Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree Value


Today I completed the Udacity Data Analyst nanodegree. As the culmination of my first step into the analytics field, its a big milestone for me. The journey has felt longer than the five months since I started this.

Its required a fair number of hours spent studying and completing projects. And those working hours were interspersed with other analytics-related activities, such as creating this website and doing self-study in some areas.

Hours specifically devoted to the nanodegree:

Month Dec Jan Feb Mar Apr May Total
Hours 53 141 88 87 147 10 526

Rough Conversion to College Courses

At my alma mater, Cal Poly SLO, the general recommendation is to study $2\ \frac{hours}{unit\ week}$. This is definitely adequate for a majority of classes and overkill for many; very few students study this much. Regardless, it is useful as a benchmark. An additional $1\ \frac{hour}{unit\ week}$ is required for class time, for a total of $3\ \frac{hours}{unit\ week}$ hypothetically required to complete university coursework.

A typical major course is 4 units. 4 units over an 11 week quarter will thus require

The Udacity nanodegree is the rough equivalent of 4.5 university courses, as measured by time required to complete them. Call it 4 or 5 university courses.

That seems about right to me.

Its an amazing value by this metric. There’s few universities for which you can complete four courses for less than $1300.

Of course, this is skills- and outcome-based education. It is fundamentally different from formal university education. Its true value will be in the job it helps me obtain. And that final value is yet to be determined.

Conversion to a Complete Bachelors Degree

According to the 2015-2017 catalog, graduating from Cal Poly with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering requires completion of between 196 and 202 units. The implied hourly commitment to complete a bachelors degree is roughly

So, the nanodegree is roughly 10% of a bachelors degree, as measured by time and attention commitment required to complete it.

This analysis leaves aside the fact that most Cal Poly students are able to transfer in many units due to having completed AP coursework. It also doesn’t take into account perceived value, such as the value of the brand (Cal Poly SLO brand value > Udacity brand value).

A more thorough analysis might also take into account the value of the time required to complete the nanodegree, in addition to the out-of-pocket costs. Using the same methodology employed in my economic value of OMSCS post, the effective cost of completing this nanodegree was a bit over $20K.

From a payback perspective, that is a much steeper hill to climb. But, if it enables me to obtain an analytics job several months before the GA Tech degree does, then it will have been worth it.