Is DataCamp Worth It? A Data Science PhD Student’s Perspective

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Are you thinking about buying a premium subscription to DataCamp, but not sure if it's worth the money?

In this article, I'll give my best answer to the question, ‘is DataCamp worth it?' from the perspective of a PhD student currently studying data science.

TLDR: I do think DataCamp is worth the money, particularly because you can pay monthly and learn super quickly if you're on a budget. I personally used DataCamp to learn R and prepare for my PhD in Data Science (which I started with NO formal training in computer science whatsoever).

Affiliate disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means I'll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read my full disclosure here.

I'll go through:

  • How I used DataCamp to learn data science;
  • What DataCamp is;
  • Why you should trust me;
  • Who should use DataCamp;
  • The pros and cons of DataCamp;
  • What others say about DataCamp;
  • Is DataCamp worth it if you want to learn data science?;
  • Alternatives to DataCamp; and
  • Why I ultimately still used DataCamp over other options.

How I Used DataCamp to Learn Data Science

Rewind to about two years ago. I'm taking time off and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. I'm FINALLY learning to code properly. I know I want to do my PhD, in something related to financial crime. So, I reach out to a potential supervisor who says he'll supervise me, but I need to use data science techniques in my project.

Then, I panic slightly, not really knowing what data science even means. I sign up for a free workshop at General Assembly and start doing TONNES of research. It seems super cool, and I'm hooked! But I have no idea how to actually learn data science.

Enter, DataCamp. It's what first came up on Google when I was trying to figure out how to learn data science. I decided to get a monthly subscription so I could start learning R for data science and started following one of their career tracks.

What drew me to DataCamp was actually these career tracks. Essentially, I didn't even know what I needed to know to become a data science (and actually get through my PhD interview), so this was a HUGE help.

Fast forward to today, when I'm successfully doing a PhD in a data science research group, in large part, thanks to DataCamp!

What is DataCamp?

DataCamp is an online platform for learning data skills. It includes courses to start a career as a data scientist, machine learning scientist, data engineer, programmer, and others and teaches technology like Python, R, Tableau, SQL, and others.

Here's an intro video:

Why Should You Trust Me?

I get it, I'm some random girl at the internet. How do you know if you can trust my opinion? Here's why:

  • I learned R with DataCamp, largely completely from scratch. I had a little programming experience from taking courses on edX, but no formal computer science training.
  • It helped me successfully apply for and start a PhD in computer science with a research group focused on data science.
  • It was what my supervisor recommended for learning data science and he's very well-respected in the field (you'll have to take my word for it, I'm trying to stay pseudo-anonymous here).
  • I've learned other programming languages using other (free) methods and I still recommend DataCamp (and paid for it myself for several months).
  • I know lots of other PhD students who have used DataCamp to successfully learn data science.

Who Should Use DataCamp

DataCamp is good for:

  • Anyone who is looking to switch careers (like I was);
  • Someone looking to add additional skills to their CV;
  • Researchers in virtually any field (as data science can help enhance various projects); and
  • Anyone who wants to learn more about our world and how it works. SO MUCH of our world is now powered by big data and data science (for better or for worse) so it's definitely worth taking the time to understand it.

What are the Pros and Cons of DataCamp

Pros of DataCampCons of DataCamp
✅ You can try it for FREE.
✅ It is super well-organised and there are a variety of options. You can follow career tracks, learn specific skills, or learn a particular programming language.
✅ It's really good for beginners and not-so beginner users.
✅ It's comprehensive—it has everything you need to learn data science in one place. You don't need to waste time figuring out what you need to know; you can get right into learning.
✅ Courses are taught by some pretty impressive instructors from major companies.
✅ The gamification style of learning really helps learners stick with it.
✅ It incorporates various types of learning styles—reading, videos, exercises, etc.
✅ They've got a mobile app so you can do practice exercises on the go.
✅ Since you can pay monthly, there's the option to do a whole course more quickly to save money. Also, there's a decent chance your university or company will reimburse you for the cost if you have a training budget.
✅ It keeps track of your progress to help you stick with it. The lessons are also pretty short so you feel like you're making a lot of progress quickly.
✅ The interface is SUPER user-friendly and attractive.
✅ They tell you how many hours courses will take which is SUPER helpful for planning your time.
✅ You don't need to download any additional software—all exercises can be done in your browser.
✅ It teaches you using real world problems and projects.
❌ It does cost money and but there are free resources available. That being said, as I mentioned, your university or company may very well reimburse you for the cost if you have a training budget.
❌ Each course is meant to be comprehensive—it's not really meant for picking and choosing specific aspects of a skill you need to brush up on (though the exercises can help with that).
❌ It doesn't work unless you do (as nothing does). I ended up paying for some months where I barely even used it. And, I didn't end up completing the entire career track I signed up for (largely because I felt I knew enough to get stared on my PhD project and was also taking a data science module as well).

What Others Say About DataCamp

Loads of big companies use DataCamp to train their employees. In fact, 80% of the Fortune 1000 uses it! This includes comapnies like:

  • Google;
  • Intel;
  • Ebay;
  • Uber;
  • Deloitte; and
  • Paypal.

You can also check out some user reviews on their website.

Is DataCamp Worth it If You Want to Learn Data Science?

So, is DataCamp worth it to me and would I use it again if I had to start my journey over? Ultimately, I do think DataCamp is worth the money particularly because you can pay monthly and learn super quickly if you're on a budget. I personally attribute DataCamp to my actually being able to do my PhD, so I'm clearly a big fan (as it's been one of the best decisions I've ever made!).

I also think paying for it helped me to stick with it. I'd tried and failed to learn computer programming so many times so anything that actually got me to stick with it long enough to learn what I needed to is a gold mine in my books.

Click here to try DataCamp for FREE now.

Alternatives to DataCamp

I'd be remiss not to mention free alternatives to DataCamp if you're on a super tight budget.

  • I always recommend FreeCodeCamp as it's a GREAT resource for learning to code. And, you can use it to learn data science topics using Python. There's not much in the way of many of the other technologies DataCamp teaches, but it's a good starting point to see if data science is for you.
  • Coursera or edX: You can find various data science courses from universities around the world on these online platforms. They don't give you anywhere near as much hands-on practice as DataCamp does, but, again, can be a good starting point.
  • Books: For some people, a good old-fashioned book is a good way to get into data science. For example, I'd recommend:

Why I Ultimately Still Used DataCamp Over Other Options

As I mentioned, despite these free alternatives, I still decided to pay for DataCamp. Ultimately, what primarily swayed me was:

  • The career tracks: I didn't even know what I needed to know so this was MASSIVELY useful to me.
  • The hands-on practice: I knew I probably wouldn't have the discipline to do a lot of the exercises on, for example, a Coursera course so this was a big selling point for me.

Have you tried DataCamp? Did you like it? Let me know in the comments below!

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