How to Learn Data Science - A Beginner's Guide for 2024

Article reading time: 10 min. | 07. May 2024, written by Margherita Seppi
Tags HowToLearnDataScience DataScience StudyGuide DataAnalysis BigData

How to learn data science in a nutshell:

  • Data science is pivotal in today's world, driving decisions and innovations across sectors.
  • Learning data science offers lucrative career opportunities and a chance to effect change.
  • Data scientists analyse complex data, build predictive models, and provide actionable insights.
  • Steps to learn data science include mastering math, programming, data manipulation, visualisation, and working with databases.
  • A structured education pathway, like IU's degrees, ensures comprehensive learning and practical experience.
  • Learning data science requires dedication, a structured plan, and practical application.
  • Self-learning data science is feasible with discipline and online resources.
  • Understanding Big Data is crucial for aspiring data scientists, offering opportunities for insights and innovation.

In a world where data is as valuable as gold, knowing how to carefully sort, study, and find important discoveries can greatly improve any project. From changing the way we diagnose health issues, to creating powerful marketing plans, or even tailoring fitness programs, data science is behind all these big changes. This guide is here to give beginners and keen learners a complete map to the exciting and always-growing world of data science in 2024.

Why Should You Learn Data Science?

Data science's appeal doesn't just lie in its academic recognition or its stance at the cutting edge of technological progress; it's at the heart of a revolution that's transforming our world. It's an extraordinary tool, unravelling the complexities of extensive datasets to drive decisions, fuel innovations, and tackle some of the most significant challenges faced by humanity.

The demand for data scientists resonates across various sectors - finance, healthcare, education, and tech, to name a few. It’s a discipline that not only offers an engaging and lucrative career path but also a multitude of opportunities to effect change. The joy found in decoding patterns and crafting solutions concealed within data is immense and widely acknowledged. From forecasting trends, tailoring customer experiences, automating tasks, to safeguarding data, the scope of data science is boundless and truly exciting.

In today's world, where decisions are increasingly driven by data, having a knack for data science gives you an unbeatable competitive advantage. Employers across the board are on the lookout for individuals skilled at navigating vast seas of data to find actionable insights - making it one of the top skills sought in the job market.

For insights on how to become a data scientist and the rewarding salary expectations that come with it, read more on our blogs:

What Do Data Scientist Do?

Data scientists play a critical role in deciphering complex data, making sense of trends, and providing actionable insights that can guide decision-making within an organisation. They combine expertise in statistics, mathematics, and computer science to analyse and interpret large datasets, turning them into clear, understandable findings. Here's a closer look at the multifaceted responsibilities of a data scientist:

- Data Analysis and Wrangling: Data scientists spend a considerable amount of time collecting, cleaning, and organising data from different sources. This process, known as data wrangling, involves removing inaccuracies and preparing the data for analysis. They ensure that data is accurate and readily available for exploration.

- Developing Machine Learning Models: One of the core tasks of data scientists is building predictive models using machine learning algorithms. These models can forecast outcomes based on historical data, helping organisations make informed future decisions.

- Interpreting Data and Providing Insights: After analysing data, data scientists interpret the results to uncover patterns, trends, and correlations. They translate complex findings into understandable insights and actionable recommendations for stakeholders and decision-makers.

In essence, data scientists are pivotal in helping organisations navigate through the data-driven landscapes of today’s world.

How To Lear Data Science from Scratch in 5 Steps

Data Scientist working on statistics in her office

Step 1: Foundation in Mathematics and Statistics

The core skill of data scientists is the ability to extract meaning from data. This is where mathematics and statistics play a pivotal role. Before you can run, you must walk—grasping the core concepts of these disciplines is your first stride.

- Mathematics: Delve into algebra, calculus, and especially linear algebra. These are not just academic exercises; they are the keys to understanding algorithms and the way data can be structured and manipulated. Linear algebra, for instance, is foundational for machine learning models, allowing you to handle vast datasets efficiently.

- Statistics: This is the compass of data science—essential for navigating through data, making inferences, and predictions. Focus on descriptive statistics to summarize data sets and inferential statistics to conclude data. Grapple with concepts like probability distributions, hypothesis testing, and regression analysis, as these will be indispensable in your analysis toolkit.

Approach: Start by framing real-life problems that can be solved with statistical methods. This application-based approach not only solidifies your understanding but also reveals the relevance of statistics in data science.

Data Science expert working on coding and programming

Step 2: Mastering Programming Languages

How to Learn Python for Data Science

Python stands as the cornerstone programming language for data science due to its simplicity and the powerful libraries developed for data analysis and machine learning.

- Basics of Python: Begin with the syntax and basic structures of Python like lists, tuples, and dictionaries. Quickly move on to more complex concepts such as functions, loops, and conditional statements. These form the foundation on which you'll build more complex data structures and algorithms.

- Python for Data Science: Transition to libraries specific to data science: start with `NumPy` for numerical computations. These libraries simplify tasks like filtering data, performing statistical analyses, and preparing data for visualisation or machine learning models.

Hands of a data scientist on a keyboard working on data manipulation and visualisation

Step 3: Understanding Data Manipulation and Visualisation

The raw data you'll encounter will rarely be ready for analysis. It may be incomplete, inconsistent, or misleading. Hence, before any meaningful analysis, cleaning and preparing your data is vital.

- Data Manipulation: Learn to navigate and transform datasets using libraries like pandas. This includes dealing with missing values, filtering data, aggregating data, and merging datasets. Through manipulation, you tease out the features of the data that are most relevant to your questions.

- Data Visualisation: Mastering visualisation tools and libraries such as Matplotlib and Seaborn is crucial. Visualisation is not merely about making appealing graphics; it's about transforming data into a form where the human brain can grasp complex patterns and insights at a glance.

Approach: Tackle projects that require you to manipulate and visualize different types of data—financial records, social media metrics, health data, etc. Challenges will teach you more than tutorials.

Data Science expert analysing data from different databases

Step 4: Learn How to Work with Databases

Data science is not isolated to dealing with ready-to-use datasets; often, you'll need to extract data from a database. This requires understanding how databases work and how to interact with them.

- SQL and NoSQL: Start with SQL (Structured Query Language), the standard language for communicating with relational databases. It allows you to fetch, insert, update, and delete database data. As you grow, explore NoSQL databases which can handle unstructured data like documents or JSON.

Approach: Engage in projects where you need to extract data from a database. For instance, analyse sales data stored in a SQL database or social media engagement data from a NoSQL database. The real challenge lies in asking the right questions and writing queries to retrieve the answers from the data.

Group of three Data Scientists working on a project

Step 5: Work on Data Science Projects

The culmination of learning data science is applying the concepts, techniques, and tools in solving real-world problems. Projects allow you to consolidate your learning, challenge your understanding, and demonstrate your ability to deliver insights and solutions. If you're wondering how to learn data science from scratch, engaging in hands-on projects is crucial.

- Tackle a variety of projects to cover different aspects of data science. Start with something as simple as analysing a dataset of your interest with descriptive statistics and simple visualisations, and progressively incorporate more complexity like predictive modelling or natural language processing.

- Engage with the community through hackathons or online competitions. These platforms offer valuable feedback and the opportunity to learn from a diverse set of approaches.

In embarking upon these steps, remember, the field of data science is as broad as it is deep. Each step taken enhances your understanding, skill set, and readiness to tackle the world’s problems with data. Embrace the challenges and let your curiosity guide your journey.

Data Science for Beginners: A Roadmap

Months 1-3: Understanding the Basics

The first quarter is all about laying the groundwork. Get comfortable with fundamental concepts and begin your hands-on training.

- Mathematics and Statistics: Kick off with basic statistics, probability, and algebra concepts like mean, median, mode, standard deviation, and primary probability theory. Websites such as Khan Academy can be excellent for brushing up on these topics.

- Introduction to Python: Python is vital for data scientists. Start learning its syntax, control structures (if statements, loops), and basic data structures such as lists, dictionaries, and tuples. Interactive platforms like Codecademy or books like "Python Crash Course" by Eric Matthes are great resources.

- Getting to Know Data: Understand what data is and the types you'll encounter. Begin exploring data cleaning, basic data manipulation, and visualisation with Python libraries. Aim for a solid basic comprehension rather than mastery at this stage.

Months 4-6: Familiarising with Tools

With a solid foundation in place, it’s time to deepen your knowledge and start working with the essential tools of data science, understanding how to learn data science effectively.

- Exploring Python Libraries: Focus on Python libraries essential for data wrangling and analysis, such as NumPy for numerical data, pandas for data manipulation, and Matplotlib together with Seaborn for visualisation. Engage actively with data through exploratory analyses on various datasets.

- Beginner Projects: Tackle simple projects to apply your newfound knowledge, like visualising trends in a dataset that interests you. The aim is to get comfortable with data cleaning, wrangling, and visualisation.

- SQL Basics: Learn SQL fundamentals, concentrating on creating, reading, updating, and deleting data from databases. Starting with SQLite for practice can be beneficial, as well as using online platforms like SQLZoo for interactive learning.

Months 7-ongoing: Advancing Your Data Science Skills

With a robust foundation, you are now ready to explore more complex and exciting data science areas, including working with machine learning algorithms.

- Machine Learning: Initiate your journey into machine learning with simple algorithms like linear and logistic regression. Learn their theory and applications in Python using libraries like scikit-learn. Progress to more complex models and explore areas like unsupervised learning and neural networks. A resource like "Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn, Keras, and TensorFlow" by Aurélien Géron is invaluable.

- Advanced Projects: Dive into complex projects that necessitate preprocessing data, applying machine learning algorithms, and interpreting results. Participate in online competitions such as Kaggle to push your limits and gain insights from the data science community.

- Continuous Learning: The realm of advanced data science includes topics like deep learning, natural language processing, and big data technologies. Pursue areas that captivate you through online courses, webinars, and by consuming research and articles.

- Community Engagement: Join data science forums, meetups, and groups. Connecting with fellow data enthusiasts can be incredibly motivating, offering learning opportunities from experienced practitioners, insights into industry trends, and potentially mentorship.


This roadmap is not set in stone; you might move faster or slower depending on your pace of learning and the amount of time you can dedicate. The key to success in data science is consistent effort, practical application, and an insatiable curiosity to learn and explore new datasets, technologies, and methodologies.

How to Learn Data from Scratch with IU's Degrees

Data Science student at IU working with data and codes

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of data science, securing a comprehensive and structured education pathway is paramount. While self-learning may offer flexibility, opting for a structured degree programme, such as those provided by IU International University of Applied Sciences, ensures a more profound acquisition of knowledge, setting true experts apart. Here are compelling reasons why a degree in data science from IU is your best step forward.

Industry Relevant Curriculum

IU's data science degree programmes are thoughtfully crafted to cover all critical aspects of the field, ensuring a holistic learning experience. From foundational mathematics and statistics to advanced machine learning algorithms, the curriculum is up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. This guarantees you're gaining skills that are not only current but also in high demand. Explore IU’s tailored curriculum further:

Practical Experience with Actual Projects

IU places a strong emphasis on practical, hands-on experience. Through real-world datasets and business problem-solving, you'll not only reinforce theoretical knowledge but also gain the confidence to apply these skills professionally. This practical approach is key to standing out in the competitive job market.

Flexibility to Suit your Schedule

IU acknowledges the varied commitments of its students by offering unparalleled flexibility in its degree programmes. Whether you’re juggling a job or prioritizing your studies, IU provides both part-time and full-time study options, including online learning, allowing you to access premium education in data science from anywhere in the globe.

A Degree that Opens Career Doors

A degree from IU is more than just a qualification; it's a gateway to numerous opportunities in the job market. Employers value the comprehensive knowledge and skill set that only a rigorous degree programme can provide. Whether you’re entering the field or pivoting your career, a degree from IU not only marks you as a credible candidate but also provides a solid skill foundation. The analytical thinking, problem-solving capabilities, and technical prowess you develop will serve you well throughout your career, in data science and beyond.

How to Learn Data Science FAQs

Can I teach myself data science?

Yes, it's possible to teach yourself data science through a disciplined approach, leveraging abundant online resources such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), tutorials, books, and interactive platforms. It requires setting clear goals, commitment, and consistent effort. Self-teaching offers flexibility and the ability to focus on areas of particular interest, but it also demands high self-motivation and the discipline to navigate through the complex web of data science concepts without structured guidance. Opting for a structured degree from IU International University of Applied Sciences might be a more thorough approach. A degree provides a well-rounded curriculum, expert teaching, practical project work, and a formal qualification, making it a robust alternative to self-guided learning.

How can I start learning data science?

To start learning data science, begin with a solid foundation in the necessary mathematical concepts, including statistics and probability. Progress to learning programming languages pertinent to the field, primarily Python, due to its simplicity and the rich ecosystem of libraries like pandas, NumPy, and scikit-learn. Engage with online courses that offer a systematic approach to the fundamentals of data science, and practice by working on simple data projects to apply what you've learned in real-world scenarios.

Is data science easy to learn?

The ease of learning data science varies between individuals, depending largely on their background in mathematics, statistics, and programming. For those already familiar with these areas, the journey may be smoother. However, data science encompasses a wide range of disciplines and requires a continuous learning mindset due to its ever-evolving nature. Thus, while it may present challenges, especially to beginners, with dedication and the right resources, it's certainly attainable.

How to learn data science from scratch in 3 months?

Gaining a basic understanding of data science concepts and tools is possible within 3 months, especially with dedicated study and practice. This period can help you grasp the fundamentals of programming in Python, basic statistical principles, and an introduction to machine learning. However, becoming proficient in data science is an ongoing process that involves continuous learning and hands-on experience with more complex projects and problems over time.

Can I learn data science on my own?

Yes, learning data science on your own is feasible with the plethora of online resources available. Tackling data science on your own requires discipline, a well-structured plan, and the setting of realistic goals. The internet is rich with tutorials, courses, and documentation tailored to various data science aspects. Moreover, being part of online forums and communities can provide the necessary motivation and support when you face challenges on your own.

However, while it's possible to embark on this learning journey on your own, considering a degree from IU International University of Applied Sciences could be a more effective approach. Compared to learning on your own, an IU degree offers a comprehensive curriculum, access to expert faculty, hands-on project experience, and a recognised qualification, which could be more advantageous for those looking to make a significant impact in the field of data science.

How to learn data science from scratch?

Starting from scratch, first build a foundation by learning the mathematics essential for data science — focusing on algebra, statistics, and calculus. Next, gain proficiency in a programming language such as Python. Begin with understanding basic programming concepts before diving into data science-specific libraries. Engage with beginner-friendly online courses and tutorials, and apply your learning through small projects or participating in data science challenges on platforms like Kaggle.

Is data science easy to learn for beginners?

For beginners, data science can seem challenging due to its interdisciplinary nature, combining elements of mathematics, statistics, and computer science. However, with a well-structured learning plan, patience, and persistence, it's entirely feasible to learn data science from a beginner level. Starting with the basics and progressively advancing to more complex topics while continually applying what you learn in practical projects makes the learning curve manageable.

What is the fastest way to learn data science?

The fastest way to learn data science involves a combination of focused study, practical application, and mentorship:

1. Focused Study: Prioritize learning core concepts through structured online courses from reputable platforms.

2. Practical Application: Regularly work on real-world projects; this hands-on approach solidifies theoretical knowledge.

3. Mentorship: Learning from experienced data scientists can provide shortcuts, insights, and guidance that accelerate your learning process.

4. Learn by Doing: Participate in data science competitions and projects that challenge your skills and understanding.

5. Immersive Programmes: Consider bootcamps or intensive programmes designed to teach data science comprehensively and rapidly.

What is Big Data?

Big Data refers to the immense volumes of data produced every moment from various sources like social media, transactions, and online activities. It stands out due to its size, speed of generation, and diversity. Big Data is crucial in the field of data, where it underpins analysis and decision-making by revealing patterns and insights hidden in the vast datasets.

For those starting in data science from scratch, understanding Big Data is essential. It's not merely about handling large datasets but recognising their potential to discover valuable insights. Big Data is foundational for aspiring data scientists, opening avenues for knowledge and innovation.

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