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How To Become a Data Scientist (Business Analyst)?

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Last week, I shared a framework to help you answer the question, “Should I become a data scientist (or business analyst)?“. For the people, who clear the cut-offs, the next obvious question is “How do I become a data scientist?” In this article, I’ll share what I would have done, if I was starting my journey for a career in data science.

Analytics and Big Data Salary Report

 

Background – my journey as data scientist

I started my career as an analyst without any knowledge about the tools I was going to work on – all I knew was how to create basic models in Excel. I had not heard about Pivot tables and didn’t know something like conditional formatting even existed in Excel!

Thankfully, Capital One hired me for my logical thinking and not for the knowledge of the tools, I would need to use. In the following years, by working with several employers, freelancing and doing a few pet projects – I learnt several tools and techniques – SAS, SPSS, R and Python included!

Having said that, if I was starting my career today, would I choose the same path? The answer is NO. I would take up a very different path, than what I did. This path would not only cut out the period of confusions I had, but also uses some of the dramatic shifts which have happened in analytics industry in past few years.

 

how to become a data scientist business analyst?

 

So, I thought, I would share how I would plan out my journey to become a data scientist – if I had to chart out my career path today. Here is how I would plan out my journey (in chronological order):

 

Step 1: Graduate from a top tier university in a quantitative discipline

Thankfully, this didn’t change much for me. Education makes a huge difference in your prospects to start in this industry. Most of the companies who do fresher hiring, pick out people from best colleges directly. So, by entering into a top tier university, you give yourself a very strong chance to enter data science world.

Ideally I would take up Computer Science as the subject of study. If I didn’t get a seat in Computer Science batch, I’ll take up a subject which has close ties with computational field – e.g. computational nueroscience, Computational Fluid Dynamics etc.

 

Step 2: Take up a lot of MOOCs on the subject – but do them one at a time

This is probably the biggest change, which would happen in the journey, if I was passing out now. If you spend even a year studying the subject by participating in these open courses, you will be in far better shape vs. other people vying to enter the industry. It took me 5+ years of experience to relate to the power R or Python bring to the table. You can do this today by various courses running on various platforms.

One word of caution here is to be selective on the courses you choose. I would focus on learning one stack – R or Python. I would recommend Python over R today – but that is a personal choice. You can find my detailed views about how the eco-systems compare here.

You can choose your path – but this is probably what I would do:

  • Python:
    • Introduction to Computer Science and Programming using Python – eDX.org
    • Intro to Data Science – Udacity
    • Workshop videos from Pycon and SciPy – some of them are mentioned here
    • Selectively pick from the vast tutorials available on the net in form of iPython notebooks
  • R:
    • The Analytics Edge – eDX.org
    • Pick out a few courses from Data Science specialization to complement Analytics Edge
  • Other courses (applicable for both the stacks):
    • Machine Learning from Andrew Ng – Coursera
    • Statistics course on Udacity
    • Introduction to Hadoop and MapReduce on Udacity

 

Step 3: Take a couple of internships / free lancing jobs

This is to get some real world experience before you actually venture out. This should also provide you an understanding of the work which happens in the real world. You would get a lot of exposure to real world challenges on data collection and cleaning here.

 

Step 4: Participate in data science competitions

You should aim to get at least a top 10% finish on Kaggle before you are out of your university. This should bring you in eyes of the recruiters quickly and would give you a strong launchpad. Beware, this sounds lot easier than what it actually is. It can take multiple competitions for even the smartest people to make it to the top 10% on Kaggle.

Here is an additional tip to amplify the results from your efforts – share your work on Github. You don’t know which employer might find you from your work!

 

Step 5: Take up the right job which provides awesome experience

I would take up a job in a start-up, which is doing awesome work in analytics / machine learning. The amount of learning you can gain for the slight risk can be amazing. There are start-ups working on deep learning, re-inforcement learning – choose the one which fits you right (taking culture into account)

If you are not the start-up kinds, join a analytics consultancy, which works on tools and problems across the spectrum. Ask for projects in different domains, work on different algorithms, try out new approaches. If you can’t find a role in a consultancy – take up a role in captive units, but seek a role change every 12 – 18 months. Again this is a general guideline – adapt it depending on the learning you are having in the role.

 

Finally a few bonus tips:

  • Try learning new tools once you are comfortable with ones you are already using. Different tools are good for different types of problem solving. For e.g. Learning Vowpal Wabbit can add significant advantage to your Python coding.
  • You can try a shot at creating a few web apps – this adds significant knowledge about data flow on the web and I personally enjoy satisfying the hacker in me at times!

 

Few modifications to these tips, in case you are already out of college or hold work experience:

  • In case you can still go back to college, consider getting a Masters or a Ph.D. Nothing beats the improvement in probability of getting the right job compared to undergoing a good programme from top notch University.
  • In case full time education is not possible, take up a part time programme from a good institute / University. But be prepared to put in extra efforts outside these certifications / programmes.
  • If you are already in a job and your company has an advanced analytics setup, try to get an internal shift by demonstrating your learning.
  • I have kept the focus on R or Python, because they are open source in nature. If you have resources to get access to SAS – you can also get a SAS certification for predictive modeler. Remember, SAS still holds the majority of jobs in analytics!

What do you think about this path to become a data scientist? Do you have additional tips, which can help people making their career choices. Please feel free to post these tips below for the benefit of larger audience.

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photo credit: Indy Kethdy via photopin cc

38 Comments

  • pradeep says:

    Awesome write up kunal !!!

      • Nelson says:

        Kunal,

        Thank you so much for helping us in gettting a better idea of the path that we should follow. I have noticed that Data Science is a new field in Latin America and that is one of the reasong why I have been interested in developing a career in this amaging field. Do you have any additional advise for me to follow due to the fact of being located in this region?

        Thanks again
        Nelson Astorga

      • David Smith says:

        It’s worth knowing you can download SAS University Edition for free – same world-class analytics software used by more than 75,000 business, government and university sites around the world. Start-up SAS courses are also free to download.

        Details at http://www.sas.com/en_us/software/university-edition.html
        .

  • Dinesh says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I have 7 year of IT exp in development. I gone through all your post and found that very great resource of Knowledge

    I have some query and confusion in my mind. Could you please help me on that.

    1- I went through you last post (“Should I become a data scientist (or business analyst“) and judge my self and score “54“. What should i do?

    2- As i have 7 years of exp in IT development. Is changing career a good idea.?

    3- Which field is better Big data Or Data Science Or Business Analyst ?

    4- I found course on jigsaw for (Big data and Data science) are they good for starting or is there any other better way courses in that area.

    5- Are you providing any type of training from your end. If yes please update me i want to join them.

    Thanks
    Dinesh

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Dinesh,

      Here are answers to your queries:

      1. Which areas were the ones which require most improvement?

      2. It depends on how you feel about your current area. I usually advice against making late areer shift, until an dunless you are dead sure about making the shift. You can read more details here.

      3. Given your background in IT, BIG Data might be the best bet. But it depends on your exact experience.

      4. Courses from Jigsaw are good. You can also take up a basic course on Big data on Udacity – but it is a basic course.

      5. We have a basic training running for college students – focusing on Excel. Apart form that, we are not running any other trainings.

      Regards,
      Kunal

      • Dinesh says:

        Thanks Kunal for this beautiful suggestion.
        I got my answer and understand where do i have to go. Because i am coming form a development (Web and mobile with very good hand on db like mySql and mongoDb and little bit on oracle too.) field i am interest in big data and strongly agree with your point.

  • Kingshuk says:

    Great article Kunal.

    I’m in the final year of my MS Statistics course. I am comfortable with using R. Should I also do another course on SAS? Will it help? And if you could tell me what exactly the top analytics companies look for in a candidate when they hire for the role of data scientist.

    Lastly, have you taken the hadoop course of udacity yourself? Is the free version of it good enough?

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Kingshuk,

      I would have kept the focus on R. SAS is easier to learn and can be picked up quickly More so, if you are from stats background. The interviews for analytics typically happen in form of business case studies and guess estimates along with test for technical skills. You can read more about these interview here.

      A few companies have also started arranging Hackathons to solve for their hiring problems out of college.

      On the course on Udacity – it is a basic course. I have done it myself some time back. If you are interested more in big data – you can also try out bigdatauniversity.com

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Sumit says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I am working in L&T from past one year but need a career shift in analytic sector. As I am mechanical engineer i was a little disappointed on reading the preference as Computer Science. Although I have graduated from VIT University studying Computational fluid dynamics as one of my elective which makes me a little more hopeful. I have recently joined Edavncer Eduventure course for business analyst and R programming for getting an edge in analyst world. Well I am not the programmer but I can understand the logic well the can do the basic coding what i did in Basic C in my college. I am not boasting about myself but I do love maths a lot. So I am asking whether my investment is going to be sour or rather I should anticipate for a sweeter outcome.

    Regards
    Sumit

  • pranay says:

    Hang onnnnnnnn guyss

    MOSTLY Analysts who use : SAS , EXCEL, VBA, R are business analysts.
    AND who use : BIG DATA , HADOOP are mostly known as data scientist /bidata analysts.

    BESIDES this no of others like phython , qlikview, tableau etcccccc..are also used .Besides these some advanced modelling techniques which also uses various statistical methods to get insights.

    though I am still under training of BA, all thanks to KUNAL SIR whose blogs had made me MAD in a positive way,, as i have left my much loved core sector job after B TECH since six months and i dont know when i will end up in a good job ,as i will be treated as fresher.
    ATLEAST THESE THINGS I M CLEAR ABOUT I HOPE …………

  • girish says:

    Hello Kunal,
    Any suggestions on where to find free lance jobs in data science?

  • Dinesh says:

    Hi Kunal/ Tavish,

    I am continuously getting spam mail and when i open i found that same replica of your site exist but with diff site address.

    Please check below one
    http://andemo.antasoft.in/wp/

    Thanks !
    Dinesh K…

  • Arun Yadav says:

    Hi Kunal,

    I want some sort of guidance from you. I’m having 6+ years of experience in Business Intelligence reporting using SAP Business Objects (BO) tool.
    Now I want to switch my career track to Big Data Analytics. At this juncture I’m, confused as which path/roadmap I should follow. I don’t want to switch to entirely new thing as of now but want to switch to a track where I can leverage my prior experience and using that I can boost my progress and I’m in advantage position for coming years.
    Learning Hadoop/Map Reduce will be a better option for me or learning hive which is somewhat like data warehousing tool in Big Data domain or learning Tableau or some visualization tool to continue with the reporting track.
    I am confused between tools to use/excel to get a good job. R/Python/SAS/Data Visualization/Hadoop Developer/Hive. Among these or any other if you can add, which should be my best bet ?
    If you who has already established himself in the job market related to Data Analytics can guide me here, would be a great help to me.

    Thanks & Regards,
    Arun Yadav

  • aman says:

    Great stuff, Kunal !!

    I have a query regarding web- analytics. If I want to develop real-time analytic tools for my website and add target-based recommendations in real-time, which one of PredictionIO and EasyRec would be a better choice (and why)? Are there any other better (open-source) options available apart from these two?

    I look forward to your suggestions.

    Thanks.

  • Nitesh says:

    Hi Kunal,

    First of all would like to appreciate the great work you doing by guiding people and providing valuable insights about Analytics industry and trend.
    I am working as spend analyst at a major CMM level 5 company. I have worked on very large chunk of datasets to provide actionable insights using SQL, MS Access and advance excel and have a mix knowledge of finance and payables industry. I know about analytics industry but have never worked on predictive tools like SAS,R or Hadoop and thinking to go for Jigsaw Academy basic analytics course. Kinldy suggest me on following question

    1) Should I go for basic SAS and predictive modeling course or Advanced Hadoop for Data Scientist.
    2) What growth prospect are there for me and how to pursue for ideal Analytics role
    3) Should I expect a better pay package after the course or once entering into in this field.

    Additionally I am good in maths and have flair to work in startups and know how they work

    Thanks

  • Hemant says:

    Thanks Kunal,

    Your work is showing a path to many, that is quite difficult to find elsewhere today in the emerging data science and big data world. Great Job…!

    I am a 35 year old IT professional with over 10 years of IT exp where in over 7 years of strong hands on exp in Oracle core DBA. Though I like my work but wanted to do that is more purposeful and of greater significance in my life and it seems I might find it in data analytics field with the guidance of people like you…
    However my score is 71+ and I always find myself trying to solve the hidden puzzle or meaning within numbers, more so I often do shuffle them purposefully, you can say… its for fun but it pushes me back to think more n more about it.. not really sure what exactly it is but I cant stop it.

    Education: Simple Bachelor in commerce that to not a regular one. Studied mathematics and stats only at 10+2 level.. could not study well as was involved in family business during graduation. Now in job since 2003.

    What do you suggest me, what is the best way for me to start at this level and in which area.. Big data or data science? (I would like to do something more technically challenged but innovative too at the same time so to make a fortune out of it)

    Appreciate your practical advice!

    Thanks.

  • Hemant says:

    Thanks Kunal,

    Your work is showing a path to many, that is quite difficult to find elsewhere today in the emerging data science and big data world. Great Job…!

    I am a 35 year old IT professional with over 10 years of IT exp where in over 7 years of strong hands on exp in Oracle core DBA. Though I like my work but wanted to do that is more purposeful and of greater significance in my life and it seems I might find it in data analytics field with the guidance of people like you…
    However my score is 71+ and I always find myself trying to solve the hidden puzzle or meaning within numbers, more so I often do shuffle them purposefully, you can say… its for fun but it pushes me back to think more n more about it.. not really sure what exactly it is but I cant stop it.

    Education: Simple Bachelor in commerce that to not a regular one. Studied mathematics and stats only at 10+2 level.. did not study well as was involved in family business during graduation. Now in job since 2003.

    What do you suggest me, what is the best way for me to start at this level and in which area.. Big data or data science? (I would like to do something more technically challenged but innovative too at the same time so to make a fortune out of it)

    Appreciate your practical advice!

    Thanks.

  • Kevin says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Firstly I would like to thank you for your article. I agree with you generally and have learned a lot as well.

    I am currently 25 years old, with a master’s degree of Stats from a top tier university in Canada, and 1.5 years working experience in Risk Management. However, I’m still more interested in becoming a data scientist rather than a banker for my future career.

    You mentioned free-lance jobs could provide exposure to the real world challenges. The question is, where can I find these jobs? I would love to take some as part-time jobs and gain experience as well as recognition.

    BTW I use SAS at work and know R/Matlab as well.

    Any suggestion will be appreciated!

  • Arpit says:

    Hello Kunal!

    I’m a pre final year engineering student at VIT University and am pursuing Mechanical Engineering.
    I have currently enrolled for various MOOC’s on Edx and Coursera but apart from these courses, can you please provide me with suggestions as to which competitions to enroll in/ which professional courses/certifications to pursue to strengthen my resume for applying abroad for an Analytics program?

  • Divya Bhasin says:

    Hi Kunal,

    Firstly I just want to thank you for guiding people through your posts. It is helping a lot.
    For past 6 months I am working as a Quality and Data Analyst in Data Analytics company and i am working on Excel,Sql,R and Python. These days i am learning Hadoop as well.
    I want to change my profile from Analyst to Data scientist but i am getting any way and guidance.
    Can you please help me out?

    Thank you.

  • mahesh says:

    I am studying b.tech (eee) can I study data science. please give me reaplay

    • Kunal Jain says:

      Mahesh,

      You can study data science in Analytics from free online trainings. For pursuing basic certification courses in Business Analytics, you must be a graduate.

      Regards,
      Kunal

  • Cweng says:

    Hi Kunal:

    I read several of the articles about career options on data scientist. I am a bio-statistician working with research physicians at an academia. The core of the organization is also providing statistical consulting service to research physicians including grant proposal and statistical analysis. I have been pondering about my career in the future, and was told about this career path as a data scientist. I have been thinking to take course on computer sciences from the local college.

    Also, I am taking courses of data sciences via course in this year. Hopefully, I will be able to complete it all in 2015.

    What is your thoughts based on the description of my career background I have as far ?

    Thank you 1
    Cweng

  • HANMANT says:

    Nice Article!!!

  • chandrashekhar says:

    hey kunal i have done b.tech(cs) this year. can i get good job via big data&hadoop and which institute is best for training .

  • sai kumar says:

    Hi sir, im sai kumar. I have been graduated in mechanical engineering. I am presently looking to have an experience of 2yrs in an production firm in india and planming to have masters in Industrial enginerring and my focus would be manufactuting. I am also intrested in working as an business analyst. I would like to know after working in automobile firm will i have good opportunity to work as an business analyst in automobile firms or any production firms or it would be better to opt for,masters in data analytics and skip my option of doing masters in industrial engineerimg.

  • keshav kumar says:

    i would like to know that am i eligible for data analysis job . I have BCA(Bachelors in Computer Applications) and MBA (IT & Marketing) and currently working as a information analyst , basically working on Excel , i also have certification in MS SQL 2005 and worked on MS Access and Oracle in college.
    i have just completed my MBA job and i have no interest working in sales profile. i want to know further masters courses in Data Analysis and this field is relevant to my career and my future growth.

    please just help me out here……i am confused ,
    please

  • Pavan says:

    Hi Kunal,
    Background:
    I am presently doing as a seventh semister graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering.
    I have problem with our on-campus placement process as it’s initial round pointer based.
    Seriously interested in pursuing MBA after having two years of Job experience in analytics Industry.(business oriented)
    I got a score of 63 as per your previous post. I have next semister- six months(jan to june 2016) in my hand.
    My Question: What to choose among these,
    1) What should I learn in order to get edge over my competetors (start with excel or continue python or any communication skill related online course)
    2) Or try for any internship in any MNC or any startup
    3) Any other suggestion

  • i.ajmani.08 says:

    Hi Kunal, I am into Business analysis since 5 years, I am an MBA( fin) person but recently i have moved on to data analytics i.e making dashboards in excel, pricing & forecasting in excel. Pls suggest me what course should i do to enhance my career growth .

  • Moumita Mitra says:

    Hi ..

    This article is very much helpful.I regular follow your article.
    I am a JAVA professional…but right now I am not working .After MCA I had 1.8 year of IT exp as a java developer.
    Now I want to enter into the analytics world..Is It possible for me?Currently I am taking self training from Coursera and edx on DATASCIENCE.BIGDATA.R,PYTHON,DATAANALYST.

  • Sakshi says:

    Hi Kunal

    I have been working as a SAS developer from past 5 years and have experience of working in banking, healthcare and logistics domain. I have recently shifted to USA and want to switch to core analytics. Could you please advise on what online courses I should do to grab an opportunity in Analytics.

    P.S : I have gone through basics of Analytics from various study materials, Also, I have an experience of working on SAS Enterprise guide.

    Regards
    Sakshi

  • maukesh joshi says:

    hi have no idea that how i can make my carrer in business analysis
    i have complete my mba in IT stream also..
    and have 1 yrs of experience in report analysis.

  • Abhijeet Singh says:

    Hi Kunal,
    I have read your article and find it very helpful, cleared my maximum confusions.
    Still i want your opinion. As i am a fresher about to join a startup as an associate analyst I am also planning for a Course in Predictive Buisness Analytics from Bridge School Of Management. I want to know if it will be a good decision to join this college ? Also Associate analyst will be a good area to start my career or not?
    I have already done a certification in Big Data Hadoop Development still i want to enhance my skills in this field.
    Kindly Guide me.

  • Shashank says:

    Awesome read kunal… Keep it up

  • Tales Pimentel says:

    Good text Kunal,

    I intend to get into this Data Science world. I am actually studiyn and making an internship on it.
    But I have no ideo of how is a data science free lancer job. Can you tell us more about it? 🙂

    Thanks 🙂

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