Want to try your hand at data analytics? Here’s our hand-picked selection of the best free online data analytics courses available right now.
Ask any employer and they’ll tell you the same thing: there’s a huge data skills shortage. While traditional data scientists, with their in-depth expertise, are still much-needed, there’s now a growing requirement for employees with a broad understanding of data analytics principles, regardless of the role they work in.
In short, data analytics is becoming a must-have, 21st-century skill. Whether you’re hoping to specialize in data analytics or simply future-proof your career, a free online short course is a great way to get started.
This post covers everything you need to consider when choosing a free data analytics course, and rounds up the best options available:
- What is data analytics?
- The best free data analytics courses online
- What’s the difference between a free data analytics course and a paid program?
- What should I look for in a free data analytics course?
- Wrap-up and further reading
1. What is data analytics?
Data analytics. It seems like everybody’s talking about it, right? But what exactly is it?
Put simply, data analytics is a scientific approach to decision-making. Sounds simple enough! Truth is, “scientific approach” means understanding a great many nuances relating to data collection, cleaning, and analysis.
Meanwhile, “decision making” covers many areas, too, from predicting health outcomes to assigning budgets. All this requires careful planning.
Learn more: Data Analytics for Beginners
What does data analytics actually involve?
Typically, the data analytics process involves many tasks. These usually include:
- defining a problem
- deciding which data to collect to solve that problem
- collecting and cleaning that data
- transforming and modeling it, and finally
- using all this to extract useful information to support making a decision
We’ll grant you, this is a longer definition than our first one, but it’s an honest one!
Learn more about the data analytics process in this article.
Why is data analytics so hot right now?
Data analytics has been around in one form or another since humans first started scratching figures onto wax tablets. However, data analytics in its modern sense has only really gained traction with the dawn of digital.
In large part, this is thanks to the huge amounts of data that we now produce every day—whether we’re catching an Uber, making a bank transfer, or simply sending an email.
This explosion of data has coincided with strides forward in technologies that automate much of the data analytics process. This includes machine learning algorithms and complex data storage architectures that allow us to manipulate big data with (relatively speaking) incredible ease. Now, in the age of AI, data analysis skills and techniques are even more prized than they were before.
2. The best free data analytics courses available right now
OK, time to choose a course! We’ve selected a broad cross-section of options to give you an idea of the various types of free data analytics courses available:
1. Data Analytics Short Course (CareerFoundry)
CareerFoundry’s free, five-tutorial data analytics short course is ideal if you want a light-touch introduction to data analytics. Sign up and you’ll get access to five hands-on, 15-minute lessons from Dr. Humera Noor, an accomplished data pro.
The course provides a broad view of data analytics, setting you up to explore the topic further if you choose. View the following video to get an idea of how the short course fares.
Unlike many of the courses on our list, there are no hidden costs, making this an ideal, no-pressure option for complete beginners.
The course covers everything from the different types of data analytics roles to a summary of tools and skills you’ll need to develop if you pursue a career in the field, and you can expect to get hands-on with the basics of data analysis.
If you enjoy the short course, CareerFoundry also offers a comprehensive paid Data Analytics Program that will take you from beginner to job-ready data analyst, all backed by the CareerFoundry Job Guarantee.
2. Data Science for Everyone (Datacamp)
Specifically offering courses for data analytics, DataCamp is a paid course provider. However, the first module (or ‘chapter’) of their Data Science for Everyone course is completely free. It doesn’t get into heavy technical detail and is perfect if you’re new to the topic.
The course defines what data science is, covering a typical data science workflow. This includes some great interactive exercises to contextualize how data analytics is applied to real-world problem-solving. Be warned though, once you’ve completed the first chapter, you’ll have to subscribe to access additional content.
3. Learn to Code for Data Analysis (OpenLearn)
Provided by the UK’s Open University, the OpenLearn platform is jam-packed with content covering everything from astronomy to cybersecurity and, of course, data analytics. OpenLearn’s courses are renowned for being high quality and many are also free. Once you’ve got the basics down, why not learn to code?
OpenLearn’s free, eight-week coding course, Learn to Code for Data Analysis, provides a solid grasp of basic programming and data analytics concepts and you’ll even be able to write simple analytical algorithms in a programming environment. All this with interactive exercises and a free participation certificate at the end. Bonus!
If you’d like to view more options more towards the developer route, check out our guide to the best free coding courses.
4. Online Data Science Courses (Harvard University)
Ever wanted to say that you studied at Harvard? Now’s your chance! Harvard University has many data analytics courses that are free to access via EdX. Dive deep into topics from data wrangling to linear regression and machine learning.
While these courses may be better suited to those with a bit of prior knowledge, they cover numerous specialized topics and go into far more detail than most free courses do.
The only downside is that many of them require a considerable time investment, i.e. a few hours a week for several weeks, rather than a crash course in a few hours or days. You’ll also have to pay if you want a completion certificate. But if you simply want to expand your skills, this remains a great option.
5. Introduction to Data Analytics, offered by IBM (Coursera)
Primarily offering paid courses, Coursera partners with various universities, companies, and training providers. Because the courses don’t come from a single source, quality and depth do vary, but you can sign up for a free seven-day trial. This is more than long enough to complete one of Coursera’s beginner courses, such as IBM’s Introduction to Data Analytics (an estimated 13 hours).
The course covers what a data analyst does and the tools they use to perform common tasks. And if you want something more detailed, there are thousands of other options available, ranging from data analysis with Python to probability and statistics. Do be aware, though, once your seven-day trial expires, you’ll need to subscribe. So choose that free course wisely!
6. Free data science and data analytics courses (Udemy)
Like Coursera, Udemy offers thousands of data analytics and data science courses from various uploaders. As ever, with these large platforms, some courses are free and some are not, but Udemy’s paid courses tend to be on the more affordable end of the spectrum. While course quality can be a bit hit or miss, you can weed out the less popular free ones by checking user ratings.
Whether you want a broad introduction, such as an introduction to data science using Python or something more specific like how to use the KNIME data analytics platform, then you won’t run short of free options here. Many of the courses are just a couple of hours long, too, meaning you can upskill fast.
7. Introductory Data Science Courses (Dataquest)
Another data-specific course provider, Dataquest offer a wide selection of hands-on data science courses. While Dataquest has a monthly subscription model, you can access some of their content for free, including practice problems.
Helpfully, courses are categorized by career and skill path (and by programming language), helping you target your training. However, you will need to pay the subscription for ad-free access or a completion certificate.
Their catalog offers training in areas like Python for data science to introduction to SQL and databases and data structures in R. There should be plenty to get you started.
8. Data Analysis with Python (FreeCodeCamp)
For those worrying if coding is hard to learn, this site has been incredibly helpful over the years. Simple, accessible and full of hundreds of tutorials, FreeCodeCamp also offers a free online data analytics course too.
It focusses on the Python language, helping you learn about the data analysis process—from reading data, to processing it using the tools Pandas and NumPy, to data visualization using Matplotlib. All-in-all there are 28 sections, with further parts that add up to a data analysis with Python certification.
3. What’s the difference between a free data analytics course and a paid program?
As you can see from the options, trying out a free data analytics course is a great way of dipping a toe in the water to see if you want to dive deeper. But there are several important differences between free courses and paid programs that you should know about.
Depth of detail
The intention of a free course is usually to provide a high-level introduction to see if a full program is worth forking out for. Short courses are perfect for getting an all-around taste of the subject.
Meanwhile, a full program (at least, a good one!) will equip you with all the tools you need to pursue a data analytics career.
Again, being designed as more of a ‘teaser trailer,’ free online data analytics courses are (generally, though not always) much shorter. They usually last anywhere from a few hours to a few days of learning time.
Anything longer than that and you’re moving into paid program territory. In this case, courses may take anywhere from a week to several months to complete, depending on the content’s complexity.
Level of support
Free courses rely on self-guided learning. Meanwhile, full data analytics programs will generally offer guided support, usually in the form of a tutor or mentor, plus help with the job search.
For example, they’ll give you help writing your data analyst resume and building your data portfolio. Some paid courses and bootcamps even provide a job guarantee.
Free data analytics courses are usually aimed at those with absolutely no experience. This is ideal for learning the basics. Once you’re ready to upskill, though, you’ll need to do a bit more homework!
Paid programs can be more challenging, but once you’ve completed one you’ll have all the skills (and certifications) you need to call yourself a qualified data analyst…and that’s not something you can get from a free course.
4. What should you look for in a free data analytics course?
Many paid data analytics programs tend to provide similar incentives and benefits, as well as covering much of the same core material. That’s because they’re competing with other similar programs.
Free data analytics courses, on the other hand, can differ much more widely. Because they’re not competing for your cash, they can cater to learners’ different requirements.
What you look for in a free online course, then, will depend on what you’re hoping to get out of it. Here are a few things worth thinking about:
- Does it cover the subject matter you want to learn about? Short courses are sometimes focused on very specific topics. Try to find one that interests you.
- Does it combine theory with practice? Hands-on activities always stick in the mind better than simply reading theory. Find a course with rich, engaging material.
- Does it balance simplicity with useful content? While you don’t want a course that’s too complex for beginners, nor should it be so generic that it’s no use to you.
- Does it set you up to progress? Ultimately, a short or free data analytics course should build your confidence to take your learning further.
Before getting started, why not find out what a typical day in the life of a data analyst looks like?
5. Wrap-up and further reading
So there we have it! Eight free data analytics courses for beginners.
Whether you want to pursue a career as a data analyst or scientist, or simply keep your skills relevant, we hope our list keeps you busy. No matter what career path you’re on, adding data analysis to your skillset can only be a good thing. As the labor market adapts to 21st century needs, data analytics is fast becoming a workplace skill that nobody can do without. Don’t get left behind!
If you’ve already tried some free data analytics courses and are ready for a full program, check out this round-up of the best data analytics courses on the market right now. Meanwhile, to learn more about data analytics, check out the following posts: