Combine mathematics with analytics, mix in programming skills, and add a dash of artificial intelligence, and you have the recipe for creating a data scientist. These professionals use complex technical skills to parse, analyze, and draw insights from complex datasets, enabling more accurate decision-making in the process.
As companies gather more data than ever before (both about their customers and themselves), these skills are in increasingly high demand. That’s demonstrated by data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says that the number of data science jobs in the U.S. alone looks set to increase by 36% between 2021 and 2031.
That higher-than-average growth rate creates an opportunity for students, though grasping that opportunity requires a dedication to learning. This article explores the question of what is data science course material and highlights a selection of courses that set you on a data-propelled career path.
What to Expect From a Data Science Course
Answering the question of “what is data science course?” starts with examining the components of the typical course. Bear in mind that these components vary in nature and complexity depending on the specific course you take, though all are usually present.
Overview of Course Content
The content of a data science course is usually split into four core categories:
- Statistics and Probability – Math underpins everything a data scientist does, as they use numbers to spot patterns and determine the likelihood of various potential outcomes. Most data science courses delve into statistics and probability for this reason, with more advanced courses often requiring a degree in a field related to these areas.
- Programming – Whether it’s Python (the most popular data science programming language), R, or SQL, your course will teach you how to write in a language that machines understand.
- Data Visualization and Analysis – Anybody can collect reams of data. It’s the ability to visualize that data (and draw insights from it) that sets data scientists apart from other professionals. A good course equips you with the ability to use visualization tools to shine a spotlight on what a dataset actually tells you.
- Machine Learning and AI – The rise of machine learning transformed data science. Using algorithms created by data scientists, machines can analyze datasets presented to them and learn from the patterns to predict probabilities for different outcomes and even predict market trends. Your course will teach you how to create the algorithms that serve as a machine learning model’s “brain.”
Hands-On Projects and Real-World Applications
If you had the desire, you could read pages and pages on how to tune a car’s engine. But without practical and real-world wrench-in-hand experience working on an engine, you’ll never figure out how what you learn from books applies in the field.
The same line of thinking applies to data science, which is often so technically complex that it’s difficult to see how what you learn applies in the real world. A good data science course incorporates a real-world component through projects and exposure to faculty members who have direct experience in using the skills they teach.
Peer Collaboration and Networking
What is data science course for if not to learn how to become a data scientist? While learning the technical side is crucial, of course, a good course also puts you in contact with like-minded individuals who have the same (or similar) goals as you.
That contact helps you to build the collaborative skills you’ll need when you enter the workforce. But perhaps more importantly, it aids you in creating a network of peers who could lead you to job opportunities or work with you on entrepreneurial ventures.
Top Data Science Courses Available
With the components of a data science course established, you have a vital question to answer – what data science course should you take? The following are four suggestions (two online courses and two university courses) that give you a solid grounding in the subject.
Taking a data science course online gives you flexibility, though you may miss out on some of the collaborative and networking aspects that university-led courses provide.
Course 1 – What Is Data Science? (IBM via Coursera)
Coming with the stamp of approval from IBM, a leading name in the computer science field, this nine-hour course is suitable for beginners who want a self-paced learning approach. It’s part of a multi-part program (the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate) that’s designed to give you an industry-recognized qualification that could fast-track your entry into the field.
As for the course itself, it’s split into three parts, each containing multiple instructor-led videos and quizzes to test what you’ve learned. By the end, you’ll understand what data scientists do, build a basic understanding of various data science-related topics, and see how the profession relates to the modern business world. Granted, the course offers a surface-level understanding of the subject, with more complex topics examined in other classes. But it’s a superb tool for developing the foundation on which you can build with other courses.
Course 2 – Introduction to Data Science With Python (Harvard via edX)
Where IBM’s course equips you with general knowledge, Harvard’s online offering digs into the practical side of data science. Specifically, it focuses on using Python (and its many libraries) to solve data science problems drawn from real-world examples.
The course takes eight weeks, with study time between three and four hours per week. Ultimately, this class helps you build on your established programming skills and shows you how to apply them in a data science context.
As you may have guessed, that mention of building on existing skills means you’ll need a solid understanding of Python to participate in this free course. But assuming you have that, Harvard’s class is ideal for showing you just how flexible the language can be, especially when developing machine learning algorithms. Furthermore, simply having the word “Harvard” on your online certification adds credibility to your CV when you start applying for jobs.
University programs demand a larger time (and monetary) commitment than purely online programs, though the upside is that you get a more prestigious qualification at the end. These two courses are ideal, with one even being a hybrid of online and university-level courses.
Course 1 – Master in Applied Data Science & AI (OPIT)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way first – you’ll need a BSc degree, or an equivalent, in a computer science or mathematical subject to take OPIT’s data science Master’s degree course.
Assuming you meet that prerequisite, this course comes in 18 and 12-month varieties, with the latter being a fast-tracked version that delivers the same content while asking you to dedicate more time to studying. It costs €6,500 to take, though early bird discounts are available, and an EU-accredited university delivers it.
The course eschews traditional exams by taking a progressive assessment approach to determine how well you’re absorbing the materials. It’s also focused on the practical side of things, with the application of data science in business problem-solving and communication being core modules.
Course 2 – MSc in Social Data Science (University of Oxford)
As the world’s leading university for seven consecutive years, according to Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, the University of Oxford has outstanding credentials. And its MSc in Social Data Science is an interesting course to take because it specializes in a specific subject area – human behavior.
The degree stands on the precipice of an emerging field as it focuses on using data science to analyze, critique, and reevaluate existing social processes. It combines general machine learning models with more specialized data science tools, such as natural language processing and computer vision, to equip students with a high degree of technical knowledge.
That knowledge doesn’t come cheap, either in time or monetary commitment. The University of Oxford expects students to devote 40 hours per week to study, with overseas students having to pay £30,910 (approx. €35,795) to participate. While these investments are naturally intimidating, the university’s prestige makes the time and money you spend worthwhile when you start speaking to employers.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Data Science Course
The four courses presented here each offer something different in terms of delivery and the expertise required of the student to participate. When choosing between them (and any other courses you find), you should consider the following questions:
- Does the course content and curriculum align with your career goals?
- Can you make time for the course within your schedule, and how much flexibility does it offer?
- Do the instructors provide the expertise you need and teach in a style that suits your preferred way of learning?
- Will you get an adequate return on your investment, both in terms of the prestige of the certification you receive and the knowledge you gain?
- Have past (or current) students recommended the course as a good option for prospective data scientists?
The Benefits of Completing a Data Science Course
Given the technical nature of the subject, you may be asking yourself what is data science course content going to deliver in terms of benefits to your life. The answers are as follows:
- Your skills improve your job prospects by putting you in pole position to enter a market that’s set for substantial growth over the next 10 years.
- The problem-solving and analytical tools you gain are useful in the data science field and other career paths.
- Any course you select puts you in contact with industry professionals who offer networking opportunities that could lead to a new job.
- You get to learn about (and experiment with) cutting-edge tools and technologies that will become the standard for modern business, and more, in the coming years.
What Is Data Science Course – It’s Your Route Into a Great Career
Let’s conclude by reiterating something mentioned at the start of the article – the data science sector will grow by 36% over the next decade or so.
That growth alone demonstrates the importance of data science, as well as why choosing the right course is so critical to your future success. With the right course, you make yourself a desirable candidate to organizations that are quickly accepting that they need data scientists to help them make decisions for the future.
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.