Alumni Spotlight: How to Switch to a Data Career Without a Specialized Degree

Alumni Spotlight: How to Switch to a Data Career Without a Specialized Degree was originally published on Springboard.

Making a career change can be intimidating. And yet, moving from one job to another is becoming increasingly more common. The average person in the United States changes careers between five and seven times in their life. According to CNBC, 49% of people have made a “dramatic” career shift at least once—say, from marketing to engineering, or from teaching to finance.

So, if you’re sitting at your desk wondering, “Why am I here?” then you’re not alone. As online education becomes more accessible, so too does switching career paths. Moving to data-based roles, for example, no longer requires a specialized higher education degree. And while it does require a basic understanding of data skills and functions to succeed, perseverance and analytical thinking are key.

Springboard students are a testament to this. We spoke with three former graduates from Springboard’s Data Analytics and Data Science courses who came to us from less-than-expected backgrounds. We hope that hearing their stories and learning more about their experiences will inspire and motivate you.

Taking the data world by storm, no advanced degree needed

No, you don’t need a specialized degree to work in data roles. Just take it from Mario Lacerda who went from teaching to tech after completing Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track. “I had stepped out of the workforce for a time and was looking to get back in, except I didn’t want to go back to how it was before,” Lacerda explained.

A common theme we hear among our applicants is knowing that their current (or past) role is unfulfilling, but not knowing what else might be out there, or how to start looking for it. An openness to new learning experiences was key for Mario: “I found a love [in data] I never knew I always had.”

While you don’t necessarily need the degree, you do need the training on different programs and a firm understanding of technical skills. According to DJ Patil, who built the first data science team at LinkedIn, many companies will favor experience over education. In a tweet, he explained: “Data science doesn’t care about what you majored in or if you even got a degree. It’s what you do with data that matters.”

Technology moves quickly. Getting a job in tech should too

Fields like data science and data analytics are constantly changing and advancing, so short-term bootcamps and courses offer students the best chance to stay up-to-date on the latest practices and technologies. For Siddartha Misra, who came from a background in the performing arts, studying in a self-paced, online bootcamp proved to be the most time and cost-efficient way of gaining the relevant experience needed to apply data to his existing career.

Siddartha had become increasingly interested in the business- and management-related issues within the industry, so he found himself taking on increasingly larger administrative roles within the performing arts. Observing just how much of their audience engagement was moving online, he grew increasingly curious about the use of analytics in the field. “I had already ruled out the idea of becoming a full-time student,” he said, noting the restrictive nature of full-time commitments to studying in graduate school. “I liked reading books like Freakonomics or Moneyball, and wanted to figure out how to apply those principles to the performing arts.”

For Sam Wiseman, who had spent the majority of his career in academia, the potential for higher earning once he successfully moved from teaching to tech was all the convincing he needed (on average, students who complete Springboard programs experience an average salary increase of $25,800).

Wiseman explained that although his decision to pivot into tech was largely about financial security, he also genuinely found data to be interesting: “It is becoming increasingly relevant to every field of the modern economy.”

Why do classical musicians make great data analysts?

Data’s versatility in industries also means that a wide variety of perhaps unlikely skills can be applied to this career path. Your experience in every aspect can help move your career in data forward. In fact, your non-data expertise might actually give you a competitive edge.

For Siddartha, experience reading and performing music provided unparalleled skills necessary for data. “I think many classical musicians instinctively operate like a data analyst, as the process of deconstructing a composer, libretto, music score, and performance practice towards an artistic idea is its own version of data analysis,” he explained.

On the other hand, for Wiseman and Lacerda, their experiences in teaching helped approach data from a unique and helpful point of view. Sam noted that the time he spent in a classroom proved to be a strong and necessary skill for data analysis: “I have strong presentation and communication abilities developed through my work as a teacher and lecturer,” he said. “I was not intimidated by the prospect of giving presentations to my mentor and examiners.”

Regardless of what background you come from, careers in data analysis and data science pull from an array of skills. “As humans we are nothing if not adaptable,” echoed Mario, noting that adaptability is “100% one of the key skills employers are looking for.”

When it comes down to it, the one thing technology cannot replace is humanity, making backgrounds in arts even more valuable. Plus, even non-traditional data careers are beginning to require more technology to stay relevant. “Having that [arts] background can be an advantage with some jobs,” Wiseman said of his experience following Springboard’s Data Analytics Career Track.

Humanities in a digital future

While data analysis as a career path might sound out of reach, as we tend toward a digital future, all industries will require data roles to continue to adapt and thrive in the digital era. Learning how to work with data and potentially applying it to a field you already know and love might even be the extra push some industries need to have the ability to adapt along with the world. Having external work experiences—even if they aren’t tech-related—will be sure to create new insights, perspectives, and ideas that you’ll ultimately bring to the field.

So whether you’re looking to go from singing opera to making SQL queries or from teaching language arts to learning Python, your pivot, however far away it may seem, is entirely possible. And of course, when you do decide to pivot, it will always be invaluable to pull from your earned experience to highlight transferable skills that will help you stand out in your new industry.

How to get started with Springboard

Though a jump from arts to science may seem impossible right now, it’s entirely within your reach. Springboard’s Data Analytics and Data Science Career Tracks can help you cross your own finish line.

Springboard programs provide hands-on projects, 1-1 mentorship, and career coaching and advice designed to propel you forward, regardless of your career background. Not to mention, Springboard’s courses offer a cutting edge, at-your-own-pace curriculum, and a job guarantee—ultimately making it a smart and safe career investment.

Want to learn more about data careers? Check out Springboard’s comprehensive career guides below:

How Do You Become a Data Scientist?
How Do You Become a Data Analyst?
How Do You Become a Data Engineer?


The post Alumni Spotlight: How to Switch to a Data Career Without a Specialized Degree appeared first on Springboard Blog.

By Simona Galant - Springboard
Bridging the world's skills gap through affordable, high-quality, online education.