April 27, 2022

Data Science Certificates in 2022 (Are They Worth It?)

data-science-certification

One of the most common data science questions on Quora is “What data science certificate should I get?” 

Most people assume that before finding a job in data science they would need to get a data science certification. However, that’s not true.

You do not need a data science certificate to get a job in data science. 

Recruiters are far more interested in your skills and not nearly as concerned about what certifications you have.

That doesn’t mean certificates are not valuable. How so?

How Data Science Certificates Impact Your Job Search

Certificates certainly won’t hurt your job search as long as they’re presented correctly—see our Career Guide chapter on resumes for more details. But they’re unlikely to help much either.

In our data science career guide, we spoke with more than a dozen hiring managers and recruiters in the data science field about what they wanted to see on applicant’s résumés. 

None of them mentioned certificates. Not one.

The issue is that there’s no universal standard and no universally accredited certification authority. Different websites, schools, and online learning platforms all issue their own certificates.

Generally, a “Data Science Certificate” on a résumé will not demonstrate what skills that certification represents. 

This is why employers tend not to give them much weight when qualifying candidates.

What’s the Point of a Certification?

Data scientist certifications aren’t useless. At Dataquest, we issue certificates for course completion, because it is a great way for students to demonstrate that they’re actively engaged in learning new skills. 

Recruiters do like to see that applicants are constantly trying to improve themselves. Listing certificates can help your job application in that way.

Ultimately, the thing that is most important to recruiters is whether you can actually do the job, and that’s information they’re going to find primarily by looking at your portfolio of projects

They’re going to look at your projects and skills first, and depending on what they see, will either discard or send your application to the next round. 

Continued learning efforts are something you can, and should bring up in an interview. But, they’re unlikely to get you an interview.

Long story short: data science certificates are unlikely to help your résumé get noticed. When considering which certification to get, don’t focus on “which data science certificate is best?”.

Instead, find the platform that best helps you learn the fundamental data science skills because that’s what will help you land a job in the field.

Choosing a Data Science Certificate Program

Finding a program that offers a certificate is easy. There are many data science programs that offer certificates of completion. A quick Google search will turn up dozens.

What can be more difficult is comparing all of these programs and whether the certificate is worth the investment of your time and money.

Some things to consider when looking at a data science certification are:

  • What you’ll learn in the program

  • The cost of the program

  • Any prerequisites or qualifications you’ll need

  • The time commitment required

  • Reviews from previous students

Below are some real life examples to compare.

Top Data Science Certifications

Dataquest

What you’ll learn: Dataquest offers four different career paths that cover the required skills to enter into the data analyst, data scientist, and/or data engineering careers. The specific skills covered vary depending on which of the four paths that are chosen. 

Topics include:

  • Python and R programming

  • SQL and PostgreSQL

  • Probability and statistics

  • machine learning

  • workflow skills like Git, the command line (bash/shell)

  • And more

Cost: An annual Premium subscription of $294 (on sale). Monthly subscriptions are also available.

Prerequisites: None. There is no application process (anyone can sign up and start learning today) and no prior knowledge of applied statistics or programming is required.

Time commitment: Varies. Dataquest is a self-serve interactive learning platform. Most learners find they’re able to meet their learning goals in roughly six months if studying fewer than ten hours per week. Learning goals can obviously be accelerated with larger time commitments. 

Reviews:

Cloudera University Data Analyst Course/Exam

What you’ll learn: This course is focused on data analysis using Apache products: Hadoop, Hive, and Impala. Some SQL is covered but it does not cover any programming in Python or R.

Cost: The on-demand version costs $2,235 (180 days of access). Certification exams have an additional cost.

Prerequisites: Some prior knowledge of SQL and Linux command line is required.

Time commitment: Varies. Because this is a self-paced course, users have access for 180 days to complete 15 sections. Each section is estimated to take between 5-9 hours. The time commitment is between 75 and 135 hours. If you can only commit less than an hour each day, it might take you the entire 180 days. If you have the capacity to devote 9 or more hours per day, it could take you a couple weeks to complete.

Reviews: Third-party reviews for this program are difficult to find.

IBM Data Science Professional Certificate

What you’ll learn: This Coursera-based program covers Python and SQL, including some machine learning skills with Python.

Cost: A Coursera subscription, which is required. Based on Coursera’s 10-month completion estimate, the approximate total program cost is $390. A similar program is also available on EdX.

Prerequisites: None. 

Time commitment: Varies. Coursera suggests that the average time to complete this certificate is ten months.

Reviews: Quantitative third-party reviews are difficult to find, but:

  • 4.6/5 average on Coursera’s own site (112,020 ratings)

Harvard/EdX Professional Certificate in Data Science

What you’ll learn: This EdX-based program covers R, including some machine learning skills, as well as some statistics and workflow skills. It does not appear to include SQL.

Cost: $792.80

Prerequisites: None. 

Time commitment: One year and five months. Course progress doesn’t carry over from session to session, so it could require more time if you’re not able to complete a course within its course run.

Reviews: Quantitative third-party reviews are difficult to find, but:

Certified Analytics Professional

What you’ll learn: Potentially nothing — this is simply a certification exam, although test prep courses are available.

Cost: The certification test costs $695, and includes limited prep materials. Dedicated prep courses are available for an additional cost.

Prerequisites: An application is required to take the certification exam, and since no course is included, you’ll need to have learned the required information on your own, or signed up for a course separately.

Time commitment: The exam itself is relatively short. The dedicated prep courses take 1-2 months depending on options. But they are not required to take the exam.

Reviews: Quantitative third-party reviews are difficult to find, but you can read some independent options about the certification:

google cloud data certification

From Data to Insights with Google Cloud

What you’ll learn: This course covers primarily SQL data analysis skills with a focus on using BigQuery, and Google Cloud’s data analysis tool.

Cost: A Coursera subscription, which is required, costs $39/month. Coursera estimates that most students will need roughly two months to complete the program.

Prerequisites: The course page says: “We recommend participants have some proficiency with ANSI SQL,” but it’s not clear exactly what level of SQL proficiency is required.

Time commitment: Coursera estimates that most students will need two months to complete the program, but students can work at their own pace. However, courses do begin on prescribed dates.

Reviews: Quantitative third-party reviews are difficult to find, but:

  • The course has a 4.7/5 rating on Coursera itself

Microsoft MCSE: Data Management and Analytics

What you’ll learn: This course is focused on SQL, and integrating SQL skills with the use of Microsoft tools like Microsoft SQL Server, and Microsoft Azure Cosmos.

Cost: The test prep is free if studied online, but Microsoft currently doesn’t offer a course for this certification. A variety of instructor-led in-person courses are available, at various price points. The certification requires students to pass three separate certification exams. Total cost to earn the certification is at least $495.

Prerequisites: No prerequisites are listed.

Time commitment: The exams themselves don’t take much time, but how much time is required varies greatly on how much prior learning and understanding you may already have.

Reviews: Third-party reviews of this certification are difficult to find. No reviews are available from the course provider.

Of course these are just a few examples. There are many more certification programs that were not discussed here. But that will give you an idea of what to look for and consider when comparing data science certification programs.

Be Careful of Prerequisites and Qualifications!

While some programs like Dataquest, Coursera, and Udemy do not require any particular background or industry knowledge, many other DASCA’s Senior Data Scientist Certification and Cloudera’s CCA Data Analyst Certification have concrete prerequisites.

For example, DASCA’s Senior Data Scientist Certification tracks require at least a Bachelor’s degree (some tracks require a Master’s degree) and a minimum of 3-5 years of professional data-related experience.

Some programs, particularly offline bootcamps, also require specific qualifications or have application processes. You won’t be able to jump in right away and begin learning. You will need to also factor in time costs and application fees for these programs when comparing them.

What About University Certificates?

Many of the expensive certification programs offered online by brand-name schools, including Ivy League schools, are not very meaningful to potential employers. 

In fact, many of these online programs are not administered by the schools themselves; they’re run by for-profit, third-party firms called Online Program Managers

Employers are keenly aware that a Harvard-affiliated certificate from EdX and a Harvard University degree are two very different things.

Most data science hiring managers will not have time to research the academic rigor of every data science certification they see on a résumé. 

On average, most résumés are only given 30 seconds of review time. Because certificates won’t tell much about a candidate’s ability, more focus will be given on skills and projects.

Entry-level applicants will be evaluated from the data science projects that are listed on the résumé or found on GitHub.

Higher-level applicants will be assessed on previous industry experience and completed projects, not certificates. 

Furthermore, university certificates tend to be quite expensive. For example:

Celeste Grupman

About the author

Celeste Grupman

Celeste is the Director of Operations at Dataquest. She is passionate about creating affordable access to high-quality skills training for students across the globe.

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