7 Free or Cheap Ways to Learn Data Science

We all know data science is an important (and growing) field, but most of us don’t have the time or money to study it full-time at a university. But take heart: We’ve found seven free or inexpensive options for data science training.

Many of these are high-level, theoretical courses, not specific programs to train you on data science tools. All the courses require some knowledge of statistics, programming, and data concepts (and one of them requires a lot more), so read the fine print.

  • Caltech offers Learning from Data – a set of university lectures by Yaser Abu-Mostafa , recorded in 2012, covering theory, algorithms, and practical applications of machine learning. Eighteen one-hour lectures, eight homework assignments, and a final exam are free online.
  • If you’ve got what it takes, apply for The Data Incubator  – a free six-week boot camp/fellowship in New York City this summer designed for PhDs who want to be data scientists.  Executive Director Michael Li told VentureBeat that the program will be tougher to get into than Harvard, and says more than a thousand people have already applied. Consider yourself challenged.
  • Vincent Granville, founder of Data Science Central, just launched a Data Science Apprenticeship program – a free, project-based course based on Granville’s own textbook  ($26.99 digital or $40 physical). Like apprenticeships of old, students must be accepted into the program and space is limited. The course is self-paced and unstructured; Granville provides potential projects and data sets, gives feedback on students’ work, and requires completion in six months.
  • KD Nuggets has a free Data Mining Course taught by Gregory Piatetsky-Shapiro and Gary Parker. The 19 modules in this course – each taking 75 minutes – cover data classification, data mining, data visualization and other topics. A shorter, less advanced course can be cherry-picked from within the full syllabus.
  • Open Courseware  at MIT offers Statistical Thinking and Data Analysis, a free, 14-session online course (each session is 90 minutes long) taught by Cynthia Rubin in 2011. Offered through the university’s business school, the course covers applied probability, sampling, estimation, hypothesis testing, linear regression, and more.
  • If you can wait until October, Syracuse University will present Applied Data Science: An Introduction, a six-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) taught by Jeffrey Stanton.
  • Online educator Udacity has a self-paced, high-level Intro to Data Science class covering data manipulation, data analysis, data communication with visualization, and Big Data. Led by Dave Holtz of Airbnb and taught by working pros at Google, Twitter, and AT&T, the course takes about two months (at six hours per week) and costs $150 per month.

Have we missed any? Have you taken any of these courses and want to tell us about your experience? Let us know in the comments.


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