Experienced data scientists are in high demand, with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting a 36% growth in the field over the next decade. Earning a graduate data science degree can help you become a more attractive prospective hire – and may increase your chances of landing a lucrative job.
Below, we’ve curated the best data science master’s programs (both on-campus and online). We also detail potential careers, salaries, and more!
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Best Data Science Master’s Programs and Universities
Carnegie Mellon University is a renowned private research university that was established as a merger of Carnegie Institute of Technology and Mellon Institute of Industrial Research. The university was ranked first in the Master’s in Data Science ranking (Artificial Intelligence) by US News & World Report of 2018.
Its Master of Computational Data Science (MCDS) is one of the best data science master’s programs around, where students learn how to design, engineer, and implement very large information systems. The faculty is drawn from multiple schools and departments across the university, including Computer Science and Machine Learning.
Georgia Institute of Technology (also known as Georgia Tech) is a public research and technology university in Atlanta. Its Master of Science in Analytics is an interdisciplinary program in data science and analytics that synthesizes the knowledge of business, computing, and engineering of the university’s various schools. As one of the top master’s in data science programs in the nation, it also offers an online option.
In this program, students gain experience directly from leading experts and authorities on business intelligence, operations research, and statistics. Students also glean additional insight from the experts who have developed many of the top analytics techniques in machine learning. The program includes project-based courses and a practicum, ensuring a more practical education.
The Data Science Institute at Columbia University is one of the best US schools for data science master’s studies. Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university – and the oldest higher studies institute in New York. Its M.S. program in data science encourages students to conduct original research alongside an elective (e.g., entrepreneurship).
The program is offered jointly through various schools specializing in sciences, engineering, computer science, statistics, and industrial studies. While interacting with world-class professors and industry partners, data science students will conduct original research and finish with a capstone project.
4. The University of California Berkeley, School of Information (I School)
UC Berkeley offers one of the best master’s in data science programs today. Students may choose to attend on campus or online. This program is available in 12-, 20-, or 32-month options (accelerated, standard, and decelerated, respectively). Note: Students must receive approval to join the accelerated or decelerated tracks.
Like other graduate programs in data science, UC Berkeley’s Master’s in Data Science features a core curriculum that trains students on valuable data science skills. Students focus on data cleansing, engineering, mining, exploring, and visualization. To graduate with their master’s degree, they must complete a capstone project that integrates all of the elements they’ve studied.
The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign is one of the largest American universities, with over 56,000 enrolled students.
Its online master’s program in data science aims to provide students with valuable knowledge of computational and statistical methods (and how they can be applied to the fields of business and society). While the program has no thesis requirement, students must complete courses like data mining, data visualization, cloud computing, and machine learning.
The MCS-DS offered by this institution is unique from other graduate programs for data science as students receive instruction via Coursera’s learning platform. They are advised and assessed by the university’s faculty and teaching assistants.
This STEM-designated program prepares students to manage, analyze and understand complex data. Students learn all of the necessary building blocks, including statistics for data science, data analytics, machine learning, big data security, scripting languages, and database concepts.
Students can choose to enroll in the year-long program in person or online. Note: Two-year online options offer greater flexibility.
Brown is a world-renowned Ivy League university offering a master’s degree in data science. Its program is designed to be finished in 12 months, but options for 16, 21, or 24 months are available. When it comes to flexibility, Brown might offer the best master’s in data science.
With around 800 applications – and cohort of 40-45 – this competitive program is designed to prepare students from different disciplinary backgrounds for a successful career in data science.
The curriculum helps students gain a fundamental understanding of the algorithms and methods used in data science through database engineering, data visualization, deep learning, and machine learning courses.
The University of Missouri’s Master’s in Data Science and Analytics sits at #9 on Fortune’s data science master’s rankings. Available both on-campus and online, it strengthens professionals’ skills and decision-making through advanced analytics and big data tools.
The in-depth and rigorous technical curriculum includes group case studies and a capstone project for hands-on experience. On-campus learners may opt for a thesis research class.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology is based in Newark, NJ. Offering a range of online programs (including an MS in Data Science), students can choose between computational and statistics tracks. Both offer lectures and hands-on projects.
As one of the best data science graduate programs, NJIT’s Master’s in Data Science provides holistic instruction in machine learning, statistical inference, data visualization, data mining, and big data.
Syracuse University is a renowned university that offers a range of on-campus and online programs.
Its Master of Applied Data Science program is one of the best data science master’s program that’s designed to improve students’ programming skills and managerial expertise.
This online program can be completed in just 18 months and is based around collaborative online classes and experiential learning. Students study core data science competencies, such as data mining, Python and R, and machine learning.
Cornell University is an Ivy League institution in Ithaca, NY. Cornell’s MPS offers a full Applied Statistics track. However, future data scientists should opt for the second option. This offers additional computer science training, statistical techniques, Python programming (plus statistical applications), and big data analysis.
Whichever they choose, students must complete an MPS project that revolves around statistical analysis.
Located in Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan offers a Master’s in Data Science through its College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. However, the program is a collaboration between the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Department of Statistics, and School of Information.
During this 25-credit curriculum, students receive holistic training in statistics, data management and manipulation, data analytics, and data science techniques. The program finishes with a capstone project.
Offered through the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard’s Master’s in Data Science is costly but only requires approximately 1.5 years.
Students gain a strong foundation in machine learning, statistical modeling and management, analysis (and optimization) of huge data sets, ethics, security, and data acquisition. Students also practice collaboration, problem-solving, communication, and visualization. A required research experience requirement can be satisfied by the thesis option.
The University of San Francisco’s rigorous graduate program focuses on computational and mathematical techniques in data science. Students not only learn technical skills to effectively address analytical problems, but they also discover methods to clearly and creatively communicate their solutions.
The one-year program requires an additional three credits to be completed during teh second year. Additionally, all students must complete a 9-month practicum for companies around San Francisco (either paid or unpaid), a 15-hour per week commitment. All applicants are automatically assessed to see whether they are eligible for the merit-based partial scholarship.
Program Duration: Custom (arranged with your advisor)
Tuition: $682.92 per credit in-state, $1,232.42 out-of-state
Financial Aid: Available
Acceptance Rate: 92%
Graduation Rate: 39%
Location: Dartmouth, Massachusetts
UMass Dartmouth’s MS in Data Science is unique, allowing students to determine their program schedule and duration with their advisor. Their selected schedule is subject to approval by the graduate committee.
Graduates will prepare for leadership positions in data science, data analytics, knowledge engineering, and information management. They should expect to develop their skills in statistics, machine learning, programming, data mining, data analytics, and data visualization.
What Jobs Can You Do with a Master’s in Data Science?
Data science graduates can find jobs anywhere there is a need to process large quantities of data, whether studying existing trends, meeting business objectives, or planning for the future.
Some of the most common roles for Master’s in Data Science graduates include:
Data architect ($130,540) – design, structure, and manage data according to business requirements, usually within a relational database.
Solutions architect ($125,340) – take on leadership roles to transform business objectives and requirements into functional solutions.
Data scientist ($100,910) – manage and analyze large quantities of useful data to find solutions to businesses’ problems.
Data engineer ($95,517) – work with algorithms and data sets to provide actionable insights for businesses and organizations.
Other possible roles for data science graduates include:
Pros and Cons of Seeking the Best Data Science Master’s Degree
Although data science is a comparatively new field in high demand, it has its drawbacks too. It’s important to be aware of the pros and cons of having a Master’s in Data Science before pursuing the degree.
Advantages of Getting a Master’s in Data Science
High Demand – As a new field that involves specialized knowledge, there’s a huge demand for experts.
High Salaries – Data scientists and information research professionals enjoy a high average salary.
Varied Opportunities – A master’s in the field can open up a range of exciting opportunities for varied roles.
Drawbacks of Getting a Master’s in Data Science
Data science isn’t widely understood – Although more businesses are recognizing the importance of data science (and data science qualifications), some confuse data science with simple statistics.
You need a diverse range of skills – This highly specialized area draws from multiple fields, including computer science, mathematics, and statistics. Though some professionals excel across various disciplines, others find that their skills are concentrated in one area.
At GradCafe, we aim to always provide the best and most accurate information to our readers. While putting together this list of the best master’s for data science, we spent hours researching the top programs. First, we looked at the master’s in data science rankings to create our initial list. Then, we further narrowed our selection by considering:
Affordability – Programs that offered a wide range of costs and financial aid availability.
Time commitment and flexibility – Graduate students are busy, so we looked for flexibility (including self-paced programs).
Program outcomes – programs that published program outcomes with significant graduate success.
Curriculums – programs that included data science fundamentals and options for further specialization.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a Master of Data Science Worth it?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the demand for computer and data science professionals will increase by 36% between 2021 and 2031. Additionally, the annual median pay for these professionals is $100,910 – far higher than many other fields. For this reason, a master’s in data science can be a worthwhile investment.
What Does a Master’s in Data Science Do?
Data science master’s degree holders can work as information research scientists, data analysts, solutions architects, systems engineers, machine learning engineers, big data engineers, database administrators, business intelligence analysts, and statisticians.
Is It Hard to Get into a Data Science Master’s?
Like any program, applicants must meet a university’s admissions requirements. Because some Data Science Master’s are competitive, your application will have a better chance of success if you have a STEM-related background (e.g., mathematics, computer science, statistics).
Which Degree is Best for Data Science?
Graduate data science degree programs vary based on their core courses and concentrations. However, to guarantee students have the necessary skills to thrive, most programs require an undergraduate degree in mathematics, statistics, or other STEM-related fields. It’s worth noting that some programs don’t require STEM backgrounds if students can prove they have the math skills and knowledge needed for success.
What GPA Do You Need for a Data Science Master’s Program?
If you want to earn a graduate data science education, you’ll need a GPA that meets the minimum requirements set by an institution. Many require a 3.0 GPA, but these vary between schools. Consult your chosen institution(s) before submitting an application.
Where Can I Learn Data Science for Free?
You can find all sorts of free tutorials, courses, and videos on data science online. For example, Coursera and edX offer audit tracks, allowing students a free education. For access to additional features – and a certificate of completion – you can choose the paid track instead.
Are There Internships or Real-World Practicums for Data Science Students?
Yes. For example, the University of San Francisco Master’s in Data Science program requires students to complete a 9-month practicum where they may work in a paid or unpaid internship-type position for San Franciscan companies.
As an increasing number of businesses and organizations adopt data-driven strategies, the demand for professionals in the data science field only increases. To help the world make sense of the data and information overload, maybe one best data science master’s programs on this list is worth exploring. Good luck!