Data science is a versatile field that covers a range of professions like data analyst and IT specialist. As these jobs grow with the ever-changing tech world, you may be facing the obstacle of deciding if you need a degree for your career in data science. However, the answer depends on which path you plan to take.
Types of Degrees in Data Science
When you begin a career in the field of data science, you will have several routes that lead to success. With education, especially, the possibilities that come with degrees are all-encompassing.
The first step is undergraduate education, which results in a bachelor’s degree. Whether you are looking to major in the field or are taking courses, these degrees involve a variety of fields — from business intelligence to accounting analytics. A bachelor’s degree is perhaps the most critical for a career in data science. It shows you have experience and knowledge.
Jobs can be exclusive — if they want an applicant with hard experience, then you will need a degree. Self-taught may not suffice. However, other jobs will want skills that you can acquire without a degree, like learning different coding languages and programming.
A master’s degree, on the other hand, is somewhat less obligatory. Of course, if the path you’re going into is specific and requires more education, then you’ll need to continue your learning. Oftentimes, though, a bachelor’s degree will suffice. Some experts even say that online resources have helped them earn a career as a data scientist or data engineer.
Lastly, a Ph.D. is popular for data scientists, but again, not entirely necessary for a career. You will gain invaluable education and experience, making you a suitable choice for almost any career. However, Ph.D. degrees can take several years and become expensive. In fact, only 20% of data scientists choose to pursue a Ph.D. Forgoing this route is a possibility.
Do You Need a Degree?
Though it may not be a definite answer, the general consensus is that it depends. You will find testimonials of people who come from backgrounds of all different kinds. Professionals in the data science field from non-technical backgrounds have attested to learning outside of a master’s program and say that master’s degrees may help in learning certain data topics but aren’t fully necessary.
Some people, though, go all the way to a Ph.D. for data science. For instance, a Forbes contributor writes, “As you might expect, the Ph.D. skills are more important if you’re aiming for a research-oriented data science position that involves the development of novel methodology.”
These professionals emphasize why needing a degree depends on the field you choose. Some jobs require a master’s or Ph.D., while others do not. A degree may also help by standing out to companies. However, it is ultimately up to you which path you want to take.
If you want to avoid a degree, you’ll have to ardently stick with the latest developments and trends in the tech world as well as what’s going on with data science.
What You Can Do Instead of a Degree
One of the main benefits of finding a career in data science is the almost endless ways you can gather knowledge and experience. Of course, degrees are a primary way to do that — but you have other options as well.
First, build your knowledge of the field. Step by step, introduce yourself to data studies and techniques as well as concepts that interest you. YouTube can be a steppingstone for this phase. It has some teaching videos for free, which is invaluable for those who are learning. Then, other sites offer educational courses on crucial concepts in the field — like data coding, analytics and engineering.
Incorporate hands-on work as well. Figure out the systems and software that you will be using and get to know them inside and out. For instance, using Python for coding is a necessary skill in the data science world. It’s also better if you can master multiple languages of coding, standing out on your resume.
Next, start to work on projects. Whether you’re creating content individually or for others, you’ll need to showcase your work. Use your skills to build an undeniable portfolio. You’ll then have the skills, experience and evidence to show companies.
The last step is to apply for jobs. Internships can get you started in the field, but you must make sure they come with good pay and benefits. Keep up the effort surrounding the job search — something will flourish even if you don’t have a degree.
Data science career no degree
Ultimately, it is possible to have a successful career in data science without earning a degree. However, you’ll need to apply self-taught knowledge and experience to your specific path. Ensure you have the qualifications for the field you’ll be going into. If you’re not sure where you want to go, start with the steps above — you’ll become a data science expert in no time.
Editor’s note: Ready to get a career in data science? Attend the ODSC West 2021 Career Expo this November 18th!
About the author: Shannon Flynn is a tech writer and Managing Editor for ReHack.com. She covers topics in biztech, IoT, and entertainment. Visit ReHack.com or follow ReHack on Twitter or to see more of Shannon’s posts.