10 affordable and free online data science courses from MIT, Harvard, Google, IBM, and more

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  • Employees who can gain insights from complex data are increasingly valuable in a rapidly evolving workforce.
  • Thankfully, there’s a multitude of online data science courses for breaking into a new career or moving up the corporate ladder. 
  • Below, you’ll find 10 of the most popular, varied, and relatively affordable options from edX and Coursera.

As companies amass more data than ever, the employees able to interpret it and apply key insights to important decision-making processes are increasingly valuable. Skills in data analysis and data science are among the top ones employees are being hired for in 2021, according to LinkedIn.

Thankfully, there are plenty of online learning opportunities to help you prepare for a career in data science, whether it’s a course that helps you master a specific skill or an intensive year-long program that helps you jump up the ladder in your current role.

Many classes are offered by top schools such as Harvard and MIT, and many programs were specifically designed by major companies like IBM and Google to educate a future workforce. Some of them even offer students the opportunity to join their talent network after completing a specific course level.

Below are a few of the most popular data science options online, including MicroMasters, professional certificates, and individual courses.

Professional certificates are bundles of related courses that help you master a specific skill, and they tend to be most useful for breaking into a new industry or getting you to the next level of your career. They can take anywhere from a few months to over a year to complete. At Coursera, professional certificate programs typically have a 7-day free trial and a monthly fee afterward. So, the faster you complete it, the more money you’ll save. At edX, professional certificates typically have a flat, one-time fee. 

edX MicroMasters are a bundle of graduate-level courses that are designed to help you advance your career. Students can also have the option of applying to a university offering credit for the MicroMasters program certificate and, if accepted, can pursue an accelerated and less expensive master’s degree. You can learn more here. 

If you end up taking a Coursera course, and you think you’ll realistically spend more than $399 in monthly fees or on individual classes throughout the year, you may want to consider Coursera Plus if all the courses and programs you plan to take are included in the annual membership. And, if your employer offers to cover educational costs that include online-learning programs, you may even be able to get reimbursed.

Browse all data science classes on edX

Browse all data science classes on Coursera

10 of the most popular online data science programs and courses:

MicroMasters Program: Statistics and Data Science

Length: 1 year and 2 months

Cost: $1,350 for certificate; Individual courses can be audited for free

MIT’s edX MicroMasters focuses on the foundations of data science, statistics, and machine learning in four graduate-level courses and a virtually proctored exam.

The course is built to prepare its students for job titles like Data Scientist, Data Analyst, Business Intelligence Analyst, Systems Analyst, and Data Engineer. 

Available on edX

Professional certificate: Data Science

Length: 1 year and 5 months

Cost: $792.80 for certificate; Individual courses can be audited for free

Harvard’s professional certificate in data science includes eight courses and a final project. Students learn fundamental R programming skills, statistical concepts, and gain experience with the tidyverse, including data visualization with ggplot2 and data wrangling with dplyr.

Available on edX

Machine Learning for Business Professionals by Google Cloud

Length: 14 hours

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to continue after trial ends

This Google Cloud course is designed as an introduction to machine learning for non-technical business professionals. By the end, students will have learned how to formulate machine learning solutions to real-world problems; identify whether the data they have is sufficient for machine learning; carry a project through various machine learning phases, and perform AI responsibly without reinforcing existing bias.

Available on Coursera

Professional certificate: Google IT Support

Length: 6 months (5 hours per week)

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to continue after trial ends

Google’s IT Support professional certificate includes five courses designed to prepare beginners for an entry-level role in IT support.

Students are introduced to troubleshooting; customer service; networking; operating systems; system administration, and security through video lectures, quizzes, hands-on labs, and widgets.

You can also earn a CompTIA and Google dual credential when you complete the Google certificate and pass the CompTIA A+ certification exams.

Available on Coursera

Professional certificate: IBM Data Science

Length: 11 months (5 hours per week)

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $39 per month to continue after trial ends

IBM’s professional certificate includes nine courses that will give beginners job-ready skills and techniques.

The program covers a range of data science topics, including open source tools and libraries; methodologies; Python; databases; SQL; data visualization; data analysis, and machine learning. Students practice in the IBM Cloud using real data science tools and data sets.

By the end, you’ll have a portfolio of projects and several completed hands-on assignments. In addition to a professional certificate from Coursera that you can add to your resume and LinkedIn, you’ll also receive a digital badge from IBM recognizing proficiency in Data Science.

Available on Coursera

Professional certificate: Google IT Automation with Python

Length: 8 months (5 hours per week)

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to continue after trial ends

Google’s IT Automation with Python is a beginner-level program that includes six courses designed to build on IT foundations and provide IT professionals with in-demand skills like Python, Git, and IT automation.

Upon completion, you can share your information with potential employers, like Walmart, Sprint, Hulu, Bank of America, Google, and more. 

Available on Coursera

Getting Started with AWS Machine Learning by Amazon Web Services

Length: 8 hours

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to continue after trial ends

Amazon Web Services’ Machine Learning course teaches students the basics of AWS Machine Learning, including key problems that machine learning can address; creating intelligent applications using Amazon AI services; and how to build, train, and deploy a model using Amazon SageMaker with built-in algorithms and Jupyter Notebook instance.

Available on Coursera

Developing AI Applications on Azure

Length: 16 hours

Cost: Free with 7-day trial; $49 per month to continue after trial ends

LearnQuest is an Apple Authorized Global Training Provider, and this course introduces the concepts of artificial intelligence and machine learning to students who already have a general knowledge of Azure.

Students will go through an introduction to AI; Standardized AI Processes and Azure Resources; Azure Cognitive APIs, and Azure Machine Learning Service: Model Training.

Available on Coursera

MicroMasters Program: Data Science

Length: 10 months (9-11 hours per week)

Cost: $1,260 for certificate; Individual courses can be audited for free

UC SanDiego’s edX MicroMasters Program in Data Science integrates the mathematical and applied aspects of data science learning. It’s designed to lend a well-rounded foundation of the mathematical and computational tools that form the basis of data science, and how to use them to make data-driven business recommendations. It includes four graduate-level courses.

Available on edX

Python Basics for Data Science

Length: 5 weeks (2-5 hours per week)

Cost: Free to audit; $99 for certificate

IBM’s course is an introduction to using Python for data science. It aims to take students from the beginning to programming in Python within a week and includes lab exercises for practice. Upon completion, students will be able to write their own Python scripts and perform basic hands-on data analysis using a Jupyter-based lab environment. 

Available on edX

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