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Do You Require A University Degree To Enter Data Science Field? Not Anymore

Do You Require A University Degree To Enter Data Science Field? Not Anymore


India has been witnessing a drastic increase in the number of courses for AI, data science and other emerging technologies. With many premier institutions opening up a course, it can only be surmised that having a degree in data science is considered to be a plus point by many companies in India.

A study by AIM suggested that India’s elite engineering institutes can earn a base salary of 22 lakh while those from second-tier institutions earn a package 12 lakh, thereby stressing on the need to have a good education in the field.

While the above stats incline towards the fact that AI and data science course can prove to be a positive step in getting the next-gen ready for employment in this thriving sector, there are contradicting results suggesting that bigger companies are no longer looking for candidates to have a degree.

Challenging The Industry Norm

For long, degrees have been a proxy for pedigree, commitment, interest, and intent; social proof that you did what you were “supposed” to do. But it may not be the case any longer. There are many industries today that are expanding into newer horizons while adopting newer ways of recruiting talent.

According to a recent study, many popular companies in the US do not require a college degree and certain jobs are most likely to be filled by non-college graduates than others. It found out that many of today’s hottest companies do not require employees to have a college degree. These are especially roles including electronic technicians, mechanical designers, and marketing representatives.

The report also stated business leaders such as Barbara Humpton and Tim Cook questioning the need for four-year degrees altogether, stating that most of the staff includes people without higher credentials (four-year degree). They posited that many colleges do not teach the skills that business leaders need the most in their workforce, such as coding.

While it can be liberating at many levels, it puts a major question in front of us  — and that is — if college degrees really prepare workers for carving out a stable career?

How Does This Apply In Indian IT Landscape Plagued By Retrenchment

Talking about data science industry, hiring is predominantly based on practical knowledge of the various tools and techniques that are used in the industry. It means that companies stress on facts such as understanding of programming languages such as R, Python, hands-on applications of visualisation tools, SQL and much more. It is the applicability of these tools that matter than just the theoretical concepts.

A graduate student on an average spends 3 to 4 years in college during graduation while going through the theoretical aspects that may not be very relevant and are outdated to be applied in the current working scenarios. Especially data science and analytics requires continuous learning and evolution in terms of skills and techniques to keep up with the ever-evolving industry.

Data literacy is the key requirement for the current jobs, having a thorough understanding of dealing with large amounts of data, collecting it and generating insights from it.

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The current education scenario in India does not expose a candidate to all these practical learnings, and more often than not, they either learn it on the job or take exclusive courses on these tools in addition to the graduate degrees. While it can be said that practical understanding weighs more, but if we think practically, companies in India may not be 100% open to hiring just on the basis of skills and no graduate degree.

Having said that, there are many industry experts who believe that companies will set out realistic expectations from a candidate’s career and recruit based on pure skills.

How Can Data Science Professionals Stay Relevant?

Data science professionals are always advised to learn new skills, build an awesome portfolio in platforms such as Github, Dribble, and other blogs that keep showcasing the skills you have. It underlines the fact that a candidate knows more than just having a degree. Companies can bring up programs such as apprenticeship programs, mixing on-the-job and school training, helping in preparing a better workforce for the future.

Many bigger companies are already recruiting based on skills put up on GitHub which shows that they are weighing up hands-on experience more than college or university degree, if not completely oversee it. “In the Data Sciences industry, it is important to realize that knowledge is our only currency. There is a continuous need to learn which can only be made real by inculcating habits that are designed deliberately and practised regularly,” said Tapan Rayaguru, COO, Tredence in an interview with AIM.

This practice is definitely going to be mainstream with many other companies hiring purely on the basis of skills, but it may be far away.

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