18 of the Best Data Science Programs & Books

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Learning data science skills could be a great idea for several reasons. Maybe you’re a data analyst and want to level up. Maybe you want to train for a new data science certification. Or maybe you don’t have a tech background at all but are interested in exploring the field of data science as a new career option.

Luckily for you, there are plenty of data science programs available online for any level of learner!

In this post, I’ll round up 18 of the best places to learn data science — from complete beginner data science courses that cover the basics to more advanced online data science bootcamps that get you job-ready, plus some of the best data science books for those who learn best via reading. 

Along the way, I’ll also answer questions like: “What are the prerequisites to learn data science?” and “Is a data science certification really necessary to get jobs?”

Let’s dive right in!

Disclosure: I’m a proud affiliate for some of the resources mentioned in this article. If you buy a product through my links on this page, I may get a small commission for referring you. Thanks!

Table of Contents

How to Learn Data Science

There are tons of resources out there for learning data science, from online courses/bootcamps to formal degrees (bachelors & masters) to books and podcasts. I won’t be talking about university degrees here, since we’ll be focusing on how to learn data science from scratch, ideally much faster than 4 years!

To help decide what the best way is for you to learn data science, think about how much time and money you can invest, and your ideal learning style. For example, let’s say you prefer highly structured learning but don’t have the funds to go for a formal degree at a university. In this case, an online bootcamp or comprehensive online course could work better.

data scientist with laptop

When deciding to learn data science or take a data science course, you may be wondering if there are any prerequisites. What exactly should you know before diving into data science?

While many courses are beginner-friendly, they often don’t go beyond the basics. If you’re looking to take a comprehensive course that dives into more advanced topics and gets you job-ready, you may need to know a few concepts first.

For example:

  • Udacity’s Intro to Data Science requires a background in intro-level statistics and Python programming experience.
  • Springboard’s Data Science Career Track requires 6 months of coding experience with a general-purpose programming language (e.g., Python, R, Java, C++) and familiarity with basic probability and descriptive statistics.
  • Udacity’s Become a Data Scientist Nanodegree requires that students be familiar with machine learning concepts, Python programming, probability, and statistics.

So before you dive into data science training, consider learning (or getting familiar with) statistics, probability, Python, and machine learning.

➡️ Here are 13 of the best machine learning courses, a beginner’s guide to learning Python for data science, and the math concepts you’ll actually need to know to become a data scientist.

Keep in mind that it depends on the specific data science course you’re taking. For example, some beginner-oriented data science programs may cover all the prereqs listed above in the beginning parts of the course.

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Do You Need a Data Science Certificate?

There are plenty of accredited data science certificate programs run by universities like Berkeley Extension, Harvard Extension School, and eCornell, Cornell University’s external education unit. Lots of universities also have undergraduate and graduate data science degree programs.

But you don’t necessarily need an accredited data science certificate/degree to learn data science and land a data science job. 

📃 Having a degree or accredited certificate can make your resume look great and you’ll learn a lot, but many people don’t have the time or money to devote to this route.

Plenty of people are self-taught, have gone to online data science bootcamps, or found other methods that worked for them. As long as you have projects to show and can prove that you know relevant skills, it doesn’t really matter where or how you got your education.

For example, David Venturi used online resources to create a personalized data science master’s program. See his “curriculum” here.
Fernando Hidalgo is a self-taught data scientist who went from being a teacher’s assistant to a data scientist in just 1.5 years!

18 of the Best Places to Learn Data Science

Now let’s get to the list of where to learn data science! I’ll divide the best data science programs into categories including free introductory courses, paid beginner-level courses, the best data science bootcamps/comprehensive courses, and lastly some of the best data science books.

Please note that pricing listed below may change in the future!

Free data science resources/courses

These are perfect data science courses if you want to dabble/try it out without having to pay anything. Free courses are a good option if you’re not sure if data science is right for you and don’t want to commit to spending money yet, but still want to see what it’s all about.

1. Introduction to Data Science in Python

Coursera Intro to data science in Python page
  • ➡️ Platform: Coursera
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: Christopher Brooks
  • 💰 Price: Free to audit on Coursera
  • 📈 Level: Intermediate; prior programming background is beneficial 
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 31 hours
  • ⭐ Rating/reviews: 4.5 stars (out of 24,717 ratings)

This Coursera data science course introduces you to the basics of Python, including programming techniques such as lambdas, reading and manipulating CSV files, and the NumPy library. It also covers data manipulation and data cleaning techniques using the Python pandas data science library. This course is part of the Applied Data Science with Python Specialization.

2. Introduction to Data Science

edx introduction to data science page
  • ➡️ Platform: edX
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: Alex Aklson, a data scientist in the Digital Business Group at IBM Canada
  • 💰 Price: Free to audit on edX
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: Estimated 6 weeks (3–6 hours per week)

In this course, you’ll learn about the world of data science first-hand from real data scientists. Covers the tools and algorithms used on a daily basis within the field, as well as the role of data science within a business.

3. Intro to Data Science

udacity intro to data science page
  • ➡️ Platform: Udacity
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructors: Dave Holtz & Cheng-Han Lee
  • 💰 Price: Free
  • 📈 Level: Intermediate; Background in intro level statistics & Python programming experience recommended
  • ⏰ Duration/length: ~2 months

This Udemy data science course gives an overview of a few data science topics, including data manipulation, data analysis with statistics and machine learning, data visualization, and working with big data.

4. Data Science for Everyone

datacamp data science for everyone page
  • ➡️ Platform: DataCamp
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructors: Hadrien Lacroix, Sara Billen, and Lis Sulmont
  • 💰 Price: Free
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 2 hours

In this non-technical, no-coding-required course, you’ll be introduced to the field of data science. Through 48 hands-on exercises, you’ll learn things like A/B testing, time series analysis, machine learning, and how data scientists extract knowledge and insights from real-world data.

Short data science courses for beginners

If you’re ready to take your data science education another level up, it might be a good idea to invest in a short, beginner-friendly paid course. These are sometimes higher-quality than free courses and a bit more in-depth, but aren’t as expensive as data science bootcamps.

5. Data Science Foundations: Fundamentals

linkedin learning data science foundations fundamentals page
  • ➡️ Platform: LinkedIn Learning
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: Barton Poulson
  • 💰 Price: $39.99
  • 📈 Level: Beginner + Intermediate
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 3h 41m

A non-technical overview of the data science field, covering vocabulary, skills, jobs, tools, and techniques of data science. Also covers how to gather and analyze data, formulate rules for classification and decision-making, and draw actionable insights from data. Comes with a certificate of completion to add to your LinkedIn profile.

6. Data Science: The Big Picture

Pluralsight Data Science Page
  • ➡️ Platform: Pluralsight
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: Matthew Renze
  • 💰 Price: $24.92/month, billed annually ($299.00) with a Pluralsight subscription
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 1hr 9m
  • ⭐ Rating/reviews: 4.5 stars

This data science course from Pluralsight provides a high-level overview of what data science is, why it’s important, and where these trends appear to be going. It touches on Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, and machine learning.

7. The Data Science Course 2021: Complete Data Sci-ence Bootcamp

Udemy the data science course 2021
  • ➡️ Platform: Udemy
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: 365 Careers
  • 💰 Price: Normally $94.99 (but there are often sales!)
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 28.5 hours
  • ⭐ Rating/reviews: 4.6 stars (98,232 ratings)

The course provides the entire toolbox you need to become a data scientist. Covers intro to data and data science, mathematics, statistics, Python, machine learning, and more. Go from complete beginner to data scientist.

Best Data Science Bootcamps & Comprehensive Courses

If you’re willing to invest more time and money in learning data science, career paths or degree-style data science courses could be a great option for you. These are super in-depth courses that dive into lots of aspects of data science, go beyond the basics, and are often more structured, like a real college class might be.

8. Data Science Career Track (job guarantee)

Springboard's Data Science Bootcamp
  • ➡️ Platform: Springboard
  • 💰 Price: $13,140, but deferred tuition; pay only after you get a data science job. There are also payment plans.
  • 📈 Level: Intermediate; requires 6 months of active coding experience with a general-purpose programming language (e.g., Python, R, Java, C++) and comfort with basic probability and descriptive statistics, including concepts like mean and median, standard deviation, distributions, and histograms
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 6-month program; 500+ hours total; most students devote 15-20 hours a week
  • ⭐ Rating/reviews: 4.69 of 5 student rating on Switchup

This self-paced Springboard data science bootcamp guarantees that you’ll get a data science job within 6 months of graduation or your money back. You’ll have 1:1 mentorship from industry experts, learn by building 14 real-world projects, get constructive feedback, connect with students and alumni, and develop a portfolio-worthy capstone project you can show to future employers.

9. Data Scientist Career Path

codecademy data scientist page
  • ➡️ Platform: Codecademy
  • 💰 Price: $19.99 a month, billed yearly, with a Codecademy Pro subscription
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 35 weeks

In this Codecademy data science career path, you’ll build portfolio-worthy projects that will help you get job-ready. Skills taught include SQL, Python 3, NumPy, pandas, matplotlib, scikit-learn, and more.

10. Become a Data Scientist Nanodegree

udacity become a data scientist page
  • ➡️ Platform: Udacity
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructors: Josh Bernhard, Juno Lee, Luis Serrano, and more.
  • 💰 Price: $399/month for pay-as-you-go, or $1,356 for 4-month access (saves an extra 15%)
  • 📈 Level: Advanced; requires knowledge of Python, SQL, statistics, math, and machine learning concepts
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 4 months at 10 hrs/week
  • ⭐ Rating/reviews: 4.7 stars (out of 1,000+ reviews)

A bootcamp-type course designed to prepare you for a data science career. Build projects designed by industry experts, learn to run data pipelines, design experiments, build recommendation systems, and deploy solutions to the cloud. Comes with career services (GitHub reviews, resume reviews, etc.) and technical mentor support.

11. Become a Data Scientist

ZTM become a data scientist
  • ➡️ Platform: Zero to Mastery
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructors: Andrei Neagoie, Daniel Bourke, and Mo Binni
  • 💰 Price: $39/month or $279/year with a Zero to Mastery subscription
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: 127 hours (could take you anywhere from 2 months to a year depending on how long you spend per week)

A step-by-step roadmap to go from beginner to getting hired as a data scientist. Includes courses, workshops, challenges, and action items to build up your data science portfolio. It covers Python, machine learning, data engineering, how to stand out in your job search, and much more. You’ll also get access to a supportive Discord community.

12. Professional Certificate in Data Science

edx professional ceritifcate page
  • ➡️ Platform: edX
  • 👨‍🏫 Instructor: HarvardX via edX
  • 💰 Price: $792.80
  • 📈 Level: Beginner
  • ⏰ Duration/length: Self-paced; Example schedule: 1 year 5 months (if you devote 2-3 hours per week)

In this data science certification program, you’ll learn fundamental R programming skills, statistical concepts, data visualization techniques, how to implement machine learning algorithms, and more. The data science program includes 9 skill-building courses, with real-world case studies to guide your learning.

Data Science Books

Lastly, let’s look at some of the best data science books for the bookworms out there!

13. Python Data Science Handbook by Jake VanderPlas 

For people who already know some Python. Covers tools in the Python data science stack, including IPython, NumPy, Pandas, Matplotlib, Scikit-Learn, and other related tools.

14. Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline (Amazon) by Cathy O’Neil and Rachel Schutt

Data scientists from companies such as Google, Microsoft, and eBay share new data science algorithms, methods, and models. Best if you’re familiar with linear algebra, probability, and statistics, and have some programming experience.

15. Practical Statistics for Data Scientists: 50+ Essential Concepts Using R and Python (Amazon) by Peter Bruce, Andrew Bruce, and Peter Gedeck

This book is aimed at the data scientist with some familiarity with the R and/or Python programming languages. Explains key concepts from statistics that are relevant to data science.

16. Numsense! Data Science for the Layman: No Math Added (Amazon) by Annalyn Ng and Kenneth Soo

Perfect for complete beginners, this is a gentle introduction to data science and its algorithms. Each algorithm has its own dedicated chapter including real-world applications.

17. Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data (Amazon) by Charles Wheelan

“For those who slept through Stats 101, this book is a lifesaver.” It makes statistics easier to understand — an important data science prerequisite.

18. Data Science from Scratch: First Principles with Python (Amazon) by Joel Grus

Shows you how data science tools and algorithms work by implementing them from scratch. Best for people with mathematics and some programming skills.

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What Are the Best Data Science Programs for You?

No matter your current tech experience, there’s a data science course out there for you! However, since data science is such an interdisciplinary field, there’s a lot to learn — from math to stats to programming — which means it can take a bit longer to build up your skill set.

Just remember, slow and steady is the best way to make progress! Getting experience building projects or even working as a data analyst can also be great ways to learn data science.

Want to pursue a data science career path? Check out this podcast episode on how to become a data scientist without a degree.