How Much Programming Do I Need to Know for Data Science?

An Analogy for Beginners

Jesse Ruiz (she/they)
3 min readApr 30, 2022


Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

Coding skills for data scientists are essential but very dependent upon the tech stack that you utilize. Many data scientists use tools like SAS and packages like pandas or prebuilt tools to develop and test statistical and/or machine learning models. There is a big push for data scientist to become more well-rounded programmers, but it’s not the case that most data scientists are expert developers.

To explain this complex issue in more detail, I will rely on an analogy to a professional cook. How much programming does a data scientist need to know? By analogy, how much cooking skills does a cook need to know?

The Cook Analogy

How much cooking skills does a professional cook need to know? Does the cook need to know everything about cooking? Does the cook need to master just one technique or style of cooking? Perhaps the cook only needs to know how to cook certain things at one particular restaurant? As you can imagine, it’s impossible that a cook will know everything about cooking. It’s more likely that a certain kind of cook is produced from particular types of cooking schools where the cook decides to specialize in some particular thing. Further, you can imagine that there are plenty…