You’re fascinated by data. You love finding patterns in numbers, predicting future outcomes, and using that knowledge to hit company goals.
The thing is, you’re a total beginner in data science. You’ve heard the term tossed around, and maybe you have some friends who work in the field. You also know that it’s a pretty in-demand job at the moment, and that even if you’re not passionate about breaking into a data science role, there are some data science skills worth having in your pocket (and on your resume).
Online classes can be a great way to quickly (and on your own time) learn about the good stuff, from technical skills like Python or SQL to basic data analysis and machine learning. That said, you may need to invest to get the real deal.
Below, we’ve outlined some of the highest rated and most popular free, short, and comprehensive courses you can take within the realm of data science—whether you’re looking for a serious deep dive or just a casual overview.
A quick overview of terminology: You’ll probably hear and see the term “machine learning” a lot when researching data science. While the two are closely intertwined, not all of data science (or data science roles) is comprised of machine learning. You may use it in some cases, especially when making predictions, while it’s not necessary for things like visualizing or pulling data.
One other note: In general, knowing SQL is a must for any data science beginner. However, starting with Python can make it easier to transition to other languages.
(Want to learn more about this field before jumping in? Read about why data scientists are so in demand, what you need to be successful as a data scientist, and what to expect in a data science interview.)
Learn Data Science Through... Free Classes
Free is always better! Of course, most of the best stuff doesn’t come for nothing—these courses will be a great base, but you’ll probably want to toss some money into more extensive lessons if you’re serious about a career in data science.
1. Learn Python and Learn SQL, Codecademy
Want a general overview of Python or SQL (two important languages used extensively in data science) before getting in too deep? Codecademy’s free courses are a great way to start learning the basics, for free.
Length: 25 hours (Python)/ 7 hours (SQL)
If you’re looking to start at the very beginning, this is a good point of entry. The class covers the general information you need to know—what data science and machine learning are, what a job in data science looks like on a day to day basis, and how Python fits into that picture.
Length: 12 lectures (2 hours, 30 minutes)
Learn Data Science Through... Short Classes
You don’t want to spend too much time in front of your computer, and maybe you’re not too serious about data science just yet—but you want to understand the basics. Look no further than these options, which involve less of a time commitment!
3. Linear Algebra for Beginners: Open Doors to Great Careers, Skillshare
Yes, linear algebra is actually super important in data science. If you don’t want to go all the way back to school, this course should do the trick in just a day or two.
Cost: $15 a month
Length: 44 videos (6 hours, 51 minutes)
For a slightly steep price, you can complete a fairly comprehensive beginner course in just three hours—covering topics like AI, machine learning, computer science, and how they all come together.
Length: 41 lectures (3 hours)
Learn Data Science Through... Comprehensive Classes
Maybe you’re trying to change careers or beef up your resume for a data science role. Either way, you’ll get the whole spiel with one of these classes.
5. Machine Learning, Coursera
According to experts at The Muse (a.k.a., our very own data science team), this is the perfect starting point for learning about data science in a comprehensive format. Taught by Coursera’s co-founder (yes, really), this course will dig deep into machine learning—what it is, how it works, and how you can apply it in a data science job.
Cost: Free to audit/ $79 with certificate
Length: 7 hours a week for 11 weeks
6. Data Science Path, Codecademy
Codecademy’s paths are awesome for a number of reasons. One, they go in depth into a specific field in a structured way, giving you all the tools you need. Two, they’re incredibly practical, helping you apply everything you learn to real-world situations and hands-on projects. Plus, they’re developed by real engineers (in this case, a real data scientist) who know their stuff.
Cost: $19.99 a month
7. Data Science Specialization, Coursera
Similar to the machine learning class but in a longer format, this specialization is meant to cover the whole gamut. It focuses not only on data analysis, but also on the soft skills needed to be a data scientist—like making inferences and asking the right questions.
Cost: $49 a month
Length: 10 courses over 3-6 months
8. Programming for Data Science, Udacity
In addition to covering all the technical basics—including Python, SQL, and Github—Udacity’s “nanodegree program” let’s you work alongside experts and other students to ensure you’re on the right track and get your questions answered.
Cost: $50 a month
Length: 10 hours a week for 3 months