These online data science courses are taught by a Harvard biostats professor — and can help you land one of the best jobs in America

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  • Companies collect and use data in order to understand their customer or user base and drive strategic business decisions. The people who make this data understandable — data scientists — are thus valuable, in-demand assets. 
  • The Data Science Professional Certificate Program ($491), offered by Harvard University through edX, is a legitimate, reputable, and flexible way to learn this useful and in-demand skill. 
  • By being offered at a fraction of the cost of traditional college tuition, it helps level the playing field for everyone willing and eager to go into data science.

One of the best jobs in America right now isn't technically dog surfing instructor. It's not even professional TV watcher. According to Glassdoor, based on the number of job openings, salary, and overall job satisfaction rating, the #3 spot overall goes to data scientists.

Drawing from techniques in statistics and computer science, data scientists translate large, seemingly incomprehensible sets of data into meaningful insights that can help drive important business decisions. Given the job's complexity and impact, companies are looking for data scientists in droves and are willing to pay up: the median base salary in 2020 is $107,801. 

If you're looking for a job that's impactful, well-paying, and in high demand, nothing fits the bill better today than a data scientist. With online courses, it's actually possible to jump-start a career in data science without spending thousands of dollars or putting a wrench in your current job.

Harvard's Data Science Professional Certificate Program, available through edX, is an intensive, 17-month-long online program that prepares you with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to pursue roles in data science. 

In this program, students will:

  • Learn fundamental R programming skills (a required skill in 64% of data science job postings) 
  • Understand statistical concepts such as probability, inference, and modeling, and how to apply them in practice
  • Gain experience with the tidyverse, including data visualization with ggplot2 and data wrangling with dplyr
  • Become familiar with essential tools for practicing data scientists such as Unix/Linux, git and GitHub, and RStudio
  • Implement machine learning algorithms
  • Gain in-depth knowledge of fundamental data science concepts through real-world case studies

The courses are taught by Harvard professor of biostatistics Rafael Irizarry, yet it costs under $500 and takes place entirely online, offering a combination of access, affordability, and flexibility previously unattainable at the actual school. 

Each course in the program is designed so you can progress at your own speed, but you should expect to spend about two to three hours per week, per course. There are nine courses total, beginning with foundational basics and culminating in a capstone project in which you'll apply your new knowledge. This final project is a tangible product that you can show potential employers or educational programs. Here are all the courses you'll take in the Data Science program:

  1. R Basics
  2. Visualization
  3. Probability
  4. Inference and Modeling
  5. Productivity Tools
  6. Wrangling
  7. Linear Regression
  8. Machine Learning
  9. Capstone

Upon completion of the program, students receive an official certificate that they can highlight on their resumes to not only indicate their relevant data science skills but also to signal initiative, self-motivation, and willingness to learn — traits that all employers love.

Past students of the program appreciated the engaging content and teaching style, hands-on exercises, and flexibility:  

"Excellent class. Really helpful instructor and lots of hands-on materials. It covers the essential things you need to know and builds on material sequentially. I really look forward to taking the rest of the modules in the sequence. I am a busy professional and so being able to complete this course on my own time when I am traveling is very convenient and effective." 

"Perfect! I loved the course and I'm going to complete the whole Harvard Data Science program. I liked the instructor, the subject is perfectly clarified, and the videos are engaging. The course is very concise —  no chance to get bored. Perfect solution for everyone looking for R fundamentals and a basic statistics course in one place." 

For about $55 per course, you can get your foot in the door to the fascinating, rapidly growing world of data science. Since edX is available on computers, tablets, and phones, you can do so anywhere and on your own time. 

More online classes:

  • Yale's most popular class ever is available free online — and the topic is how to be happier in your daily life
  • 54 free online courses from the best colleges in the US — including Princeton, Harvard, and Yale
  • 6 places to take free and affordable classes online, on everything from programming to photography
  • Skillshare is giving away 2 months of free access to thousands of online classes — I took a class with one of my favorite authors and loved it
  • Coursera offers a free online class called 'Learning How to Learn' that gives you the tools to master any topic
  • GoSkills offers affordable online classes that teach many of the business skills employers want

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