A Master's degree in Data Science and Analytics (DSA) is a very good way to learn the necessary skills required for a career in DSA. As a student completing your undergraduate degree, you will have a large number of questions before you even shortlist colleges to apply.

Lets talk about some of the questions you need to be asking (and researching) as you navigate this phase of your career.

First get a notebook and a pencil before you start. We will be taking lots of notes.

  • What is the syllabus? Makes notes about what will each course teach? How much of each course is theory and how much of it is practicals? Here practicals is how much time will they dedicate to teach you and industry tool?
  • How many hours of R or Python or Tableau training will be provided? Who are the instructors for these trainings? Can you see their profile on LinkedIn or the college website? What industry experience do they have?
  • Make a list of all the topics you will learn over the 1 or 2 year program.
  • Make a list of all the technology tools you will learn over the course of the program.
  • Try to find out the trends for the technology tools by researching them on LinkedIn and google. Are these tools being used currently? Are these technologies the lingua franca of DSA? For e.g., you want to learn R and Python given they are used across the industry. If the program is teaching your SPSS then I would want them to provide a really good reason why SPSS is chosen over R to be taught to students?
  • Placement cell details available on website? Do they publish which companies alumni have found jobs in? Do research on LinkedIn to find graduates of this program working in some of these companies? Don't cold email them with vague questions (more on this later).
  • What are the backgrounds of students coming into the program? You have to be careful to select programs where you will be acing all the classes. Acing the class isn't just about the GPA or marks, but really, acing the class will mean that the material is at the right level of being challenging that you stay motivated and keep being inspired to learn and win.
  • Where are they located? What are the opportunities in this location? For large cities, there are more opportunities during college (for internship) and even afterwards (for full-time).
  • Which country are they in? What is the immigration situation there? If you are going to another country then it is important to make sure that your long-term goals are aligned with the immigration posture of those countries. If not, then have a few more options in your list of colleges.
  • Find others in your college who are also contemplating going abroad. While you want to stay competitive, it is always useful to identify what questions others are asking as they shortlist colleges.
  • The quality of the questions you ask and the efforts you put in to answer them will give you a real edge. This is the only edge you need.

As you do your research you are going to come across a ton of people who you'd wish to reach out to.

The kinds of questions I usually see are "What are the job prospects for this degree program?", "Will I get a visa to work after I graduate?", "What kind of jobs can I get after I graduate?"

Now, I do acknowledge that students are overwhelmed and want an answer (or really, a reassurance, and even sometimes a guarantee). But the reality is that the person you are asking can only give you a short answer. To give you a nuanced and detailed answer requires this person to do all the work I have outlined above. Why will they do this?

There are consultants out there who will help you answer all these questions for a fee. You can avail their services. But even there I will strongly recommend you do the research yourself first.

Once you have done the research outlined above, then when you do cold-email someone, you will have a very exact and specific question for them. Not only will they engage with you, but you will have the opportunity of building a network. If you ask very open-ended and vague questions, you will most likely be ignored or blocked.

We live with access to a lot of resources and information. This isn't a bad thing. The bad thing is that we don't always take the time to think and write.

If you keep your notebook close, and your pencil even closer, and make notes and connect the dots, and you do this even for a few weeks (30-45 mins daily), at the end of a month you would have gained a whole lot of perspective and understanding.

And once you have a way to navigate information, you will start to move in directions that is best for your long-term goals.