Sometimes you have the luxury of taking the education scenic route, and sometimes you just need to land a job fast. Fortunately, data science can accommodate both learning paths. While we never recommend short-changing yourself when it comes to learning, we do have some tips for how to learn data science in the shortest amount of time possible while still mastering the concepts you need to succeed. Here’s what you need to know.
Start with your goals in mind
You don’t need to have your entire data science career figured out right from the start. However, if you know you want to work in research or you’ll be applying to your dream job at a company hiring data scientists, that information gives you a starting point.
Data science is specialized now. The field is too complex to be great at everything, so it can be overwhelming to sort out every possible subject. Instead, your path should follow what you enjoy, what gets you to your point B, and what you want to work on.
You don’t need to know everything. What you can do is essential. Data science also changed the way companies evaluate candidates, which is great news for you. Instead of focusing solely on a metric like “years of experience,” companies want to see what you can actually accomplish using your current knowledge.
You might be a self-taught student, but you’ve won a high-profile hackathon that addresses a real-world issue. Companies can see right away that you have the skills to solve problems well and provide value. Learning data science quickly is all about making sure that knowledge is expressed through practical application.
That said, some common fundamentals will help make everything else easier:
- Programming—Python and SQL are great starts and will cover a wide variety of data science applications.
- Statistics and probability: Machine learning relies on these fundamentals.
- Linear algebra and calculus: A basic understanding of mathematics will make exploring deep learning or creating algorithms easier.
Some ideas for learning data science quickly
Four years of traditional school may not be for you, but there are ways to learn without taking it the hard way. Here are our best ideas.
Attend a boot camp
Boot camps are fast, intensive programs designed to get you to proficiency in targeted skills as quickly as possible. We have a boot camp that runs for a few days before our conferences each session and opens the door for beginners by covering all the groundwork.
Boot camps are excellent for learning new skills even if you aren’t a beginner. We also offer boot camps in targeted disciplines like machine learning so that you can reach the next level of your career faster.
And post-pandemic, more places are offering virtual boot camps—including us!—to make it even easier for you to attend. These are great for training when you can’t uproot your daily schedule even for a few days.
Editor’s note: ODSC West 2022 will feature a number of specialties for its mini bootcamp! Learn more about them here.
Join competitions and other groups
Remember, data science is all about practical use. A competition can be an excellent way to benchmark your newfound skills. Even if you haven’t been learning very long, they challenge you to think creatively and bring theory into the real world. Open competitions often provide the resources, and you have to make value from what is available—much like what happens in a business or even research setting.
Joining group collaborations is also a way to jumpstart your skills. Humans are community-oriented; when you have the support of others, it’s easier to remember what you’ve learned. This leads us to our next suggestion.
Learn by doing
If you aren’t ready for competitions or collaborations, just create your own projects. There are many great open datasets you can work with to answer your own questions. You can take inspiration from other projects or create one of your own.
You don’t need anything complicated either. Just start with the skills you have. Build something in Python. Conduct an exploratory data analysis on a certain dataset you have at your disposal. Any small step grounded in real action will help you retain what you’re learning.
Don’t memorize—learn how to find information
No one has everything in data science memorized. Instead, the most proficient data scientists know how to find the information they need quickly. And there is a lot of information out there.
You can watch video series to learn new skills in the data science field. AI+ Training videos, for example, offer targeted training in specific skills. You watch a video, put those skills to use in a new project, and then move on to the next. You don’t have to wait for the rest of the class or worry about missing the enrollment period. They’re always available.
You can attend conference sessions and workshops. You can Google examples of your challenge or question to see how others handled it. The most important thing is that you’re learning by doing and not just memorizing information.
Data science is an incredibly accessible field
You can orchestrate your data science path and begin working on projects right away. It’s customizable beyond the basics we mentioned above, and you’ll always be learning something new. Cultivate a sense of continuous learning and take it one skill at a time. You’ll be a data scientist before you know it.
Editor’s note: Ai+ Training offers countless data science videos that can help you learn data science, teach you specific knowledge, career advice, live training sessions, and so on. Sign up for a monthly plan now and get knowledge on-demand whenever you want it.