So You Wanna Be a Data Scientist

I’ve often said that “data science” is the new “plastics,” hearkening back to that famous scene in The Graduate where a neighbor gives cryptic one-word career advice to the young graduate Benjamin Braddock, portrayed by Dustin Hoffman.

I’ve told my own son data science numerous times as well.  (Yes, that’s to the one in college, not grade school, but I suppose it’s never too early to start.)

The question this begs is how to become a data scientist.  Few schools have a data science major, per se, but many schools are starting to offer related majors at both the undergraduate and graduate level.  Some, like Northwestern, even do this online.

The other day, I found this great post on the subject from Zipfian Academy  and I not only tweeted it on the spot, but wanted to blog about it here.

Here’s the introduction:

There are plenty of articles and discussions on the web about what data science is, what qualities define a data scientist, how to nurture them, and how you should position yourself to be a competitive applicant. There are far fewer resources out there about the steps to take in order to obtain the skills necessary to practice this elusive discipline. Here we will provide a collection of freely accessible materials and content to jumpstart your understanding of the theory and tools of Data Science.

The full post is here.

6 responses to “So You Wanna Be a Data Scientist

  1. Good post. I was wondering how I can help steer my 15 year old niece away from her plan to enter law school (she cites potential income as the motivator) and towards big data. This might help.

  2. Great to see you posting again, Dave! I tell my son (grade 3) “don’t choose a job that requires you to sit at a desk for 10 hours a day”. I saw that post from Zipfian; and there are a lot of good resources floating around on Quora, as well as good advice. I’m not a data scientist, per se, but I do think this becomes a question of passion. Do you have a passion for applying information into knowledge? Then find the resources, and learn to talk the talk.

    I come from a flock of engineers who went to university to study math and physics, and ended up in computers (and in my case, literature, different story); now there are degrees in software engineering, health information science, data science… I don’t think the current campus model is going to disappear, but I do think Zipfian, Khan and other similar Academies are going to provide universities with high school graduates (and elementary school alums) who already understand how to do some impressive things, and are better informed to choose a path. I see a future of budding makers. Hope it turns out that way.

  3. really great reference … while I am glad for the meme, I still have problems with the specific term ‘data scientist’ … I think the tension exists because the role is nearly 100% applied … I guess the old(er) scientist part of me (which had a lot to do with data, as many disciplines today do) is seeking some kind of academic provenance.

    I’ve had (the good fortune) of a few recruiters excited about big data,calling me a ‘data scientist’, which is where I stop them and gently say “I’ve been a scientist”, “I’ve worked with lots of data” and “I am a programmer’ but I don’t consider myself a data scientist.

    My feeling is we all benefit if we keep a high bar on defining what is a data scientist, while the rest of us catch up … even better lets hope that what happens is that working with data becomes a part of everyone’s roles … decisions underpinned by hard facts, versus ‘pundit vision’ trying to influence said reality.

  4. I have a few thoughts of my own for those who aspire to the sexiest profession.

    So You Want to be a Data Analyst
    http://bit.ly/smartdata021

  5. Just the reading list is invaluable. I’m glad that someone is taking the trouble to define “What is a data scientist?”. On a side note, I particularly like the mention of ‘sed’ – that Swiss Army knife of UNIX utilities.

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