5 Best Data Analysis Certifications for Under $400


5 Best Data Analysis Certifications for Under $400

One of the most common misconceptions about data analysis is that you need a bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics, or computer science even to get started. While that might have been the case when the career field was getting off the ground, the sheer number of data analysts needed in the economy today makes that an impossibility.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the number of data analysts the United States needs will grow by 20 percent over the next decade. To put that growth into perspective, average growth rates for other career fields are in the 4 to 6 percent range.

However, there is something to be said about the value of a degree. Having a piece of paper from an independent, certifying institution that validates your ability in specific skill sets can be very valuable. If you don't have the time, money, or inclination to get a bachelor's degree, though — what should you pursue?

Are Data Analysis Certifications Worth It?

Certifications are the de facto standard for assessing and authenticating abilities in the technical realm, and there are several reasons for this.

First, certs are typically highly targeted at specific skills, which stands in contrast to a bachelor’s degree that validates a broad base of experience. This is more useful when dealing with targeted jobs. Your data analyst supervisor will likely be less concerned with whether you can explain the theory behind how a server works and more impressed by your ability to master advanced functions in Microsoft Excel.

The process of earning a certification can also give you an excellent idea of whether this particular career field is a good fit for you. You might realize this isn’t what you want to do; more commonly, you could discover that a specific area of data analysis is more geared toward your talents and personality than others. You can gain a tremendous amount of exposure in a short period while pursuing certification.

Finally, the value of certification comes from how objectively and accurately those skills are validated. Organizations like Cisco, Microsoft, and CompTIA have a vested interest in maintaining a high degree of objectivity in who they certify, giving inherent value to those who earn the certs. Companies who are hiring data analysts put a substantial amount of stock in what certifications indicate.

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Two Free Data Analysis Certifications

Yes. There are free data analysis certifications. In this section, we discuss the value of the information you’ll learn with a free certification — and also the value of the certification itself.

LinkedIn Learning Data Analysis Cert: Free

LinkedIn Learning is based on the former Lynda.com platform. The site offers numerous certifications divided among three basic levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Expert. One of the inherent concerns with online education is wondering about the quality of the content, but LinkedIn has leveraged its worldwide network of professionals to develop and validate content recognized as some of the best available. 

Another benefit of LinkedIn Learning is its ability to compare the resumes and qualifications of innumerable professions and specialties across all areas of the economy. The professional networking site is uniquely suited to objectively level-set expectations in ways that most industries aren't capable of doing themselves to the same degree of accuracy. LinkedIn can ascertain which skill sets are most necessary for certain professions, and at what stage in someone's career they should be earned.

Leveraging the data gleaned from its 660 million users worldwide, LinkedIn has curated more than 15,000 courses in seven different languages. With such a wide variety, users can customize their learning paths to prioritize the specific skills that will give their careers the most significant benefits.

edX Data Analysis Track: Free

Another option is edX, which is essentially an online university that offers a plethora of courses in numerous specialties, including data analysis. There are two tracks: an audit track that doesn’t cost anything and gives you full access to the raw course material, and a paid track that allows you to complete graded assignments and earn a certificate for completing a course. The quality of education is high, but the value of the validation is relatively low. Although the assignments are graded, they don’t rise to the level of industry-recognized certifications from independent vendors.

The Value of Free Data Analysis Certifications

The upside of all of this is free access to a wealth of information that can revolutionize your career—in other words, the quality of the material is undoubtedly worth it. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the value of the corresponding certifications.

Unlike professional certs based on rigorous examinations, LinkedIn Learning and edX only provide certificates of completion that indicate you've gone through the course. This falls short of validating that you've learned what you should have or that your abilities in these areas have increased. The bottom line is simple: if you want to learn, these platforms are worth it. If you're going to add value to your resume, these certifications are a waste of time.

3 Best Data Analysis Certifications for Under $400

Adding value to your resume doesn’t have to break the bank. These three certifications cost less than $400 and are widely recognized as beneficial for data analysts.

Microsoft Certified Azure Data Scientist Associate: $165

The Microsoft Certified Azure Data Scientist Associate certification focuses on applying knowledge of data science and machine learning in the Azure cloud. Specifically, it validates someone’s ability to work with Azure Machine Learning Service. Earning the cert shows that you can set up an Azure Machine Learning workspace, run experiments, train, optimize, and manage machine learning models, and then deploy them in a real-world scenario. The exam itself focuses on the depth of knowledge rather than breadth, so if you have experience working with machine learning in Azure, you’re already well on your way to mastery. The exam costs $165.

Microsoft Certified Data Analyst Associate: $165

The Microsoft Certified Data Analyst Associate certification validates an individual’s capability to use Microsoft Power Bi in a data analysis setting. You’ll demonstrate your ability to design and build scalable data models, as well as clean and transform data. Executing these tasks well allows you to work with advanced analytics capabilities to “provide meaningful business value through easy-to-comprehend data visualizations.” Earning this cert demonstrates that you can work with data in numerous ways, including preparing, modeling, visualizing, and analyzing it on your way to deploying defined deliverables. You’ll also spend $165 for an attempt at this official examination.

Associate Certified Analytics Professional: $300

The Associate Certified Analytics Professional, or aCAP cert, is governed by a nonprofit organization committed to establishing objective standards for data analysis professionals. Earning the cert objectively validates that you can perform data analysis at a master’s degree level, providing a tremendous shortcut to validation for a specific skill set instead of pursuing a traditional educational route that would take more than half a decade. The exam cost is $300 and is well worth it.

Enroll in our Data Analysis Bootcamp program.

Free Courses versus Bootcamps: What’s the Difference?

Free courses should be viewed as one would see a library: a vast treasure trove of information that could teach you everything you ever wanted to know, but defining learning objectives and wading through the massive amount of content is up to you.

Bootcamps, like the QuickStart Data Science Boot Camp, are highly targeted at teaching and validating specifically defined skills and abilities. You won't be taught much outside of a highly structured curriculum, but you will be able to identify precisely what you're there to learn.

If your goal is increasing your overall knowledge and understanding of a specific concept, free courses have the upper hand. If you know you need to develop a particular ability, bootcamps are what you should pursue. Each of these is a valuable educational tool in its own right, but which you choose depends on what you're trying to get out of it. 

At the end of the day, learning data analysis isn’t a complicated process. Free course series, externally validated certifications, and highly targeted bootcamps are tools that you should leverage, and you should pursue each at the right time. The five programs mentioned in this article will give you a substantial head start on your educational journey.

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