How to Add to Your Management Credentials with a Short Course in Data Science Essentials

Executives almost always have a hard time keeping up with critical developments in the technology sector. The pace of change is rapid, and though your educational background may have laid the groundwork for you to continue building on your business-oriented knowledge, like accounting and marketing, it probably didn’t cover the ways you can marshal the full potential of big data.

This gap in understanding can create a real challenge for managers tasked with overseeing data scientists and their projects, which now represent a major part of how business today is done—and not just in the tech sector.

As a Business Manager, Why Should I Consider a Short Course in Data Science Essentials?

Data science is an industry that didn’t even exist ten years ago. Since then, it has grown to dominate the world of business and government, becoming as much a critical part of operations for industries like finance and logistics as it is for tech giants like Facebook or Google. According to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, sectors like education, marketing, and manufacturing experienced 15 to 20 times growth in data-science based jobs over the past three years alone.

With that kind of frenetic demand, you can’t always afford to take a year or two off to go back to school for an in-depth education in the subject. You may not even be able to spend three months on a traditional certificate or boot camp-style program.

That’s where short courses from prestigious universities like Berkeley or Johns Hopkins come in.

Lasting only a few weeks—barely more than a month—and typically offered online in an asynchronous class format, these classes offer a fast data dump to keep you plugged in to the latest trends and techniques in the industry.

In fact, these might be less a career-booster than a career-saver, giving you enough information to keep your head above water in a fast-changing world where data science is only becoming more critical.

What to Look for in a Data Science Short Course for Managers

The profusion of data science careers has led to a corresponding explosion in data science courses and programs. Your challenge is to sort through them to find the ones that best fit your needs as an executive.

That means avoiding diving into too much detail. The R language is critical for many data science projects, but it changes almost monthly and you don’t need to know the different subsetting operators and how they interact with different vector types. You do, on the other hand, need to know what R is, and what sorts of problems it can, or cannot, be used to address.

The ideal course should help you build a general understanding and vocabulary around data science, without getting into the nuts and bolts of how it happens. Looking for courses that are marked as introductory, or specifically marked as being for managers or executives, is a good first step.

Top Schools Have Top Instructors, and That’s the Most Important Thing to Consider

Unlike longer data science programs, short courses don’t come with the benefit of taking part in collaborative real-world projects with university partners in the private sector. But the good news is that your instructors will be involved with those efforts, and the expertise they develop will be passed along to you through their instruction.

It pays to go with a well-respected university with a legacy business school and strong data science or computer science department. You may also consider any current collaborations it may be engaged in that are relevant to your goals or industry.

You’ll only have one or a handful of instructors in a short course, which makes it all the more important that your program retains instructors with the expertise and relevant experience to connect you with the concepts they are teaching.

What Can I Expect a Short Course in Data Science Essentials to Cover?

Because the courses are so short, it’s critical to take a close look at the curriculum to make sure it’s filling in all the right blanks in your knowledge base. You can’t afford to spend time rehashing concepts you’re already familiar with; you also can’t afford any gaps that will leave you with an incomplete perspective.

Some important modules or course segments to look for include:

Data Science Principles and Processes – A good overview of the core concepts of data science and its applications in modern businesses to ground you in current thinking and capabilities.

Building Data science teams – Data science is a team effort, and understanding the different roles, responsibilities, and necessary qualifications for team members is a top priority.

Measuring data science metrics – A constant challenge for managers of technical projects is to measure progress and estimate resource needs and completion dates accurately. Learning what metrics to focus on is especially key in data science, which can swamp you with information unless you’re taught how to key in on what’s important.

Data Science implementation strategies – Rolling projects out and integrating with other departments and operations is a major challenge, and it’s one that falls squarely on the shoulders of executives. Look for courses that offer real-world examples and guidance for project implementation.

Going Online for a Data Science Essentials Course

It’s an all but foregone conclusion that a short course in a technology subject will be offered primarily or exclusively online. Check out the platform it is being offered through and make sure it incorporates the features and ease-of-use you expect, such as collaborative chatrooms or interactive blackboard displays.

Many short courses are offered by commercial platforms like edX, Coursera, or GetSmarter, in partnership with major universities. Each have their own course management software for you to evaluate. Individual universities might also offer short courses independently, with their own unique system.

These courses might also be part of a larger and longer certificate program. But some schools allow you to register and take them on a class-by-class basis… just the thing for tailoring your studies to your needs.

How Would a Short Course in Data Science Impact my Management Career?

Taking a short course in data science isn’t likely to boost your salary or career prospects in the short term, or even to do so directly. But it can still have an important long-term impact on your prospects. Not only does taking courses of this sort demonstrate your flexibility and ambition, but it also increases your skill level and performance in your position… a critical indicator for salary and promotion.

According to Robert Half’s 2020 Salary Guide in Technology, one of the things that differentiates top earners from the rest is their high level of relevant experience and expertise. For Technology Directors, for example, that is the difference between making the median of $147,750 versus the top-end of $205,500 annually. And as a general technology manager, it can take you to $185,250 per year.

You’ll also be better qualified for subsequent promotions in your company, and, equally importantly, earn a reputation as someone who can get things done in a complex and fast-paced field.