Get started in data science: 5 steps you can take online for free

From gaining the right skills to acing your first interview, these resources can help put you on the right track

Making a career change is never easy, but few things are more motivating than the prospect of a good salary and a dearth of competition. That's a fair summary of the data science world today, as at least one well-publicized study has made clear, so why not investigate a little further?

There's been a flurry of free resources popping up online to help those who are intrigued learn more. Here's a small sampling for each step of the way.

1. Understand what it is

Microsoft's website might not automatically spring to mind as a likely place to look, but sure enough, a few months ago the software giant published a really nice series of five short videos entitled "Data Science for Beginners." Each video focuses on a specific aspect, such as "The 5 questions data science answers" and "Is your data ready for data science?"

2. Dig a little deeper

If you think you might be interested in a career in data science, you may want to start getting a feel for the lay of the land by tapping into some of the big blogs and community websites out there. The newly revamped is one example; KDnuggets is another useful resource. A recent post on Data Science Central (another good site) lists key accounts to follow on Twitter. KDnuggets suggests some good e-books to read before plunging into a data science career.

3. Learn the ropes

Still interested? Then you're probably going to need to acquire some skills, as Adam Flugel, a data-science recruiter with Burtch Works, noted in an interview earlier this year. DataCamp delivers instruction for both groups and individuals; other online options include Open Source Data Science Masters and this introductory textbook, which is available as a free PDF through a Creative Commons license. KDnuggets has a nice list of its own with other good options.

4. Get a job

There are lots of places to look for data scientist jobs today, including the aforementioned, which has a section dedicated to that purpose. Kaggle has a jobs board of its own, and there are more to be found on Glassdoor and Correlation One, a site that just launched earlier this year, bills itself as a matchmaker for data scientists and employers.

5. Prepare to impress

Once you get an interview, there's nothing more confidence-building than expert tips for acing it. Look no further than KDnuggets, which has published just what you need in a post entitled, "21 Must-Know Data Science Interview Questions and Answers." Good luck!

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