Brandon Walker

Data Scientist

Opinion/Tutorial: What should you do if you're a high school student or college freshman and want to get into data science?

2 minutes
June 6, 2018

If you’re a high school student or college freshman and you find machine learning/AI really neat and want to learn here are my best suggestions for you.

Learn Calculus

If you want to understand machine learning you won’t get far without understanding statistics, probability theory, and distribution theory. You won’t be good at any of those if you don’t take calculus. If you think you have to wait until your calculus class to get started you’re wrong! I suggest learning from Jim Fowler on YouTube. His videos can walk you through calculus 1 and 2 very quickly without much (if any) struggle.

Learn Python (or some other programming language, but probably python)

There are loads of resources for free online you can learn to code from. Knowing any programming language is helpful but Python (followed by R) is probably going to be the most useful to know. The sooner you start the better. I’d recommend learning from, soon to be known as LinkedIn Learning since LinkedIn bought Lynda. I have three reasons fro recommending this site. First, if you’re a student then your access to the site may have been paid for by your university/school district and you just don’t know it. Try sigining in with the organization portal to get free access. Second, you can publish the certificates you get from the courses you complete here directly to your LinkedIn profile, if you’re a young student and don’t have any work experience this will give you an advantage when you’re competeing for your first internship against students that also don’t have any experience. Third, these courses are all succinct and can help you get to what I’d call a minimum viable project (a project that demonstrates you have technical skils you can put on your résumé).


If you want to get a job in ML/data science and you’re reading this you probably can’t just yet. To help you land your first internship (or job) you should try to get a job as a tutor. This is helpful because you’ll get to solidify your knowledge of a subject, you may get to tutor in statistics/data science/calculus (which counts as experience!), and you’ll get paid for it. My first job while in college was tutoring and it was a stepping stone to all my other jobs.