Top Data Science
Professional Certifications

A certification is a great way to become a data scientist. It can help you specialize your skills and get a high-paying job. Because data science is a broad professional field, you should choose a certification that suits your needs.

Most of the best certifications come with a fee, though some are free of charge. Either way, a certification can help you grow your career. In this comprehensive guide, we will unpack the top data science professional certifications you should get in 2021.

Demand for Data Science Skills in 2021

There are several career pathways for prospective data scientists. The job outlook for most of them during the coming decade ranges from good to outstanding. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for computer and information research scientists are expected to increase by 15 percent by 2029. That is much faster than the national average.

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The projected job growth for computer systems analysts over the same period is seven percent, which is also higher than average. The projected job growth for data administrators is 10 percent. This means that for many different jobs, data science skills are in high demand. More and more businesses are using data to grow.

How Much Do Data Science Jobs Pay?

According to PayScale, data scientists earn an average salary of about $96,501. The BLS reports that computer research scientists earn $126,830 per year, systems analysts earn $93,730, and database administrators earn $98,860. These numbers are all higher than national average salaries, which means data science is a lucrative field.

However, the most compelling aspect of this industry is the earning potential of those who climb higher on the career ladder. For example, PayScale says that experienced data scientists earn $122,158 per year. One of the best ways to gain more experience quickly is to earn a professional certification.

Why Get a Data Science Certification

You should get a data science certification because it can give you an advantage in the field as well as more knowledge. Certifications can help your clients and customers trust you. Similar to a degree from a traditional university or reputable online college, a certification from an accredited organization can prove that your skills are valid.

Read below for more reasons why you should get a certification in data science.

Competitive Advantage

While some people might be satisfied with an entry-level job, ambitious data scientists have greater earning potential in this industry. Getting certified is one way to grow your earnings and get a better job in the field.


Computer science is a constantly evolving field. The training and information at your disposal in these certification programs help make sure that your knowledge and skills are up-to-date. While college and university degrees are helpful, certifications can help you learn the most current information.


In the eyes of clients and customers, certifications are evidence of competence. Having a certification demonstrates that you are committed to professionalism and improving industry standards.

Improved Skillset

While some of these certification exams are based on entry-level knowledge, others are more advanced. Data science courses and certification exams can help you learn specialized topics and expand your skills.

Top Data Science Certifications

Top Data Science Certifications

There are multiple bodies that offer reputable certification programs for data scientists, the most prominent of which is the Data Science Council of America (DASCA). However, because data analysis is a branch of computer science, prominent tech companies also offer certification exams.

Certification programs from tech giants like Dell, Google, IBM, and Microsoft can also help you learn relevant skills. These companies can help set you apart from other candidates in this highly competitive field.

Check out the list below to learn more about the best data science certifications in 2021.

AI & Machine Learning Professional

Cost: $180

Validity: Forever

From the SAS Institute, this certification carries considerable weight. There are three major components to this certification program. They are machine learning, forecasting and optimization, and natural language processing. It also incorporates computer vision.

If you want to learn machine learning for data science, this certification is a great alternative to the best machine learning bootcamps.

Azure AI Fundamentals

Cost: $99

Validity: Forever

This is the first of two certifications from Microsoft on this list. A compelling feature of this certification program is that it can be completed online in seven different languages. To get certified, you only need a basic technical background. You will learn everything you need to know about using Microsoft Azure for artificial intelligence.

Azure Data Scientist Associate

Cost: $165

Validity: Forever

This Microsoft certification focuses on machine learning and data science. Before you take the exam, you should have a good amount of experience working with data. You can prepare online on your own time or choose an instructor-led option for a small fee. Either way, the exam costs $165 to take.

Big Data Professional

Cost: $180

Validity: Forever

To earn this certification from SAS, you will need to sit for two exams. The first exam is directly associated with big data preparation, statistics, and visual exploration. The second exam tests your competence with big data programming and data loading. You should know how to use different data management services like Hadoop and Hive.

Certified Analytics Professional (CAP)

Cost: $695

Validity: Three years

The CAP certification, provided by the Certified Analytics Professional Program, is one of the top data science certifications in the industry. Although it costs $695 to take, the price is lowered to $495 for members of INFORMS. If you want to work in data analytics, this certification is a great choice.

Data Science Professional

Cost: Free

Validity: Forever

This certification from IBM carries considerable weight, despite being a free program. The skills you acquire when completing this certification will cover all of the bases. During the exam, you should exhibit competence in data science, data analysis, data visualization, machine learning, Python, SQL, Jupyter, Notebook, and artificial intelligence.

Data Scientist and Advanced Analytics Associate

Cost: $230

Validity: Forever

There are two tiers to this Dell Technologies certification. The first is the Data Science Associate Version 2.0, and the second is the Data Science Advanced Analytics Specialist. You have to pass the associate level exam before sitting for the latter. This is among the more comprehensive and thorough certifications on this list.

Principal Data Scientist (PDS)

Cost: $850

Validity: Forever

This certification from DASCA is designed for analysts who have at least 10 years of experience in data. In addition, the certification requires that you at least have a Master’s Degree in Computing or a related field. If you want to move to the top of the industry, this certification can help you get there.

Professional Data Engineer

Cost: $200

Validity: Forever

This certification is the only certification from Google on this list. You should have at least three years of industry-related experience before you take the exam. Having some experience with the design and management of solutions using Google Cloud Platform (GCP) will also make the process more seamless.

Senior Data Scientist (SDS)

Cost: $650

Validity: Five years

This SDS certification from DASCA is unique because it is most suitable for professionals who have about six years of experience. You should have worked with business analytics and data engineering. You should also have a bachelor’s degree. This certification will help you achieve career growth as you continue your data science journey.

Choosing the Right Certification

There are multiple career pathways for individuals with data science skills. While the core principles might remain the same across all data science careers, some jobs can be highly specialized. You need to know what the certification is for and whether it aligns with your career objectives.

Decide on a Specialization

If your career is geared towards software engineering, you should earn a certification designed for that part of the industry. Two examples of certifications that would be most suitable for this line of work are the Associate Big Data Engineer certification and the Senior Big Data Engineer certification.

If your career pathway focuses on market and business analysis, you should try the Associate Big Data Analyst certification or Senior Big Data Analyst certification. You can also choose a more general track if you are just starting out in the industry.

Consider Your Experience Level

Some certifications are designed for people who have many years of experience in the industry. Even if you want to try taking the exams, you should wait until you are eligible. You can get multiple certifications according to your experience level and your position in the field. Start with general certifications and work your way up from there.

Focus on Career Goals

Depending on whether you want to specialize, stay general, or move out of the field entirely, you should choose a certification that suits your goals. If you want to reach a specific promotion, try a certification that applies to that position. It can help you progress more quickly and get a better job in the industry.

Professional Certification vs Certificate Programs and Courses

Professional Certification vs Certificate Programs and Courses

Although they sound similar, data science certifications and certificate programs have many differences. Both can be useful in the field, and you can have more than one depending on your career goals.

A professional certification, such as the ones listed above, usually consists of an exam that verifies certain skills. Once you pass the exam, you are awarded a certification that you can put on your resume. Professional certifications are usually offered by field-specific organizations such as DASCA.

A certificate program is usually much longer and involves individual courses. Certificates are usually awarded by universities, colleges, bootcamps, or other educational institutions. If you want to become a data scientist, you should start with a certificate or degree program before you move on to professional certifications.

Best Programs to Prepare for Data Science Certification Exams

Most data science certifications require you to have completed some sort of higher education before you take the exam. The most common educational path is a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or something similar. Some certifications even require a master’s degree.

There are also certifications that will only require an associate degree or no data science education at all. However, in those unique cases, you usually need work experience or prior knowledge of the topic.

If you still don’t have a formal degree in data science or a related discipline, read below to learn more about some of the best programs you can complete to put yourself in a better position to get certified.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science | University of Cambridge

Cost: $12,837 per year

Duration: 4 years

Outcome: Bachelor’s Degree

In this degree program, you will learn computational theory, information systems, programming, and artificial intelligence. All of these topics will be most appropriate for somebody who wishes to obtain a Principal Data Scientist certification. This is a more general degree that can help you work in computer science.

Bachelor of Science in Mathematics | UCLA

Cost: $13,239 per year

Duration: 4 years

Outcome: Bachelor’s Degree

This degree program is suitable for those trying to obtain a Senior Data Scientist certification. While mathematics is at the core of this degree program, you will also be taught computer programming. Data scientists are expected to solve complicated problems. This degree program is ideal for somebody who needs to develop their abstract thinking.

Bachelor of Science in Data Science and Artificial Intelligence | Nanyang Technological University

Cost: $7,039 per year

Duration: 4 years

Outcome: Bachelor’s Degree

This degree program is suitable for somebody who wants to specialize in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Artificial intelligence is at the heart of this degree’s curriculum. It can help you prepare for one of the machine learning certifications listed above.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Engineering | MIT

Cost: $27,755 per term

Duration: 4 years

Outcome: Bachelor’s Degree

This degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is esteemed in the industry. You will learn computer science programming, mathematics for computer science, computer language engineering, and software construction. All of this will be relevant for somebody who wants to later earn the Associate Big Data Engineer certification.

Bachelor of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics | California Institute of Technology

Cost: $56,364 per year

Duration: 4 years

Outcome: Bachelor’s Degree

In this degree program, you can expect to learn about linear algebra, probability, mathematical methods, and numerical analysis. These are all skills that will serve you well when you pursue an Associate Big Data Analyst certification. This degree can help you earn any math-based certification.

Should You Pursue a Data Science Certification?

Yes, you should pursue a data science certification. The salary prospects are outstanding, even for those working at the entry level. Even more compelling is the outstanding outlook for jobs that require data science skills. As a field of work and study, data science has no limits. You should earn a certification to help you move up in the field.

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