Best Online Master's in Data Science Programs 2021

Data scientists work within the computer science field. They gather and analyze data to help their employer make decisions, such as how to target advertising to consumers. Data scientists use specialized tools such as algorithms and artificial intelligence to mine and interpret data quickly and efficiently. They work in the private and public sectors in industries such as aerospace and defense, government security, and information technology.

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Data scientists need an advanced understanding of computer science fundamentals. They specialize in Python and other computer languages to write and run programs. These skills allow them to maintain databases and mine data. Professionals can learn these skills in an online master's in data science program. The following sections detail how professionals with or without a computer science background can enter this field by earning an advanced degree.


Question Answer
What is data science? Professionals working in data science collect and interpret significant amounts of online data. Their analysis helps their employer make decisions regarding the organization's growth.
How long does it take to earn a master's in data science? The answer depends on the program's graduation requirements and learners' enrollment status. A typical program requires two years.
What is the difference between data science and statistics? Data scientists need a firm grasp of statistics to succeed on the job. They must also demonstrate proficiency in programming and other computer science topics.
Do you need a master's degree to work in data science? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), data science professionals who work with big data need a master's degree to find a top position.

Best Online Master's in Data Science Programs 2021

The following 10 schools offer the best online master's in data science programs for 2021. Learners at these institutions enjoy numerous benefits, including career support, financial aid, and a flexible curriculum. Please use the embedded links to find contact information. Additionally, please keep in mind that some details may have changed since this article's publication.

Rank Logo School Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid Credit For Experience Placement Service Counseling Services Description & Additional Information Toggle
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1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Located in Los Angeles, USC developed its online master's in data science program for working professionals. The 32-credit program features courses in machine learning for data science, the principles of programming, and analysis of algorithms. Coursework emphasizes the newest data science infrastructures, including Hadoop and Spark.

The USC Viterbi School of Engineering offers students and alumni a career board, job expo information, and virtual events on its Career Connections (CC) website. CC advisors recommend that engineering learners complete an internship, many of which award credit. New degree-seekers can explore the Professional Development Toolkit to create a career plan and prepare for interviews.

Prospective students can apply for the spring or fall semester. Application requirements include a bachelor's in computer science or a related subject, GRE scores, and a personal statement. USC recommends that applicants submit two recommendation letters. The Norman Topping Student Aid Fund awards a scholarship to master's degree-seekers involved in community service.

2 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

WGU's online data science master's program features a flexible curriculum that allows most degree-seekers to graduate in just 18 months. Coursework emphasizes five competencies that learners need for career success, including data analytics, data management, and data visualization. Learners develop and implement an independent research project for their capstone.

Career and Professional Development (CPD) advisors provide one-on-one career coaching and weekly webinars. Students can also download the Handshake app to research additional CPD resources, such as degree guides and career planning tips.

Application materials include undergraduate transcripts and an interview with an enrollment counselor. WGU's tuition program allows students to take as many courses as they want during a six-month term. This benefit allows full-time and accelerated learners to spend much less on tuition compared to their part-time peers.

3 George Mason University Fairfax, VA Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Mason's fully online master's in data science program brings the university's Fairfax, Virginia, campus to learners around the world. The 30-credit curriculum requires courses such as big data to information, applied statistics and visualization, and analytics and decision analysis. The capstone course involves a team data analytics project that culminates in technical and oral reports.

Mason's Career Services (CS) website features various tools and resources, including Handshake, practice interview days, and a webinar on finding a dream job. New students can consult the Career Readiness Guide about how CS can meet their unique needs and help them achieve their career goals.

Admission requirements include a bachelor's in computer science and a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA. Prospective students who do not meet the GPA cutoff can still apply but must submit an additional essay. The Office of Student Financial Aid can help students explore and apply for federal financial aid programs, such as grants and low-interest loans.

4 Regis University Denver, CO Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Accelerated degree-seekers select Regis' data science master's degree online program. The degree uses eight-week courses focused on topics such as data engineering, machine learning, and exploring data analysis. Learners gain hands-on work experience in a required two-part practicum.

Data analytics students can research top data science jobs on the Regis Career Center (CC) website. CC also provides virtual appointments, interviewing tips, and an academic portfolio review. Enrollees gain access to multiple career-specific job fairs each month and can explore links to outside resources such as personality assessments.

Prospective students without a computer science bachelor's degree can apply as long as they possess relevant work experience. Applicants must submit a resume and essay. A private university, Regis charges all data science learners the same tuition rate, and degree-seekers can visit the university's financial aid website to research institutional, federal, and private aid programs.

5 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Professors working on UVA's Charlottesville campus developed the university's online master's in data science program for learners who excel in a flipped-classroom environment. The five-term curriculum includes courses in data mining, big data analytics, and the ethics of big data. Top employers such as Amazon and Deloitte recruit UVA alumni for different roles such as systems engineer and associate consultant.

The UVA Career Center offers specialized resources to degree-seekers preparing for a career in the technology field, including one-on-one appointments and the Virginia Alumni Mentoring Program. Students can also join one or more of a dozen student organizations, all of which feature networking opportunities.

UVA accepts GRE and GMAT scores. But it does not require them from applicants who possess at least five years of work experience. Other application materials include two recommendation letters and a resume. UVA does not charge out-of-state tuition to data science students. Most learners finance their education by taking out loans.

6 DePaul University Chicago, IL Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

DePaul's online master's degree in data science features coursework in big data, database administration and management, and scripting for interactive systems. The program allows some flexibility, as students select three electives from nine options. Enrollees stay in good academic standing by maintaining a minimum 2.5 graduate GPA and earning at least a C- grade in each course.

Depaul's Career Center (CC) advisors work in Chicago but assist learners throughout the nation by offering many virtual resources, including Handshake. The CC website also hosts a blog covering top employers and how to attain a job before graduation.

The data science program does not require standardized test scores or recommendation letters, and all students pay the same per-credit tuition rate regardless of residency. New learners submit FAFSA results to apply for financial aid. Veterans receive funding through the Yellow Ribbon Program.

7 Brandeis University Waltham, MA Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Brandeis' online master's in data science program includes a mandatory concentration in strategic analytics. In class, students analyze data governance, business intelligence, and predictive analytics and machine learning. Learners personalize the educational experience by selecting three of the 10 required courses.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences curates career resources for graduate degree-seekers, including networking and interviewing tips, virtual appointments, and networking opportunities. Learners can also access LinkedIn Learning at no additional charge. The service provides over 5,000 videos on career topics such as technology and developing business relationships.

Required application materials include a bachelor's degree in any subject, a goals statement, and one recommendation letter. Prospective international students can apply, but they may need to provide proof of English proficiency. Brandeis' graduate programs offer a discount for full-time learners, and degree-seekers can further reduce their tuition burden by applying for federal loans.

8 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Situated in Grand Rapids, Michigan, DU offers numerous distance-education degrees, including an online data science master's program. The 30-credit curriculum requires courses in advanced data mining, the principles of data warehousing, and predictive modeling. The capstone involves multiple steps, such as collecting and analyzing data and making recommendations to solve a problem.

Students and alumni who visit the Career Services (CS) website can explore job postings and review the Career Services Guide. Data science degree-seekers without industry contacts can sign up for the alumni mentor program. CS also provides various Quick Links covering interviewing basics and tips.

Prospective learners with a bachelor's degree in a STEM field can apply. Other application materials include a statement of purpose and one recommendation letter. DU does not charge a flat tuition rate to full-time students, and degree-seekers who excelled academically in college can receive up to $2,000 in institutional aid.

9 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Learners unable to attend courses on APSU's 182-acre Clarkesville, Tennessee, campus can earn an online master's in data science. The program confers an MS in computer science, and learners can select a concentration in data science. Concentration coursework includes database management concepts, data science in Python, and big data modeling and management.

APSU's Office of Career Services (OCS) provides online learners with 10 virtual job-hunting resources, such as an interview preparation guide and resume and cover letter assistance. OCS also posts careers and internships on the private Jobs4Govs job board. Learners can attend an industry-specific career fair without leaving home.

Applicants submit undergraduate transcripts that reflect a minimum 2.5 undergraduate GPA, a resume, and a personal essay. Students who do not reside in Tennessee spend approximately 60% more on tuition. APSU's financial aid and scholarships website details four institutional aid options for which data science degree-seekers may qualify.

10 Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network Boston, MA Tuition # of Online Programs Acceptance Rate - Graduation Rate - Financial Aid - Credit For Experience - Placement Service - Counseling Services -

Northeastern's online master's in data science program features both a full- and part-time curriculum, meaning that learners can graduate in 1.5-3 years. The program's five concentrations include cloud computing, analytics, and leading and managing technical projects. The program emphasizes real-world projects that allow students to develop a professional portfolio, a tool degree-seekers and alumni can use during a job hunt.

Employer Engagement and Career Design advisors offer degree-seekers a host of services, including webinars covering creating a personal brand and negotiating job offers and salary. These and other resources help 97% of graduates find a job or enter a doctoral program within nine months of earning a degree.

Admission materials include 1-3 recommendation letters and undergraduate transcripts. The average data science degree-seeker receives $2,300 in institutional scholarships. Students who live in and around Boston, Massachusetts, may qualify for additional financial aid through the city government.

What Do Data Scientists Do?

The internet's growth created a computer science subfield that professionals named big data. Big data refers to the tremendous amount of information people generate online each day. This data can help companies and organizations make decisions and solve problems. They hire data scientists to analyze and interpret this information. Data scientists work either onsite or remotely. In both cases, they spend most of their time using computer software and hardware.

Typical job duties include storing information on databases and developing algorithms. Data scientists gather the results and present them to managers and other stakeholders. They make recommendations during these discussions. Managers use these recommendations to create plans that involve other employees who work outside of data or computer science. Data scientists then receive feedback on their work. Feedback helps them become more efficient when tackling their next assignment.

A workflow requires that data scientists collaborate with peers. Like in many fields, experienced professionals can receive a promotion that may involve leading teams and mentoring less-experienced data scientists. These top positions can pay more than $100,000. Continue reading to learn more about typical salaries for entry-level and experienced workers.

Career and Salary Outlook for Data Scientists

The following table highlights the median annual salary for data scientists, including salaries for the bottom and top 10% of professionals. These figures indicate that workers, especially those with an online master's in data science, can live comfortably in most cities throughout the United States. When reviewing these figures, please note that the BLS does not publish salary data specific to data scientists. The reported salaries also include earnings for workers in the mathematical sciences.

Bottom 10% Median Annual Salary Top 10%
$52,720 $94,280 $158,060

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Master's Degrees in Data Science

Online master's in data science programs use different admission, academic, and graduation requirements. However, all reputable programs should possess regional accreditation. In the United States, six agencies review colleges and universities in an assigned region. Regional accreditation signifies that a school's academic programs meet specific standards relating to rigor and educational outcomes.

Colleges and universities that offer online degrees should also attain national accreditation from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC). DEAC representatives determine whether a school's online learners receive the same academic experience and benefits as on-campus students. DEAC lists accredited institutions on its website.

Some of the best data science master's degree online programs feature programmatic accreditation. Private programmatic accreditation agencies specialize in a specific academic field. Top data science programs in the United States are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. or the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering.

Courses in a Master's in Data Science

Courses in a master's in data science program emphasize in-demand skills, including data visualization, analytics, mining, and management. Learners build these and other skills through hands-on projects that mimic the work environment. Many programs require a capstone in the final semester.

The following courses include those typical to many online data science master's programs. Course requirements often vary among schools, even if the courses use the same name. Prospect students can contact their desired school to learn more about the curriculum for the online master's in data science program. Some schools may provide an in-depth program guide.

Representation and Reporting

The most talented data scientists possess honed communication skills that allow them to present their findings to stakeholders. This course trains students to tell a story and present information so that people without a background in statistics or computer science can understand.

Data Acquisition

This course emphasizes Structured Query Language, techniques data scientists use to retrieve and organize information. The course covers numerous database topics, and learners leave it knowing how to manage a database and transfer data from one to another effectively. This course does not mandate any prerequisites.

Predictive Modeling

Data scientists use their knowledge and skills to predict how data affects their employers' future. Students use regression techniques to find data patterns that they can report to stakeholders. Like representation and reporting, this course trains students to communicate findings to peers with or without computer science expertise.

Big Data to Information

This course introduces learners to how companies and organizations use big data to make decisions. Students explore effective research and technical methods and analyze data scientists' role in collecting and interpreting big data. This course may also require degree-seekers to consider big data's ethical considerations, including individuals' online privacy.

Data Analysis Project

Students undertake a capstone where they work individually or in a group to solve a real-life problem. Academic requirements can include developing written and oral reports similar to those professionals give to managers and stakeholders.

Financial Aid

The universities that offer online data science master's programs may provide financial aid, including scholarships, grants, and payment plans. Degree-seekers can learn if they qualify for financial aid by completing the FAFSA. The federal government developed the FAFSA to help learners determine how much they can pay each year on tuition. The FAFSA application window opens each year on Oct. 1.

If the FAFSA reports that students' tuition exceeds their ability to pay, they can take out low-interest federal loans. The government caps the amount learners can take out each year to help them avoid a long-term debt burden.

In addition to institutional and federal aid, students can consider how learning online can save them money on a degree. A flexible, asynchronous program allows degree-seekers to continue working full time while in school. Additionally, online learners do not incur costs for on-campus housing, meal plans, or commuting. Some colleges and universities also excuse distance-education students from specific fees.

Scholarships for Data Science

Online master's degree in data science students should not go into debt to finance a degree. Instead, they can research and apply for private scholarship opportunities. The following scholarships and fellowships award funding to learners in the data and computer science fields. Please use the embedded links to learn more about each opportunity's application requirements and deadline.

ACM SIGHPC Computational and Data Science Fellowships

Who Can Apply: ACM SIGHPC accepts applications from women earning a master's or doctorate. Men part of a racial or cultural minority may also apply. The application process involves attaining a professor mentor's nomination and submitting a candidate statement.

Amount: $15,000

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Big Data Science & Analytics Bi-Annual Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full- and part-time learners earning a bachelor's or master's in data analytics can apply. The scholarship sponsor accepts applications from online learners. Applicants need a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Amount: $2,000

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Strong Data Science Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate science students who develop a research project can apply. Application materials include a PowerPoint presentation not to exceed 20 slides. The scholarship committee considers project proposals' creativity, clarity, reproducibility, and rigor.

Amount: $1,000

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Women in Data Science Scholarship

Who Can Apply: awards funding to women earning a bachelor's or master's in data analytics. Applicants can enroll full time or part time and must submit one recommendation letter.

Amount: Varies

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