MicroMasters: The Fast Way to Get Into Data Science

If the prospect of earning a masters degree in data science sounds too daunting (and expensive), then a MicroMasters  might be a good fit for you. A MicroMasters is a "mini" masters degree, typically comprised of four courses. The courses are offered at a fraction of the cost of a typical masters program (around a tenth of the cost), so are a great way to wet your feet and see if data science is right for you.

I'm actually enrolled in the MIT MicroMasters program right now. So far, I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience and will write more about that in future blog posts. In the meantime, here are details about the two currently available MicroMasters, their costs and completion times. 

MIT Micromasterss Program in Statistics and Data Science

According to US News & World Report, MIT is currently ranked as the #3 university in the US, which makes this qualification a great resume builder. Perhaps the best part of this program though, is that it gives you a good grounding in basic probability and statistics if you're new to the topic. It's open to anyone, but MIT highly recommends  "...college-level calculus and comfort with mathematical reasoning and Python programming." 

The best part I love about this program is that completion not only enters you into the door of the coveted MIT Alumni Association, it also earns your way into to Harvard's Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies (Data Science). Complete the classes with a B or better, and you can continue onto Harvard without an application. So, if you've dreamed of hanging an Ivy League credential on your wall, this is your opportunity!

The qualification is made up of four courses plus a capstone exam:

  1. Probability - The Science of Uncertainty and Data
  2. Data Analysis in Social Science—Assessing Your Knowledge
  3. Fundamentals of Statistics
  4. Machine Learning with Python: from Linear Models to Deep Learning

Time to completion: Estimated 18 to 24 months.

Credential earned: MITx Statistics and Data Science MicroMasters.

Total Cost: $1350. 

UC Sandiegox Data Science MicroMasters Program

UC Sandiego is currently ranked at #37 in the US. Unlike the MITx program, which feeds into a Harvard masters, earning a UC Sandiegox MicroMasters credential does not guarantee admission to a full Masters'
program--but you can transfer the courses if you apply and are accepted into the on-campus or online degree program.

This MicroMasters also has four courses:

  1. Python for Data Science
  2. Probability and Statistics in Data Science Using Python
  3. Machine Learning Fundamentals
  4. Big Data Analytics Using Spark

Time to completion: Estimated 10 months.

Credential EarnedVerified Certificate issued by edX.

Total Cost: $1,260.

Other (Free) Options

If you aren't quite sure whether data science is for you, and you aren't ready to plonk down a large chunk of cash for a MicroMasters, then  these free, highly rated, programs are a great place to start:

Coursera has 425 courses in data science from Johns Hopkins University, Stanford University, Duke University and many more. You can audit the courses for free, but make sure to click the small button on the bottom left when you sign up:

EdX, the platform used for MIT and UC San Diego MicroMasters, also has an impressive number of free programs including Microsoft's Introduction to Data Science and Data Science and Machine Learning Essentials. They have many certificate programs for very reasonable fees, starting at $25 for a Microsoft certificate. Or you can pursue Columbia University's Professional Certificate in Data Science (cost = $267.30, at time of writing).

Udactiy's Intro to Data Analysis covers DS and Python. The estimated completion time is 36 hours (six hours per week for six weeks). It's currently rated as 5 stars by users.

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Comment by Carla Sofia Rocha da Silva on September 10, 2020 at 3:01pm

Coursera is the best platform from Johns Hopkins University

Some of them are simpler than it would be expected but they are really good :)


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