The last few years have created a seismic shift in the education choices for wanna-be Data Scientists. Smith Hanley Associates has recruited statisticians for over 37 years and throughout the first 32 years a Masters in Statistics was THE educational method to achieve career success. The size, scope and speed with which data has become available, and the prevalence and availability of open source software has changed the educational requirements for the Data Scientist. The slow recognition of traditional academic institutions to that change has opened the door for alternatively structured educational options. How do you choose?

Time and Resources

Time and resources remain two of the major elements to determining your choice. For a Master’s program, can you take a year off to live and work exclusively on your degree? Is the $40K average cost of a Master’s within your reach and worth the investment? If the answer to either of those questions is an emphatic no, then a Data Science bootcamp is your next best option. The best of these require a 2-3 month full-time commitment at an expense of $10-$20K. The applied learning and business connections garnered as part of the best bootcamps easily justify the cost. If you are tremendously self-disciplined, self-learning through massive open online courses (MOOCs) that are essentially free, could be an option for you. Choosing the right courses and limited interface with applied problems and business contacts is still an issue with this option.

Academic Bootcamps

The last year or two has seen another evolution in these choices. Traditional academic institutions have added new programs as alternatives to their standard two year Masters in Statistics. There are now Masters in Data Science, Masters in Predictive Analytics and Masters in Business Analytics that are often one year programs. Some schools are even offering their own bootcamps taught by staff professors whose research has become more and more applied as the lucrative need for data insight has increased. The current immigration policy of slowing down the H1 visa application process and shutting it down for some countries, has created an 8% decrease in applications to traditional academic STEM programs. Academic institutions are creating degrees that compete on price and time with bootcamps. Academic institutions have also realized the need to incorporate coursework across traditional departments as the need for information technology skills can be as great for a data scientist as their statistical expertise.

If you are pursing any of these alternatives, do your due diligence before you make your choice. While the hot career of Data Science can be worth a significant investment, you must make sure to match what you can afford both in time and resources to the pay-off from the education.

Interested in a career in Data Science or in hiring a Data Scientist? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Data Science Recruiter, Rachel Pereira, at [email protected] or 203.319-4307.





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