How to Choose a Data Science Bootcamp

Written by Coursera • Updated on

A data science bootcamp is an intensive and immersive program designed to prepare you for a job in the field of data science. Many programs take only a few months, and you'll set yourself up for some of the most in-demand jobs in the US.

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Data science bootcamps are short, intense, immersive courses that teach advanced data science skills to individuals pursuing a career in data science [1]. To choose a data science bootcamp, set your career goals, determine what skills you’ll need to build, and look for a reputable bootcamp that meets those needs in addition to your schedule and budget.

Outline your career goals 

Before choosing which bootcamp is best for your needs, outline your goals. Ask yourself a few questions. Where do you want to be in five years? Are you seeking an entry-level position or an upper-level position? Are you already employed and want a promotion, or are you starting your career? Try to align the intensity and reputation of the bootcamp with your career goals. 

What skills do your career goals require? Data science bootcamps offer different skills based on the institution offering the camp. You might find it easier to narrow your search when you know your career goals. Data science is a broad field that includes artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, machine learning, and more.

Some popular careers in data science include: 

  • Data engineer

  • Statistician 

  • Data analyst 

  • Machine learning engineer 

  • Data scientist 

Research job requirements 

Find out the specific requirements you’ll need to be eligible for the job you want. Many data science jobs require a skill set specific to that particular job. A few technical and workplace skills you may find in the field of data science include: 

  • Communication 

  • Teamwork 

  • Creativity 

  • Perseverance 

  • Problem-solving 

  • Coding 

  • Databases 

  • Machine learning 

  • Data visualization 

  • Big data frameworks 

Look up job descriptions of openings in your area to get a good idea of what skills you’ll need to grow before applying. 

Assess your skills 

You’ll find the most success with data science bootcamps if you already have some core foundational data science knowledge. Bootcamp instructors move fast, and you’ll likely be completing projects that require some background knowledge. Classes are usually limited to mastering high-level key skills and building your career toolbox. 

There won’t be much time for reviewing basic concepts, so assess your skills to know what type of bootcamp would be the best fit for you based on your skills. If you need to focus more on the basics, look for a data science bootcamp for beginners. 

Research programs 

Most data science bootcamp programs last three to six months. The cost will vary by location and institution. When researching programs, consider what class structure works best for your schedule, what skills you need to learn based on your career goals, and the integrity of the institution or organization offering the bootcamp. Don’t forget to check for any prerequisites before applying for a program [2].

Consider structure and location

You can find data science bootcamps offering online, in-person, and hybrid-style programs. There are pros and cons to each.

In-person classes: Expect more structure at an in-person class. You’ll also be working in a more hands-on environment with an instructor in the room with you to help you as you need it. In-person classes could also be a networking opportunity and chance to build people skills like teamwork and collaboration. However, if you want to enroll in a bootcamp that isn’t local or have a busy schedule, this option may not be flexible enough for you.

Online courses: The online course structure is incredibly convenient while remaining comprehensive. Depending on the course style, you may still have an instructor on call when you need help, and you’ll be able to work through the materials at your own pace in many cases. Online courses may not provide as many opportunities for networking and teambuilding practice.

Hybrid courses: These courses offer the pros of both online and in-person courses. With a hybrid style data science bootcamp, you can experience the immersion of in-person learning with the convenience of online learning. This is an excellent option if you live near an institution but have a busy schedule or want the flexibility of online learning in addition to in-person classes. 

Look up the topics  

Some bootcamps are specialized in a specific field of data science or focus on a particular set of skills. However, you can expect to generally see a few of these topics in the course work: 

  • Python programming 

  • Machine learning

  • Coding

  • Statistics 

  • A/B testing

  • Intermediate excel 

  • Linear regression

  • Databases (MySQL, MongoDB, etc.) 

Don’t expect to be taking notes all day in these bootcamps. Most are project-based, hands-on programs that offer you valuable skills to take into the workforce. Review the course content thoroughly to be sure it aligns with your career goals.  

Know the cost 

Data science boot camps cost around $8,940 to $16,000, depending on the school or organization [3]. 

While you can’t use FAFSA to apply for financial aid, as is the case when earning your degree, there are some financial aid opportunities. These include deferred tuition, income share agreements, or school financing. Some employers may also offer a form of tuition reimbursement if you’re already employed but looking to move into a role of seniority. 

Research institution reputation 

Make sure that you choose a bootcamp from a reputable institution or university. According to Course Report, characteristics of a quality program include [4]:

  • Alumni and student reviews

  • Well established (program offered for 3+ years)

  • Published CIRR (Council on Integrity in Results Reporting) outcomes within the past year

  • Variety of financing options

  • Vetted lending partnerships

  • Other factors like level of career support and selectivity of the application process 

Those requirements might sound like a lot to consider. There are free online resources that rank data science bootcamps. Combine those resources with your research to track down the top programs relevant to your interests. 

It’s also worth mentioning that employers or individuals already working in the industry may have recommendations for reputable bootcamps that they could share with you. 

Here are a few top-rated data science bootcamps in the US, according to Course Report [4]:

  1. Flatiron School

  2. BrainStation 

  3. GeorgiaTech Boot Camps 

  4. Clarusway

  5. NYC Data Science Academy 

Many of these schools offer online or remote learning options, so check one of these top-rated programs even if you aren’t local to the school. 

Data science bootcamp vs. data science degree 

In most cases, you can get the same job in data science with either a data science bootcamp or degree. Many people who enroll in a bootcamp hold an undergraduate degree in an unrelated field and want to get formally certified in data science so that they can pursue a career in that field.

If you already have a degree, a bootcamp would be a great way to break into the field. You can also earn a data science degree, but there are considerable differences between the two[4,5]. 

Data science bootcampData science degree
CostData science boot camps cost around $8,940 to $16,000Average in-state tuition for a bachelor’s in data science is $53,100
DurationAnywhere from a few weeks to a few monthsAt least four years
Time commitmentPart-time or full-timePart-time or full-time
Skills learnedSkills for practical and applied applications, highly specific set of skillsTheories, algorithms, basics of computer science in addition to advanced concepts like machine learning, and programming (depending on if degree is a master’s or bachelor’s)
StructureOnline, in-person, or hybridIn-person is traditional (some universities may offer hybrid or online courses)
Certification typeCertificateBachelor’s degree or master’s degree

Ask yourself if data science bootcamps are worth it

There are many benefits to data science bootcamps, but it’s important to assess if this learning style is right for your overall career goals. Consider these common benefits and drawbacks to data science bootcamps:

Shows determination

Many employers see individuals who earn bootcamp certifications as highly qualified, hard-working candidates. About 40 percent of developers believe bootcamp-trained candidates are just as qualified as peers who went to college, according to HackerRank’s 2020 Developer Skills Report. Another 33 percent say those who have completed bootcamps are more qualified than college graduates [6]. 

Limited financial aid

Bootcamps are typically much less expensive than earning a degree, but be aware that it’s rare to find financial aid opportunities to help you cover the cost of a bootcamp program. You may find success with school financing options or staggered payment plans. 

Efficient but intensive

If you want to get into the field of data science fast, bootcamps can be your fastrack in the door. Though the entire program length runs for just a few months, expect to be immersed in all things data science during that time. This can be a problem if you already hold a full-time job.

Career-focused

When you enroll in a data science bootcamp, you’ll learn alongside like-minded individuals who are likely just as career-focused as you. You may also find career services and job assistance built into these programs. 

Get started today

When you find a program that’s right for you and matches up with your career goals, it’s time to apply! Depending on the program, the enrollment process may include a call with a program representative, application, and assessment prior to acceptance.

If you’re interested in online data science programs, Coursera offers specializations and professional certificates from top industry leaders like IBM.

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Article sources

1. UC Berkley Extension. "Are Data Science Boot Camps Worth It? A Simple Breakdown, https://bootcamp.berkeley.edu/blog/are-data-science-boot-camps-worth-it/". Accessed February 16, 2022.

2. Computer Science. "Best Data Science Bootcamps, https://www.computerscience.org/bootcamps/rankings/data-science/". Accessed December 21, 2021.

3. U.S. News & World Report. "How to Learn Data Science: A U.S. News Guide, https://www.usnews.com/education/learn-data-science-guide". Accessed December 21, 2021.

4. Course Report. "Our Ultimate Guide to the Best Data Science Bootcamps, https://www.coursereport.com/blog/best-data-science-bootcamps-the-complete-guide". Accessed December 21, 2021.

5. Get Educated, "The 12 Most Affordable Data Science Bachelor Degree Online Options, https://www.geteducated.com/online-college-ratings-and-rankings/data-science-bachelor-degree-online/". Accessed December 21, 2022.

6. HackerRank. "2020 HackerRank Developer Skills Report, https://info.hackerrank.com/rs/487-WAY-049/images/HackerRank-2020-Developer-Skills-Report.pdf". Accessed December 21, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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