Online Master’s Programs in Data Science

Updated September 29, 2022 • 5 Min Read

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.

By Staff Writer

Published on November 16, 2020

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.


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.

The 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.

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% of Professional Incomes


Median Annual Salary


Bottom 10% of Professional Incomes


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 MORE INFORMATION

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 MORE INFORMATION

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 MORE INFORMATION

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 MORE INFORMATION

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