How Long Does it Take to Learn Python for Data Science?
Demand for data analysts and data scientists has been growing rapidly over the past few years. Since Python is the most popular language used for data analysis, if you want to work in the data field you will probably need to learn Python (although R can be a great choice, too).
Like any programming language, Python takes some time to master. But if you’re motivated and willing to learn a new skill set, there is huge opportunity to fill the demand for data scientists in the job market. The data science field is full of jobs that require Python programming abilities. In 2017, IBM estimated that demand for data science professionals would increase 28% by 2020.
Knowing Python is a key skill for doing data science and other programming jobs in industries that include engineering, medical research, artificial intelligence, machine learning, automotive and more. And while learning data science may feel like a long journey, you may be surprised to find that the barrier to entry to learn Python for data science is actually low — especially when compared to the high pay-off.
You can use Python skills to build a new career, grow in your current role, or open new job opportunities up as a freelance and enter entirely new job markets as a remote contractor.
Why is Python in Such High Demand?
There's an inside joke in the Python community that Python is the second-best language for everything. What’s best is subjective, of course, but Python is incredibly flexible. It is the most commonly-used language for data science (R is a close second), and it's also frequently used in a number of other industries.
One reason for its widespread popularity is that it is one of the easier languages to learn and use when working with data. And, fortunately for employers and data scientists alike, it doesn’t require years of long study hours to master.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Python?
With the proper time and dedication, you can learn Python in just a few months!
Like any skill, how quickly you learn Python is ultimately dependent on how much time and effort you put in. While everyone learns at their own pace, if you commit to 5 hours a week, you can gain the skills you need to start doing basic data analysis projects in just a couple of weeks (and you'd be amazed how far you could get in a year).
Let’s take a look at some of the things that go into learning Python, including our reasons for studying this language and tips for making the most of your time spent studying.
Here are 3 reasons you should start to learn Python for your work life, personal life, or both:
1. It Allows You to Automate Tasks
Python is a versatile programming language, which means there's something in it for everyone. Once you learn Python, you’ll be able to work with massive data sets easily if that's your thing. You'll be able to scrape data from the web and access APIs if that's what you need. You'll be able to use it to power-up your work in Excel if you work regularly with spreadsheet software. And you'll be able to automate all sorts of tasks.
Learning to automate tasks on your own can be incredibly powerful, because your time is valuable! Let the robots send your emails and fetch data from the internet. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can even create the next coffee delivery app so you can easily get your caffeine fix every morning.
(That may take a little bit more work, though.)
More likely, you’ll be able to start finding creative solutions for the people and companies you work for. When you learn Python, you are literally learning a new language that is built on identifying and predicting patterns – and as you find patterns, you’ll be able to communicate those findings in a way that makes a big impact in your professional, industry and world.
2. You Can Impress Your Boss
Learning Python is also a great way to impress at work (or get that promotion you’ve been vying for).
To those who can’t code, the ability to program sometimes seems like a superpower. Programming gives you the ability to leverage your knowledge and multiply your output. With it, you may able get ten times as much work done in the same amount of time.
As mentioned above, when you learn Python, you’ll be able to gather data quickly and “translate” those numbers to real-world solutions.
For example, in a business setting, you could add value by doing things like web scraping, sending emails automatically, or even analyzing supply chain production to find missed opportunities for cost savings and/or quality control.
If your boss has mentioned that understanding data science could help you move toward your career goals, a self-paced course that helps you learn Python online could be the perfect way to balance a career and personal development.
3. It Creates Exciting New Career Opportunities
If you're looking for an entirely new career or maybe aren’t feeling fulfilled in your current job position, you've come to the right place.
Demand for Python programmers, especially in the data science field, has never been higher. Data science is a rewarding field, and it pays exceptionally well. A typical entry-level Data Analyst salary is around $65,432, and Data Scientist salaries can reach well over $100,000 a year.
These opportunities are sometimes available remotely, so you can work from anywhere for a US company without being tied to a US location. Data science is a relatively new field, and with that freshness comes modern hiring practices. An emphasis on understanding your craft and being able to drive results is slowing beginning to trump the need for a 4 year degree and an office down the hallway.
We’ve seen many of our alumni find rewarding careers (either in an office or remotely) after completing our Data Science paths. In fact, our courses are structured to help you leave with a leg up on the job hunt. You’ll have experience working with real-world data and a portfolio full of finished data science projects.
For a lot of human resources offices evaluating your resume, this can be far more important than your degree.
Tips to Help you Learn Python as Quickly as Possible
If you're learning Python on your own, creative time-management habits will be very helpful — especially if you want to learn Python sooner rather than later. While 5 hours may seem like a lot to fit into your already-busy weekly schedule, it's very achievable for someone working a full-time job or with a full calendar of school commitments.
Here are a few ways you might find the spare hours:
1. Set Your Alarm Clock for 30 Minutes Earlier
The best time you can set aside to learn Python each day is in the morning.
Biologically, your best, most productive time is around the first two hours of each day. You don’t want to sacrifice any sleep, but you may want to get to bed earlier so you can practice a bit before work.
It's a commitment, for sure. But, if you set aside your clothes the night before, have your coffee ready to go and already know what aspects of Python you are going to work on, it’s a bit easier. Tell yourself that you can’t look at your phone or emails until you dedicate 30 minutes toward learning Python and make it a habit!
The time it saves and the advancement in your career will be worth the extra effort. As an added benefit, you’ll feel extra healthy when you get a productive head start on your day.
You may even surprise yourself - lots of people who think they are just ‘not morning people’ find after getting enough sleep each night that it was only a matter of shifting the hours around and building some healthy habits.
It feels pretty cool to say, “I stayed up all night coding.”
But a lot of those times we overestimate our productivity - you don’t get nearly as much done or retain as much information when you’re tired. When you look at the numbers with fresh eyes, you can absorb what you learn much better!
2. Log Off Your Evening Netflix Habit
If you already wake up at 5 am to get to work each day, waking up earlier may not be the best option for you.
In that case, you might take the first 2 hours when you get home from work each day to learn Python. If you are overwhelmed with the idea of finding 2 hours between your commute, gym, dinnertime and downtime, spend a week really looking at how your spend your evenings.
Write down what you did each day this week – how much time did you spend binging Netflix? Did you waste a few hours on social media (be honest)? Did you get lost scrolling through Amazon? Can you prep your meals on Sunday to cut back on weeknight cooking?
Leave the Fortnite battle bus behind for one night and remember those reasons you wanted to learn Python to begin with.
Or, you can bookend your day with data science. After reserving your morning hours for your most important projects, you can review your work or participate in forums before bed to help your mastery.
3. Take Advantage of Quiet Saturday Mornings
We’ve seen that practicing every day is the best way to learn Python. For the students who have mastered data science principles the quickest, that includes some weekends.
It's important to be as consistent as possible, but sometimes life gets in the way. That’s what weekends are for. If you’re completely booked from 5 am to 6 pm every day, you can keep yourself on track by putting in extra hours on the weekend.
Plus, this is a great way to find uninterrupted time in a space you’ve dedicated just for learning python. Tie it to something rewarding — a walk through the park, a sandwich from your favorite coffee shop — to make your Python study time something that you look forward to!
One thing to keep in mind: studying two hours a day is far better than 10 hours in one day on the weekend. If you have other commitments during the week, even 10 minutes each morning will make a difference compared to only looking at Python materials once a week.
4. Join A Community of Python Programmers
Joining a community of Python developers will help you stay on track toward your goal to learn Python.
Python meetups are fairly common on Meetup.com, and you'll get recommendations from other members of these groups. Additionally, Dataquest's students use our Members community to network and discuss Python problems, troubleshooting, and data science portfolio projects.
If you carve out a few minutes each day for connecting, you’ll complete your coursework with a new skill and a new network as you enter the job market!
5. Compete on Kaggle
Kaggle hosts data science competitions. Signing up is free, and members submit Python scripts to find the best fit model for a given dataset. You'll find a lot of competitions with objectives similar to the guided projects in your Dataquest portfolio.
If you’re one of those Fortnite fans we mentioned above, collaborating with other Dataquest students on Kaggle competitions can help replace some of your game time in a way that helps you learn Python without losing that competitive fix!
6. Read Python Books
There are many guides written for general and specific applications of Python, and we’ve highlighted a few that you can read without paying a dime, as long as you don’t mind scrolling through digital copies.
You can use these books to supplement your Dataquest courses, where you'll learn this information and more, specifically tailored to data analysis and data science. This is perfect for students who want real-world context for the skills they learn in our data science paths.
Ready to Learn Python At Your Own Pace?
All data scientists have tips and tricks that helped them along the way. Some people may boast that they've learned Python in merely a month, while others take several years to reach the level of mastery that they're looking for.
Be gentle with yourself and allow yourself the time to learn Python at the pace that works best for you. It’s better to take a little extra time than to rush through everything without building a solid foundation in the fundamentals!
Having great instruction in the basics of Python will help you automate your life and work, excel in your current job, or even allow you to enter a new one. Dataquest’s interactive courses offer instant hands-on learning and a community of fellow students who will help you on your journey.
If your goal is to not only learn Python for data science, but to truly master it, Dataquest is the place for you.
By the time you’re finished with our free courses, you’ll already be well on the path to learning Python. Get started today on our Data Scientist path completely free, and you'll have your first lines of code finished in minutes.
Charlie is a student of data science, and also a content marketer at Dataquest.