With data becoming the key to managing business in the Covid-19 era, there has been a massive demand for data scientists among companies. Despite this huge demand, it has always been a challenge for data scientists to land a job, as companies are only looking to hire professionals with advanced skill sets. Such skill sets are scarce among data scientists, which again creates a major talent gap in the industry. And therefore it has become imperative for analytics professionals to upskill themselves with certifications to remain relevant in the industry.
Online courses have proved to be immensely beneficial for data scientists to advance their skill sets. However, certifications are the one that actually authenticates and validates those learned skills. A certificate with validation from prominent educational institutions and companies can give a competitive edge to data scientists’ resumes by recognising their achievements and showcasing their talents. In fact, completion of a course can only be demonstrated by obtaining certification, which would require them to pass an exam.
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Although many edtech companies like Coursera, Simplilearn, Great Learning, etc. provide several online courses – some, for free – many do not provide certifications in the end. Many of them also don’t allow enrollees to invest in training time and urge self-study, which makes them a preferred choice among working data science professionals. Some of the prominent certification programs include:
- Chartered Data Scientist Program by The Association of Data Scientists,
- Certified Analytics Professional program by INFORMS,
- CCA Data Analyst program by Cloudera, among others.
How Certifications Can Aid Data Scientists Amid Covid-19
Although these certifications don’t put much value for experienced data scientists who have been in the field for a long time, it creates a greater impact in the resumes of individuals who are either just starting off or have been negatively impacted by the ongoing recession. Being one of the highest-paid jobs today, companies have also become extremely critical before hiring data scientists, and therefore, these certifications can act as a testimony for your skills that can get you hired.
Agreeing to this, Chitrita Nath, Digital & Analytics Leader ( APAC Region) – Shell Trading & Supply said that, “When a candidate has added certificates to their resume, it gives recruiters like us a sense of confidence in hiring that person.”
However, this isn’t the case with enhancing the skillsets of internal staff. Nath said, “However, when I’m looking at uplifting my internal staff, which is within the organisation, it is critical to enrol them for required online courses. It is probably a commitment that the person is giving to the manager and the organisation that he’s willing to invest the time to take the course.” For such scenarios, the certification, which is the exam, “is a cherry on top.” Although the employee is taking the course, obtaining that certification would require an extra effort. “Because for certification, the employee has to find time out of their work to prepare themselves to do that online course and pass it with a certain percentage,” said Nath.
Nath further believes that for many companies, certifications are mandatory for promotions. In such cases, “although taking the course would make the employee master data science, the certifications would help them advance their career.” What is more, “onboarding employees with certifications, reduces a lot of effort for companies that would have required to upskill existing employees otherwise,” said Nath.
In fact, according to an article, it has been noted that certifications can help analytics professionals earn higher salaries than others. The average salary of a data science professional with certifications in virtualisation and cloud computing can lead him to an average salary of $112,955 per year. Such numbers showcase that recruiters who are looking for professionals with advanced skills are willing to pay higher for certified professionals.
Even Amarjeet Kaur, a research scientist at Tech Mahindra, feels that data scientists must opt for online courses that provide certifications. “Some courses provide certification, others don’t. Also, the key to choose the right certification course for analytics professionals.”
According to Kaur, not only do these certifications provide authentication to showcase necessary skills but, at the core, these programs provide domain knowledge, which is essential for them to survive in this crisis. Even among recruiting companies who are working on different Covid-19 related projects, they would prefer hiring employees with specific certifications for specific projects. “Therefore, these certifications are not only good for their resume, but also for their personal growth.”
Nobody can gain expertise in data science overnight. It, in fact, takes years to acquire those skills and achieve the proficiency required for today’s era. Shirish Gupta, Head – Data Science and Partnerships at loan2grow says, “Majority of data professionals who have worked on a bit of algorithm and tried once on Kaggle for NLP start considering themselves as a data scientist, but that’s not the reality. One cannot understand data science if they cannot understand the foundation and basic maths and statistics involved in it. And that’s where data science certifications come into the picture.”
What is more, certifications can not only help data scientists or working professionals, but also freelancers, gig workers, self-employed analytics professionals and consultants enhance their portfolio and establish trust among clients.
Criticality Of Choosing The Right Certification Program
Although there are several certification programs and online courses that provide certifications in the market, there are some essential criteria that can help data scientists choose the right certification for themselves.
According to Gupta, searching for a perfect certification program is similar to choosing an online course, and depends on multiple factors — “firstly, one should see who is the instructor and what kind of experience the instructor has in the field of data science.” Secondly, it is critical to check the curriculum as learning basics is as vital as learning advanced skills, “if the course teaches some advanced skills without touching upon the basics, I wouldn’t recommend it. Thirdly, language understanding is fundamental in this field, so, “the certification should focus more on Python, rather than SQL and SAS.” Lastly, for students to advance in their learnings, it is critical to understand how the course reviews their students – “the course must have weekly quizzes, exams and a proper certification program to analyse the progress of the enrollees.”
Many of these courses require immense efforts from data professionals where they have to learn, give exams and pass it with a certain percentage, however, if professionals are looking to advance their career as well as grasp the core concepts of data science, these certifications can be the best option for them to opt for, feels Gupta.
Being a dynamic landscape, data science is continuously evolving, and certifications are an excellent way for data and analytics professionals to keep up their competitive advantage, where it not only allows them to develop advanced skill sets that are necessary for the current situation, but will also help them validate those skills.