No pretence! Despite the excitement the study of data brings to data enthusiasts all over the world, no denying that the discipline still remains like Voldemort to many people — sacred and scary. Data, in itself, wears a droning look. Its mere mention suggests muddled rolls of screaming numbers in stacks of paper or on a computer screen. Science too represents repetitive testing, complex back and forth analyses, and heavy questioning. Now, the marriage of the two — to many — can be a wellspring of worry.
However, no matter how worrisome it seems, data science continues to grow in popularity and demands with the passage of time, and surprisingly, the existing culture of fear and abhorrence will soon be annihilated.
The Benefits of Learning Data Science
With just a few years into the practice of modern data science, the world has recognised the ubiquity of this multi-disciplinary field. There is no arguing the fact that data science has reached into all aspects of our daily living and has taken, in each, a key role. Coupled with the increasing generation of data in the world, there can only be more potentials yet unknown in this field.
Moving from that level where you ask: “what is data science?” to a high level of proficiency is not so difficult if you have an adequate level of interest and practice. Learning the gains that exist in being skilled in data science up to professional proficiency can also spur you to grab the next ‘data science for beginners’ guide you see.
One of the many perks of learning data science is that there are many job opportunities and specialities within the field resulting in a high level of job security for its practitioners. Another would be that it brings high-end compensations and prestige. Once you become skilled in data science, you’re set up for rich-pays. And another would be the high level of occupational elbowroom the profession gives. In your career, you can taste the experiences of different industries — from healthcare to education, governance to agriculture — or even different roles in the echelons of a single industry.
Interestingly, knowledge of data science isn’t only career-helping. The knowledge gained from rigorously studying the field or even just reading a couple of industry-journals or blog posts can be helpful in helping you better understand the world you live and its affairs.
The umbilical cord of data science is tied to the age-long field of statistics. This explains why statistics is one of the first few lessons in data science for beginners. Statistics deals with the collection, sorting, and analysis of past data for future decisions. Life challenges require that we possess sound creativity and logical reasoning. These, we can develop and/or hone if we expose ourselves to more statistical drills.
Summarily, if you are choosing to learn data science, know that you are simultaneously choosing to earn these gains:
- Career flexibility
- Secure employment
- Critical thinking
- Business Intelligence
And although this inventory of benefits isn’t comprehensive, it clearly tells of the advantages of even just a little data science knowledge in our daily lives and data science as a career path.
The Application of Statistics in Everyday Life
Adichie said we should all be feminists. I say that we should all be statisticians. This is because there are many ways we use statistics — perhaps unknowingly — every day and a little bit of consciousness can make us better apply our statistical knowledge for more benefits.
Statistics has a long and winding history in the world of men. Even before it got the beautiful name and its present structured form, traces of its basic principles can be found in the conduct of kingdoms of yore. The underlying idea of statistics is examining trends for models and the application of these models to give meaningful predictions.
Let’s start with the basic, often unconscious applications. Remember the number of times you have made decisions and predictions based on observed trends? I remember that, while growing up, many a time I had predicted the time when the electricity would be restored. Although funny and crude, I could do that by observing past patterns of electricity rationing. If not this, sometimes, you must have done something similar. Trust me when I say that you — and I — had in all those petty instances engaged in inferential statistics.
Advancingly, statistics come handy in weather forecasting. Meteorologists look for and analyse patterns in past weather data to make future predictions. Business analysts, pharmaceutical scientists, lifestyle app creators, and governments also use statistics daily in their affairs. From projections on inflations or forex to drug trials and testing, lifestyle apps development, and national planning and allocations, statistics is a common currency.
If you are well-versed in statistics, you will be able to contribute to discussions on the economy. You will be able to interpret the numbers and lines, curves and graphs into comprehensible bits of news.
Ever wondered why civic societies and activists befriend national statistics? Statistics provides a platform to gauge success and impact. Unless altered, statistics don’t lie and that makes it the best tool for keeping any government responsive, responsible, and accountable.
In one list, these are some benefits that are in being skilled in the use of statistics.
- Improved business methods
- Business shrewdness
- Sound economic forecasting
- Strategic business leadership
- Visual communication skills
Data Science and Data Analytics: What Sets Them Apart?
Having answered the frequently asked ‘what is data science’ question, and explained the diverse applications of statistics, it would be right to distinguish data science from another child of statistics — data analytics.
Because the two disciplines involve data, it is often difficult to tell them apart. However, there are a number of things that differentiate the duo.
Data analytics is primarily involved with extracting usable insights from pre-existing data and visualising these insights to assist in decision-making. However, data science involves working on Big Data to make predictions and forecasts, create classifications and recommendations, and detect anomalies.
Whereas data analytics, often, only requires you to have good communication and business skills coupled with your knowledge of statistics, data science requires that you add heavy programming skills. This is needed as data science generates complex algorithms that could assist AI. Instead, a data scientist may forfeit learning visualisation, a top skill for data analysts.
Understanding these distinctions will greatly help you in making the right career decisions. You will be clear on what skills to prioritise, what income range you should expect, and join the few lots who truly know the difference.
Learning Data Science Online
In this age and time, learning has gone beyond sitting within the walls of a lecture room. Many people for different reasons are exploring web-based classes. Data science can also be learnt on-the-web. Especially for people who don’t have the luxury of time or who just want to learn the basics of the discipline, there are many massive open online courses, data science and data mining sites, and webinars that can provide a solid grasp of the field.
You could also consider taking online short courses in Nigerian data science academies with such an option or find an online tutor through a trusted knowledge-sharing site like Superprof.
Whatever choice it is you choose, quality should be a top consideration for you. There are some questions that you will also need to ask to ascertain which of these online options will be the best for data science for beginners. Such questions include the pace of learning, the provision for practice drills, and the interactivity.
Often, it is also advised to consider your budget before deciding. Know if the webinar is free, if the tutor is affordable, and if the site requires a basic subscription for premium content.
Learning Data Science in Nigeria and Abroad
Owing to the incipience of data science in Nigeria, there are currently no higher institutions offering data science as a degree-programme in Nigeria. However, there are academies and institutes in Nigeria that offer certifications in data science, analytics, and AI. Notable among them are:
- PwC Data Analytics Academy
These citadels of learning provide sound knowledge and industry-accepted certifications in the field of data science. The courses they offer are often short but intense, ranging from a couple of months to one or two years.
If you wish to learn in another clime, you may explore data science institutions in Africa to gain mastery of the discipline. There are a number of universities that run data science degree-courses up to Masters Level that can serve your need. The benefits of choosing this option would be the exposure it gives since you will be moving to study in another country and the experience of a more structured pedagogy associated with universities. Some notable African universities that can home you as you journey to mastery in data science include:
- The Stellenbosch University in South Africa
- The College of Computing and Information Sciences of the Makerere University in Uganda
- The School of Sciences and Engineering of the American University in Cairo
Still, you are not limited by those choices. You may opt for a study across the Atlantic — in the UK, the US, or even Asia. You have chosen a ubiquitous field, and so, you can take a school anywhere.