5 Free Steps to Kick Off a High-Paying Data Science Career

Right now, people all around the world are facing an economic shock brought on by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It has upended economies everywhere, throwing millions out of work and making financial insecurity a reality for even more than that. Here in Australia, all of that disruption has translated into the nation seeing its first recession in 29 years.

It's also pushing more Aussies to take stock and consider working their way into professions that offer more opportunity and higher pay. That way, they reason, they'll be in a less vulnerable financial position no matter what the broader economic conditions are. As it turns out, there is an industry that has seen an explosion in demand for several years running and looks poised to weather the current economic storm. It's the data science industry, and it's one of the few bright spots in an otherwise struggling Australian economy.

It's an industry where there are plenty of available positions and that features a six-figure average salary. It's an excellent option for Aussies looking to make more money or better their economic condition in the era of the coronavirus. And although it takes some serious preparatory work to make it happen, much of it costs nothing and may be completed completely online. To get started, here are five free steps that job-seekers should take if they want to land a job in data science.

Learn the Basics Through Online Courses

Today, anyone who seeks a pathway to a career in data science starts off with a considerable advantage over other comparable technical careers. It's the fact that aspiring data scientists can take advantage of countless free online courses that can teach them the basic skills they'll need to get started. Platforms like edX, Coursera, and Udemy have long lists of free data science courses on offer, but they're not the only option. Learners can even add the likes of Harvard and Columbia Universities to their CVs without spending a dime. Approaching learning in that way will dramatically increase one's odds of standing out from the crowd and landing the high-paying job they want.

Gain Some Coding Experience

No matter what kind of position one seeks within the field of data science, the one skill they're all but certain to need is an understanding of one or more programming languages. That's because almost all of the systems and platforms used in the field require programming to function, even at a basic level. Several programming languages are common in the industry, and a good place to start is with Python. It's a versatile and easy-to-learn language that data scientists use every day, and it's also useful in a variety of other IT-related fields. And again, this is a core skill that it's possible to learn using nothing but freely available coursework, so it's another low-risk, high-reward step on the path to higher earnings.

Build Problem-Solving Skills

One of the things that few people tend to appreciate about the field of data science is that it's really a complex problem-solving exercise. It involves the collection of data with an eye toward teasing out insight from it to solve essential business problems, or to fine-tune approaches to existing workflows. For that reason, it's essential to have pre-existing problem-solving skills to thrive in the data science community. Those looking to begin a career in the field should take steps to build those skills because they provide the essential intuition required to know what questions to ask of a data set to yield actionable results. With a variety of courses on the subject to choose from, it's yet another foundational skill that's simple to learn, and that costs nothing but some time and effort.

Learn to Love Math and Statistics

At every level, data science involves mathematics and statistics. That means anyone looking to enter the field of data science has to have an understanding of both, and to some extent, a love for them. At a minimum, an understanding of linear algebra and multivariable calculus is a must. The good news is that, like the previously-mentioned skills, the needed knowledge isn't hard to acquire, as there is a plethora of data science-specific courses on the subjects available. Since these are the bedrock skills of working data scientists, they're also the subjects where job-seekers are most likely to encounter aptitude testing as they apply for roles and get established in the industry.

Decide on a Specialty

Although data science is often referred to as a single, monolithic pursuit, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a wide variety of specialties that fall under the data science umbrella, and building up a detailed knowledge of one of them is a great way to land the highest-paying jobs in the industry. Choosing a specialty early also makes it easier to develop the skills and credentials needed to succeed. Right now, data visualization is a popular specialty, as are accounting and marketing analytics. For a specialty that's broadly applicable to a variety of industries, interested learners can opt to focus on business analytics. It's a path that can take them all the way up to a master's degree in business analytics, and the high six-figure salary that often comes with it.

Get to Work

Although it should be obvious by now, learning the skills needed to land a job in data science isn't the kind of thing that can happen overnight. It ordinarily takes years of careful and dedicated study to master the multiple skill sets necessary to succeed. That doesn't mean, however, that interested learners have to wait to acquire all of those skills to start looking for roles within the industry.

With a basic understanding of the needed concepts under their belts, most people can kick off their careers by finding internships that will let them learn more on-the-fly. Another common tactic used by neophytes is to enter data science-related competitions that provide them with some hands-on experience with the work. From there, it doesn't take much to make the leap into a junior data scientist role, which in itself comes with a salary that's nothing to scoff at.

The bottom line is that there's never been a better time to enter the in-demand field of data science. And with some time, effort, and aptitude, it can put you on a path to economic freedom and stability that's hard to find these days. So, the best advice of all is, get to work!

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