As one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, with a predicted compound annual growth rate of 16.43% anticipated between 2022 and 2030, data science is the ideal choice for your career. Jobs will be plentiful. Opportunities for career advancement will come thick and fast. And even at the most junior level, you’ll enjoy a salary that comfortably sits in the mid-five figures.
Studying for a career in this field involves learning the basics (and then the complexities) of programming languages including C+, Java, and Python. The latter is particularly important, both due to its popularity among programmers and the versatility that Python brings to the table. Here, we explore the importance of Python for data science and how you’re likely to use it in the real world.
Why Python for Data Science?
We can distill the reasons for learning Python for data science into the following five benefits.
Popularity and Community Support
Statista’s survey of the most widely-used programming languages in 2022 tells us that 48.07% of programmers use Python to some degree. Leftronic digs deeper into those numbers, telling us that there are 8.2 million Python developers in the world. As a prospective developer yourself, these numbers tell you two things – Python is in demand and there’s a huge community of fellow developers who can support you as you build your skills.
Easy to Learn and Use
You can think of Python as a primer for almost any other programming language, as it takes the fundamental concepts of programming and turns them into something practical. Getting to grips with concepts like functions and variables is simpler in Python than in many other languages. Python eventually opens up from its simplistic use cases to demonstrate enough complexity for use in many areas of data science.
Extensive Libraries and Tools
Given that Python was first introduced in 1991, it has over 30 years of support behind it. That, combined with its continued popularity, means that novice programmers can access a huge number of tools and libraries for their work. Libraries are especially important, as they act like repositories of functions and modules that save time by allowing you to benefit from other people’s work.
Integration With Other Programming Languages
The entire script for Python is written in C, meaning support for C is built into the language. While that enables easy integration between these particular languages, solutions exist to link Python with the likes of C++ and Java, with Python often being capable of serving as the “glue” that binds different languages together.
Versatility and Flexibility
If you can think it, you can usually do it in Python. Its clever modular structure, which allows you to define functions, modules, and entire scripts in different files to call as needed, makes Python one of the most flexible programming languages around.
Setting Up Python for Data Science
Installing Python onto your system of choice is simple enough. You can download the language from the Python.org website, with options available for everything from major operating systems (Windows, macOS, and Linux) to more obscure devices.
However, you need an integrated development environment (IDE) installed to start coding in Python. The following are three IDEs that are popular with those who use Python for data science:
- Jupyter Notebook – As a web-based application, Jupyter easily allows you to code, configure your workflows, and even access various libraries that can enhance your Python code. Think of it like a one-stop shop for your Python needs, with extensions being available to extend its functionality. It’s also free, which is never a bad thing.
- PyCharm – Where Jupyter is an open-source IDE for several languages, PyCharm is for Python only. Beyond serving as a coding tool, it offers automated code checking and completion, allowing you to quickly catch errors and write common code.
- Visual Studio Code – Though Visual Studio Code alone isn’t compatible with Python, it has an extension that allows you to edit Python code on any operating system. Its “Linting” feature is great for catching errors in your code, and it comes with an integrated debugger that allows you to test executables without physically running them.
Setting up your Python virtual environment is as simple as downloading and installing Python itself, and then choosing an IDE in which to work. Think of Python as the materials you use to build a house, with your IDE being both the blueprint and the tools you’ll need to patch those materials together.
Essential Python Libraries for Data Science
Just as you’ll go to a real-world library to check out books, you can use Python libraries to “check out” code that you can use in your own programs. It’s actually better than that because you don’t need to return libraries when you’re done with them. You get to keep them, along with all of their built-in modules and functions, to call upon whenever you need them. In Python for data science, the following are some essential libraries:
- NumPy – We spoke about integration earlier, and NumPy is ideal for that. It brings concepts of functionality from Fortran and C into Python. By expanding Python with powerful array and numerical computing tools, it helps transform it into a data science powerhouse.
- pandas – Manipulating and analyzing data lies at the heart of data sciences, and pandas give you a library full of tools to allow both. It offers modules for cleaning data, plotting, finding correlations, and simply reading CSV and JSON files.
- Matplotlib – Some people can look at reams of data and see patterns form within the numbers. Others need visualization tools, which is where Matplotlib excels. It helps you create interactive visual representations of your data for use in presentations or if you simply prefer to “see” your data rather than read it.
- Scikit-learn – The emerging (some would say “exploding) field of machine learning is critical to the AI-driven future we’re seemingly heading toward. Scikit-learn is a library that offers tools for predictive data analysis, built on what’s available in the NumPy and Matplotlib libraries.
- TensorFlow and Keras – Much like Scikit-learn, both TensorFlow and Keras offer rich libraries of tools related to machine learning. They’re essential if your data science projects take you into the realms of neural networks and deep learning.
Data Science Workflow in Python
A Python programmer without a workflow is like a ship’s captain without a compass. You can sail blindly onward, and you may even get lucky and reach your destination, but the odds are you’re going to get lost in the vastness of the programming sea. For those who want to use Python for data science, the following workflow brings structure and direction to your efforts.
Step 1 – Data Collection and Preprocessing
You need to collect, organize, and import your data into Python (as well as clean it) before you can draw any conclusions from it. That’s why the first step in any data science workflow is to prepare the data for use (hint – the pandas library is perfect for this task).
Step 2 – Exploratory Data Analysis (EDA)
Just because you have clean data, that doesn’t mean you’re ready to investigate what that data tells you. It’s like washing ingredients before you make a dish – you need to have a “recipe” that tells you how to put everything together. Data scientists use EDA as this recipe, allowing them to combine data visualization (remember – the Matplotlib library) with descriptive statistics that show them what they’re looking at.
Step 3 – Feature Engineering
This is where you dig into the “whats” and “hows” of your Python program. You’ll select features for the code, which define what it does with the data you import and how it’ll deliver outcomes. Scaling is a key part of this process, with scope creep (i.e., constantly adding features as you get deeper into a project) being the key thing to avoid.
Step 4 – Model Selection and Training
Decision trees, linear regression, logistic regression, neural networks, and support vector machines. These are all models (with their own algorithms) you can use for your data science project. This step is all about selecting the right model for the job (your intended features are important here) and training that model so it produces accurate outputs.
Step 5 – Model Evaluation and Optimization
Like a puppy that hasn’t been house trained, an unevaluated model isn’t ready for release into the real world. Classification metrics, such as a confusion matrix and classification report, help you to evaluate your model’s predictions against real-world results. You also need to tune the hyperparameters built into your model, similar to how a mechanic may tune the nuts and bolts in a car, to get everything working as efficiently as possible.
Step 6 – Deployment and Maintenance
You’ve officially deployed your Python for data science model when you release it into the wild and let it start predicting outcomes. But the work doesn’t end at deployment, as constant monitoring of what your model does, outputs, and predicts is needed to tell you if you need to make tweaks or if the model is going off the rails.
Real-World Data Science Projects in Python
There are many examples of Python for data science in the real world, some of which are simple while others delve into some pretty complex datasets. For instance, you can use a simple Python program to scrap live stock prices from a source like Yahoo! Finance, allowing you to create a virtual ticker of stock price changes for investors.
Alternatively, why not create a chatbot that uses natural language processing to classify and respond to text? For that project, you’ll tokenize sentences, essentially breaking them down into constituent words called “tokens,” and tag those tokens with meanings that you could use to prompt your program toward specific responses.
There are plenty of ideas to play around with, and Python is versatile enough to enable most, so consider what you’d like to do with your program and then go on the hunt for datasets. Great (and free) resources include The Boston House Price Dataset, ImageNet, and IMDB’s movie review database.
Try Python for Data Science Projects
By combining its own versatility with integrations and an ease of use that makes it welcoming to beginners, Python has become one of the world’s most popular programming languages. In this introduction to data science in Python, you’ve discovered some of the libraries that can help you to apply Python for data science. Plus, you have a workflow that lends structure to your efforts, as well as some ideas for projects to try. Experiment, play, and tweak models. Every minute you spend applying Python to data science is a minute spent learning a popular programming language in the context of a rapidly-growing industry.
Soon, we will be launching four new Degrees for AY24-25 at OPIT – Open Institute of Technology
I want to offer a behind-the-scenes look at the Product Definition process that has shaped these upcoming programs.
🚀 Phase 1: Discovery (Late May – End of July)
Our journey began with intensive brainstorming sessions with OPIT’s Academic Board (Francesco Profumo, Lorenzo Livi, Alexiei Dingli, Andrea Pescino, Rosario Maccarrone) . We also conducted 50+ interviews with tech and digital entrepreneurs (both from startups and established firms), academics and students. Finally, we deep-dived into the “Future of Jobs 2023” report by the World Economic Forum and other valuable research.
🔍 Phase 2: Selection – Crafting Our Roadmap (July – August)
Our focus? Introducing new degrees addressing critical workforce shortages and upskilling/reskilling needs for the next 5-10 years, promising significant societal impact and a broad market reach.
Our decision? To channel our energies on full BScs and MScs, and steer away from shorter courses or corporate-focused offerings. This aligns perfectly with our core mission.
💡 Focus Areas Unveiled!
We’re thrilled to concentrate on pivotal fields like:
- Advanced AI
- Digital Business
- Metaverse & Gaming
- Cloud Computing (less “glamorous”, but market demand is undeniable).
🎓 Phase 3: Definition – Shaping the Degrees (August – November)
With an expert in each of the above fields, and with the strong collaboration of our Academic Director, Prof. Lorenzo Livi , we embarked on a rigorous “drill-down process”. Our goal? To meld modern theoretical knowledge with cutting-edge competencies and skills. This phase included interviewing over 60+ top academics, industry professionals, and students and get valuable, program-specific, insights from our Marketing department.
🌟 Phase 4: Accreditation and Launch – The Final Stretch
We’re currently in the accreditation process, gearing up for the launch. The focus is now shifting towards marketing, working closely with Greta Maiocchi and her Marketing and Admissions team. Together, we’re translating our new academic offering into a compelling value proposition for the market.
Stay tuned for more updates!
Far from being a temporary educational measure that came into its own during the pandemic, online education is providing students from all over the world with new ways to learn. That’s proven by statistics from Oxford Learning College, which point out that over 100 million students are now enrolled in some form of online course.
The demand for these types of courses clearly exists.
In fact, the same organization indicates that educational facilities that introduce online learning see a 42% increase in income – on average – suggesting that the demand is there.
Enter the Open Institute of Technology (OPIT).
Delivering three online courses – a Bachelor’s degree in computer science and two Master’s degrees – with more to come, OPIT is positioning itself as a leader in the online education space. But why is that? After all, many institutions are making the jump to e-learning, so what separates OPIT from the pack?
Here, you’ll discover the answers as you delve into the five reasons why you should trust OPIT for your online education.
Reason 1 – A Practical Approach
OPIT focuses on computer science education – a field in which theory often dominates the educational landscape. The organization’s Rector, Professor Francesco Profumo, makes this clear in a press release from June 2023. He points to a misalignment between what educators are teaching computer science students and what the labor market actually needs from those students as a key problem.
“The starting point is the awareness of the misalignment,” he says when talking about how OPIT structures its online courses. “That so-called mismatch is generated by too much theory and too little practical approach.” In other words, students in many classes spend far too much time learning the “hows” and “whys” behind computerized systems without actually getting their hands dirty with real work that gives them practical experience in using those systems.
OPIT takes a different approach.
It has developed a didactic approach that focuses far more on the practical element than other courses. That approach is delivered through a combination of classroom sessions – such as live lessons and masterclasses – and practical work offered through quizzes and exercises that mimic real-world situations.
An OPIT student doesn’t simply learn how computers work. They put their skills into practice through direct programming and application, equipping them with skills that are extremely attractive to major employers in the tech field and beyond.
Reason 2 – Flexibility Combined With Support
Flexibility in how you study is one of the main benefits of any online course.
You control when you learn and how you do it, creating an environment that’s beneficial to your education rather than being forced into a classroom setting with which you may not feel comfortable. This is hardly new ground. Any online educational platform can claim that it offers “flexibility” simply because it provides courses via the web.
Where OPIT differs is that it combines that flexibility with unparalleled support bolstered by the experiences of teachers employed from all over the world. The founder and director of OPIT, Riccardo Ocleppo, sheds more light on this difference in approach when he says, “We believe that education, even if it takes place physically at a distance, must guarantee closeness on all other aspects.” That closeness starts with the support offered to students throughout their entire study period.
Tutors are accessible to students at all times. Plus, every participant benefits from weekly professor interactions, ensuring they aren’t left feeling stuck on an educational “island” and have to rely solely on themselves for their education. OPIT further counters the potential isolation that comes with online learning with a Student Support team to guide students through any difficulties they may have with their courses.
In this focus on support, OPIT showcases one of its main differences from other online platforms.
You don’t simply receive course material before being told to “get on with it.” You have the flexibility to learn at your own pace while also having a support structure that serves as a foundation for that learning.
Reason 3 – OPIT Can Adapt to Change Quickly
The field of computer science is constantly evolving.
In the 2020s alone, we’ve seen the rise of generative AI – spurred on by the explosive success of services like ChatGPT – and how those new technologies have changed the way that people use computers.
Riccardo Ocleppo has seen the impact that these constant evolutions have had on students. Before founding OPIT, he was an entrepreneur who received first-hand experience of the fact that many traditional educational institutions struggle to adapt to change.
“Traditional educational institutions are very slow to adapt to this wave of new technologies and trends within the educational sector,” he says. He points to computer science as a particular issue, highlighting the example of a board in Italy of which he is a member. That board – packed with some of the country’s most prestigious tech universities – spent three years eventually deciding to add just two modules on new and emerging technologies to their study programs.
That left Ocleppo feeling frustrated.
When he founded OPIT, he did so intending to make it an adaptable institution in which courses were informed by what the industry needs. Every member of its faculty is not only a superb teacher but also somebody with experience working in industry. Speaking of industry, OPIT collaborates with major companies in the tech field to ensure its courses deliver the skills that those organizations expect from new candidates.
This confronts frustration on both sides. For companies, an OPIT graduate is one for which they don’t need to bridge a “skill gap” between what they’ve learned and what the company needs. For you, as a student, it means that you’re developing skills that make you a more desirable prospect once you have your degree.
Reason 4 – OPIT Delivers Tier One Education
Despite their popularity, online courses can still carry a stigma of not being “legitimate” in the face of more traditional degrees. Ocleppo is acutely aware of this fact, which is why he’s quick to point out that OPIT always aims to deliver a Tier One education in the computer science field.
“That means putting together the best professors who create superb learning material, all brought together with a teaching methodology that leverages the advancements made in online teaching,” he says.
OPIT’s degrees are all accredited by the European Union to support this approach, ensuring they carry as much weight as any other European degree. It’s accredited by both the European Qualification Framework (EQF) and the Malta Qualification Framework (MQF), with all of its courses having full legal value throughout Europe.
It’s also here where we see OPIT’s approach to practicality come into play via its course structuring.
Take its Bachelor’s degree in computer science as an example.
Yes, that course starts with a focus on theoretical and foundational knowledge. Building a computer and understanding how the device processes instructions is vital information from a programming perspective. But once those foundations are in place, OPIT delivers on its promises of covering the most current topics in the field.
Machine learning, cloud computing, data science, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity – all valuable to employers – are taught at the undergraduate level. Students benefit from a broader approach to computer science than most institutions are capable of, rather than bogging them down in theory that serves little practical purpose.
Reason 5 – The Learning Experience
Let’s wrap up by honing in on what it’s actually like for students to learn with OPIT.
After all, as Ocleppo points out, one of the main challenges with online education is that students rarely have defined checkpoints to follow. They can start feeling lost in the process, confronted with a metaphorical ocean of information they need to learn, all in service of one big exam at the end.
Alternatively, some students may feel the temptation to not work through the materials thoroughly, focusing instead on passing a final exam. The result is that those students may pass, but they do so without a full grasp of what they’ve learned – a nightmare for employers who already have skill gaps to handle.
OPIT confronts both challenges by focusing on a continuous learning methodology. Assessments – primarily practical – take place throughout the course, serving as much-needed checkpoints for evaluating progress. When combined with the previously mentioned support that OPIT offers, this approach has led to courses that are created from scratch in service of the student’s actual needs.
Choose OPIT for Your Computer Science Education
At OPIT, the focus lies as much on helping students to achieve their dream careers as it does on teaching them. All courses are built collaboratively. With a dedicated faculty combined with major industry players, such as Google and Microsoft, it delivers materials that bridge the skill gap seen in the computer science field today.
There’s also more to come.
Beyond the three degrees OPIT offers, the institution plans to add more. Game development, data science, and cloud computing, to name a few, will receive dedicated degrees in the coming months, accentuating OPIT’s dedication to adapting to the continuous evolution of the computer science industry. Discover OPIT today – your journey into computing starts with the best online education institution available.