Are online certifications worth pursuing?

June 2022

Many people entering the data field will weigh up the option of taking an online certification. Some of the more popular Data Analyst ones that I’m aware of are the Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate and the IBM Data Analyst Professional Certificate and there are many more out there.

Maybe you have this question because you don’t want to waste your time studying something that leads nowhere.

I think it depends on what your starting point is. If you have no background in data analysis at all, then a certification will help you get a good overview of what Data Analysis is all about. If you’re already in a job, then it’ll help you spot opportunities for bringing Data Analyst work into your role, following which you will either:

  1. Enjoy your work much more, and be more valuable or;
  2. Be able to more easily make a switch to a data career.

If you’re not already working, then it’ll provide a reference point for where you can continue to build out your experience and continue learning. Everyone has to start somewhere.

There are mixed results about how much it can help you get a job. I’ve seen enough variation in people’s experiences that I think its safe to say it is enough for some people to land a job and for others it’s not. The prevailing wisdom is that the more entry level you are targeting, or the less work experience you have to leverage, the more likely a good portfolio of projects will be needed alongside the certification to be able to find work.

Depending on where you’re coming from and how much time/effort you can spend, I think online certifications are worth it. They’re relatively minimal financial commitments with potentially high upside. This is compared to say, a full on, multi-year “in person” degree which may require much higher time/cost commitment where you might have the same lack of info about how good it is – whatever “good” means in your situation.

These certifications are, for the most part, a good way to hedge your bets. Most are a monthly subscription that can be cancelled at any time. Pick and one go for it it. At the very least you’ll have more experience in picking the next one if the first one doesn’t work out for you.

If you liked this post, then this one might interest you too. I wrote a detailed review of the Google DA Professional Certification syllabus.

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