by earning a certificate or master’s degree in data science. Learn more about data scientist salary and career outlook.

Benefits of an Online Data Science Short Course

Online short courses enable you to advance your skills in a certain field without committing to a full degree program. Online data science short course programs are concentrated curriculums that prepare students for a career in data science, and they can help ease the transition if you are moving from another industry into data science. Other benefits of online data science short courses include:

You learn new analytical tools

While the length of the course is shortened, the depth of the knowledge doesn’t have to be. Many short courses provide students with information regarding the latest tools, methodologies and shifts in the market. Self-taught learners can test their theoretical knowledge in courses with credentialed faculty.

You can add data science skills to your resume

An easy way to show a prospective or current employer your willingness to learn is by earning a certificate. You demonstrate you have up-to-date knowledge of industry standards and can help lead new initiatives in emerging technologies. Data scientists with certificates set themselves up for success by proving they are experienced and capable.

Online data science courses can be more convenient

Short courses are aptly named for their ability to deliver quality learning material in a short period of time. When attending on-campus courses is out of the question, short courses provide education to a wider audience. In as little as a week, you can fill gaps in your industry knowledge to help gain a competitive edge when it comes to landing a job or receiving a promotion.

Online Data Science Courses to Consider

Finding the right online data science certification programs or courses is a personal process. Start by honing in on the ones that interest you, and then look into their specifics. Pay attention to:

  • Program length
  • Accreditation
  • Whether they offer a degree or certification
  • The teaching style

While some students thrive by going to class in person, others find it easier to maintain a healthy life balance learning from home. To help you start your search for the perfect online data science course, we’ve provided some courses to consider:

Data Science Specialization with JHU @ Coursera

Length: 11 months (or learn at your own pace)

John Hopkins University partnered with Coursera to create one of the most popular and highly rated data science courses. The curriculum balances depth with breadth to provide an all-encompassing course to propel graduates into a fulfilling career. The program also teaches statistics, a course that is often left out of other boot camps and online data science courses.

Applied Data Science with Python Specialization with UMich @ Coursera

Length: 5 months

The University of Michigan partnered with Coursera to launch a specialized data science course for those focused on the applied side of big data. Students learn how to use a variety of Python libraries to gain insights from real data. When compared with JHU’s program, this course provides intermediate-level data scientists who are familiar with R and statistical concepts with the information they need to continue growing as experts.

Introduction to Data Science with Metis

Length: 6 weeks

Metis offers an Introduction to Data Science course that is taught live by a top data scientist, making this program a little different than the rest. As the only live online course in our list, Introduction to Data Science with Metis requires students to be online two nights a week to work with the instructor. This highly rated, accredited course presents graduates with a certificate upon completion and allows them to receive continuing education.

Statistics and Data Science MicroMasters with MIT @ edX

Length: 15 months

A MicroMaster program is a highly advanced, graduate-level course that allows students to apply credits toward graduate degrees upon completion. MIT, in partnership with edX, created two MicroMaster programs for experienced data scientists looking to become more fluent at reading data. Both courses have projects throughout and end with a final exam.

Python for Data Science and Machine Learning Boot Camp with Udemy

Length: Learn at your own pace

Udemy created a data science boot camp that helps beginners and experienced scientists learn Python, machine learning and visualization. One of the reasons this course is highly recommended is for its assignments. As the course progresses, students test their knowledge with Jupyter workbooks to check their understanding of a certain concept, then follow up with an instructor for solutions. While this course is missing statistical lessons, it makes up for it by focusing on the applied side of data science.

Last Updated: May, 2020