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The internet is a goldmine of knowledge waiting to be accessed. With so much information available, many people are going the self-directed route and taking courses online.

While these studies don’t give you college credits, they do increase your knowledge of a subject area. In topics like data science, this knowledge is often more valuable than a degree.

You can add the courses you take to your resume or use the education you gained to better your job opportunities. Or, you can just take more courses for the enjoyment that comes with learning.

If data science is your interest, these top free courses may be right up your alley. When you’re ready to pursue more knowledge in this area, check them out.

1. Intro to Machine Learning & Deep Learning

MeetUp is a frequently overlooked site for increasing your knowledge. While it was originally intended as a place where those with like-minded interests could socialize, it has grown into so much more.

Now, MeetUp offers Zoom and online instructional courses, like the Intro to ML & Deep Learning one offered here.

This course is a hands-on intro to Python, teaching the coding and implementation basics.

As the learner, you have your choice of two tracks you can take:

The first one is totally free and it is called the audit track. You can complete the course at your own pace without any commitment.

The second one gets you certified. It has a fee attached to it and a commitment from you to attend a minimum of 60% of the class lectures live. Once you finish the course, you get your certificate.

You don’t have to be intimidated if you have never worked with Python. The instructor leads you through it gradually. You start from the foundation and work your way up as you build skills, acquire knowledge, and gain confidence.

Ultimately, you’ll walk away knowing the concepts of ML and deep learning.

2. Data Science – R Basics at Harvard X

The Data Science – R Basics program offered through HarvardX is the first in an online series. This introductory course teaches students about the foundations of R Programming, which is used in many datasets to solve problems in research environments.

With R skills, you can do everything from trend forecasting to crime-solving. These skills will help you generate answers to worldwide questions.

Students who take this data science program will learn skills like basic R syntax and foundational R programming concepts. In addition to mastering an understanding of data types and indexing, the course teaches you how to perform operations in R, like sorting and using dplyr.

Many programs have general features you need to know to operate essential commands, such as “if-else,” and “for loop.” These will be clearly taught to you if you don’t already have them in your skillset.

If you take the entire program as directed and do well, you can get a professional certificate for an added fee. Since there is a major demand for certified data science practitioners, with even more need projected, it’s a fee that will easily pay for itself.

3. Executive Data Science Specialization

Offered by Johns Hopkins University, the Executive Data Science Specialization program is a four-course series. Each course builds off the previous one, and all are designed to help you gain enough confidence in data science to lead executive teams.

What a lot of skilled professionals don’t realize is that it’s not the knowledge they have that determines the success of a project — it’s the ability of the team to work well together.

With a strong team, any weaknesses of one are offset by the many strengths of the others. If you’re going to be a leader, you need people skills and your data science training to ensure the best work possible.

Even if you don’t plan to work behind the screen on the programming itself, you need to know what’s going on back there. Otherwise, you can’t ensure people are doing their job or guide them when they need direction.

These courses not only teach you the subject material you’ll need, but they also go into personal development and team building.

If your goal is to lead teams in data science projects, this course is for you.

The objectives include:

  • Becoming fluidly conversant in the data science field
  • Learning the soft skills of leadership
  • Understanding the nuances of hiring a team
  • Identifying and overcoming challenges and obstacles

While you’ll learn a lot of data science information in this course, it’s geared towards using that knowledge to lead team efforts.

4. Model Thinking

The world is quite complicated today and has moved past the need for a high IQ. On top of intellectual knowledge, emotional intelligence is integral to success. This is a qualitative idea, but it can be turned into quantitative data if you know what you are doing.

Beyond the basics of data science, Model Thinking, offered by the University of Michigan, delves into human behavior. This program helps you build skills like modeling, economics, decision-making, and strategic thinking.

Through the strategic use of models, you will learn how to evaluate and analyze social trends and patterns. Turning qualitative information into figures, designs, and numbers that can be analyzed quantitatively is a major focus of this field.

Human behavior is full of unexpected movements that create a multitude of outcomes. Businesses and governments need people who can predict these movements. That’s why individuals who understand the concept of data modeling are in demand.

The ability to use models comes in handy in any field of study, from economics to sociology. This course teaches you how to handle models in depth. It starts with the basics, moves you up through the math involved in modeling techniques, and then gets into the technical components.

Many studies have shown that people who use models to rationalize and make decisions do better in all areas of questioning than those who don’t use them.

Having a model to guide you helps you to organize your information and thoughts better. You can make informed decisions and determine your next strategies. Of course, models are used by designers to create procedural methods, buildings, and anything that has to be turned from concept into action or entity.

If you enjoy the subject and choose to take the quizzes and the exam, you can walk away with a course certificate.

5. IBM Data Science Professional Certificate

If you think you might want to take your knowledge further and get a certificate in this subject, start here. The free IBM Data Science course starts at the beginner’s level and leads you up through nine sections.

Throughout the entire series, students learn the basics of data science and what a career in this field consists of.

When you start, you’ll be introduced to the methodology of thinking like a data scientist. If it sounds like it’s up your alley, keep on going through the rest of the sections!

Further courses will lead you through hands-on lessons where you’ll use the tools that professional data scientists employ. You’ll learn how to import, clean, analyze, and visualize data. You’ll also learn how to build machine-learning models and how to use Python.

The full six-month course culminates in a project you’ll complete by using all the data science skills and techniques you learned.

Instead of just absorbing the knowledge you want about data science, you could end up enjoying the whole program. If you fall in love with this field, follow the steps to get your professional certificate in six months.

For those who take the certificate route, there will be a lot of applied learning involved.

The first course is basic, but each one after that has hands-on labs you’ll need to complete. These labs are available in the IBM Cloud and are designed to teach you practical skills that are applicable to real jobs. You can add them to your resume in the work field.

You’ll learn to use tools like Jupyter/JupyterLab and GitHub. You will access libraries such as Pandas, Seaborn, and SciPy. And you will complete a project of your own by designing something like a random album generator or engaging in a battle of neighborhoods.


Data science is considered one of the most stable, in-demand, and well-paying professions of today and the future. The need for data scientists is so significant that there are courses offered for free to help meet the demand!

Not everyone is cut out to work in this field, so if you have the interest and are able to learn the skills, why not take the courses? Whether you want to learn as a hobby or you employ your knowledge to better your career prospects, these five courses are waiting for you to sign up! 

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