Online Master’s in Data Science

By Brandon Mario D`Souza

Updated January 14, 2024
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Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.

Degrees

Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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Data science is a discipline that is much needed in today’s increasing technological advancements. Most disciplines require data scientists to use scientific processes and algorithms to pick up important data and use them meaningfully. An online master’s in data science can provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to collect data from interdisciplinary fields and analyze big data. This field is growing, and the number of professionals required is increasing much faster than the average for other occupations. The job outlook is a strong 36%, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics[1]. Data science is an up-and-coming field, and completing a master’s in data science online can help students increase their chances of employability considerably.

Online-Masters-in-Data-Science

Best Online Master’s in Data
Science Degrees

Choosing an online master’s program is crucial for students as it brings them immense opportunities in the field of data science. But when choosing the best online master’s in data science degrees, students should consider factors like the curriculum of the program, quality of the faculty, research opportunities, cost of the program, availability of financial aid, etc. Based on these and other factors, teams at FBD have drawn up a list of some of the best online master’s degree in data science: *

The University of California (UC) is a public land-grant research university system in California. Founded in 1868, CU comprises campuses at Berkeley, Davis, Los Angeles, Irvine, Merced, San Diego, Riverside, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara. These campuses have a combined student body of more than 285,000 students.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
University of California-Berkeley 200 California Hall, Berkeley, California 94720 $11,442 93%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from the Online Master’s in
Data Science Degree Program

The master’s data science online program equips students with the skills required to analyze and gather vast amounts of data and make perceptive decisions. This program will allow students to apply data science techniques to their field of interest. They will be able to produce a capstone project, conduct original research, and interact with leading industry experts. Students also have the option to choose elective tracks focused on real-world experiences.

The data science master’s program is offered online, offline, and in hybrid mode, where both online and offline classes are blended. The duration of the program is typically 2 years, depending on the program’s curriculum. Some schools also offer synchronous and asynchronous learning modes, offering flexibility to working students. It is also not uncommon for colleges to provide theses and non-thesis-based master’s programs in data science. Across the board, students can expect a versatile curriculum with this program which will deepen their data science knowledge and equip them with more advanced skills required in various work settings. Some of the typical online master’s data science courses students can expect are:

Algorithms for Data Science

In this course, students learn about different methods for organizing data, like priority queues, lists, and more. They also learn about streaming algorithms for computing statistics on data, dynamic programming, basic graph models and algorithms for searching, large-scale applications, and more.

Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization

This exploratory data analysis and visualization course teaches the programming, layered grammar of graphics, fundamentals of data visualization, model visualization, etc.

Unifying Data Science

This course focuses on how to answer questions effectively by using quantitative data. Students will be able to understand different types of questions, like descriptive, predictive, and casual questions. They will understand methodological approaches to quantifying and qualifying different presentations of results.

Introduction to Natural Language Processing

In this course, students will learn how to use textual data produced by social media platforms, digitization of administrative and historical records, and new monitoring technologies to make decisions and gain deeper insights

Statistical Inference and Modeling

This course will cover the basics of statistical testing and inference, introducing statistical models and topics like hypothesis testing. This course uses real data for lecture discussions and capstone projects.

Data logic, visualization, and storytelling

In this course, students will be able to cultivate the ability to think skeptically and critically about the questions needed to be answered about data projects and the strategies to use them. They will be able to learn principles about how to implement data visualization techniques and real analysis using different software.

Some of the other courses available in online master’s data science programs are:

  • Probability and Statistics for Data Science
  • Machine Learning
  • Big Data
  • Computational Cognitive Modeling
  • Probabilistic Time Series Analysis
  • Programming Languages
  • Database Systems
  • Fundamental Algorithms
  • Inferences and Representation
  • Data Management
  • Research Design
  • Data Ethics
  • User Experience

To understand more about masters degrees, read the online master’s programs student guide.

Degree Types for Online Master’s in
Data Science Programs

There are different types of online master’s in data science degree programs offered by universities – the Master of Arts or MA in data science online, the Master of Science or MS in data science online, and the Master in Interdisciplinary Data Science or MIDS.

Master of Arts in Data Science

The Master of Arts in data science online, or MA data science online, focuses on building skills in data science to explore, manage, analyze, and visualize large data sets using advanced technologies. Students take courses integrated with various academic disciplines like mathematics, statistics, and computer science to solve complex issues and learn how to identify data patterns and data set trends.

Master of Science in Data Science

The Master of Science in data science online, or MS data science online, challenges students to focus on developing more areas of research in data science. Students conduct research work, produce capstone projects, and interact with leading industry partners through a rigorous and innovative curriculum. Overall, the MS degree is more technical and scientific in its approach compared to an MA degree.

Master in Interdisciplinary Data Science

The Master in Interdisciplinary Data Science or MIDS program combines technical and computational training with field knowledge. Students learn to think critically, communicate, collaborate, lead, and work in teams to bring out their best and add value to their field. The syllabus of this program is interdisciplinary and has a good combination of core courses and electives. The program focuses on practical and real-world experience in the field.

Areas of Specialization for Online Master’s in
Data Science Programs

Specializations could be a way for students to build expertise and gain knowledge in a particular domain of data science. Many specialization options are available for students wanting to pursue an online master’s in data science, which add value to their resumes and lead to promising jobs. Here are a few to consider:

Area of SpecializationDescription Career Options
Data VisualizationIn this specialization, students learn to use visualization tools like tables, charts, plots, graphs, maps, and infographics. Such tools equip students to understand trends, outliers, growth rates, data patterns, situations, and competitions.Data visualization engineers, data scientists, software developers
Market Data AnalyticsIn this specialization, students learn how to analyze external data sources like data from customers and their experiences, market data, and customer data. They track performances in logistics and e-commerce and find new opportunities for businesses.Product analysts, web analysts, market analysts
Data EngineeringThis specialization involves arranging, toning, storing, managing, and retrieving data for other data science professionals and analysts.Database professionals, data engineers, data analysts
Data Mining and Statistical AnalysisThis specialization allows individuals to learn about finding hidden patterns in big data and applying derived information to various scenarios.Data analysts, business analysts, statisticians
Cognitive Specialists and Machine LearningThis specialization focuses on feeding data inputs through building data pipelines, algorithms to train models, benchmarking base systems, and convenient data sources.Data scientists, researchers, AI specialists, ML engineers
Strategy-Making and Business IntelligenceThis specialization teaches students about business intelligence insights and how to make a company perform better while understanding what its competitors are doing.Data strategists, BI engineers, BI developers, Bi analysts
Data Architecture and Database ManagementIn this specialization, students learn about database management systems that help organizations work with volume data of larger sizes stored in a particular place. Students also learn to use tools like Oracle RDBMS, Salesforce, and more.Database administrators, database professionals, data specialists
Operations-Related Data AnalyticsThis specialization focuses on tools fed with data and the possibilities of improving them within various operations like technology, human resources, financials, and logistics of businesses.Decisions analysts, planning analysts, operations specialists
Market Data AnalyticsIn this specialization, students learn about analyzing, managing, and measuring the performance of the market, its effectiveness, and optimizing investment returns.Product analysts, web analysts, market analysts

Why should I do an Online Master’s in
Data Science Degree?

Masters of data science online programs help students get varied and better employment in the field of data science compared to those with a bachelor’s degree. Any company or institution that uses computers typically handles masses of data that can be mined and used to better their internal operations, efficiency, reach, scope, and profits. Therefore, there is a lot of demand for data science professions as organizations need the analysis done by them to grow their business. Data science is not limited to just one industry, which is why a master’s program teaches students to work collaboratively across all disciplines. Consequently, graduates can expect easy employability and more than modest pay packets and choose a work setting that suits them best.

Apart from the benefits of career and pay, a master’s in data science will help students develop the skills required to make intelligent decisions and informed decisions and analyses related to critical concerns in data science. These will prove to be invaluable in one’s career or business venture. The program makes professionals capable of developing businesses and solving other problems, which will help them grow. Some of the many skills graduate students will develop by the time they complete the master’s program include the ability to:

  • demonstrate analytical and critical thinking skills to solve various issues in the field of data analytics;
  • show effective forms of communication to collaborate with different kinds of stakeholders in the field of data science and make analyses and develop models related to the field;
  • demonstrate professional and ethical behavior and exhibit aptitude for continuous learning and improvement;
  • utilize theoretical knowledge to be able to handle real-world problems, collect and process data, and design the best methods to solve problems and implement solutions;
  • demonstrate an understanding of programming skills, computational methods, principles of software systems, and concepts of data science;
  • handle data, leading to valuable predictions; and gather analyzed data to make insightful and leading decisions;
  • demonstrate divergent thinking skills and an understanding of fundamental principles of data science;
  • integrate data science theories and use them to extract meaningful information and check for new opportunities for organizations and individuals.

Free Courses for Online Master’s in
Data Science Students

Students can consider taking free courses to understand data science better. These free courses could provide insights into how professionals in the field work and broaden one’s knowledge and understanding of various aspects of data science. Here are a few examples of free data science courses:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Data Science: CapstoneThis course teaches students how to apply knowledge and skills learned through understanding real-life problems. They will also get to work on projects that include data analysis independently. Students develop skills like probability, inference, visualization, and modeling.Harvard University
Data Science-Working with DataIn this course, students work with data and learn to use research and methods to develop different software and programming languages. They will also learn how to prepare and analyze datasets from varied fields of data science.Alison
Data Science: Linear RegressionIn this course, students will learn how to implement concepts of linear regression. Such models can be applied to different fields of data science where students can understand how to study various variables in data science fields.Harvard University

How to get into the Online Master’s in
Data Science Program?

The requirements of admission into an online master’s in data science program could vary from institution to institution; however, there are specific basic requirements that all students must meet. Since data science is an in-demand subject, admissions tend to be competitive and slightly challenging. Apart from particular conditions and prerequisites, the standard online master’s in data science admission requirements are:

  • Form of admission
  • Application fee
  • Cumulative grade point average of 2.24 or more (differs according to the institution)
  • Graduate record examination or GRE scores (not required by all colleges)
  • All previous official college transcripts
  • Two or more letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • TOEFL or IELTS scores (not required by applicants whose native is English)

No GRE Online Master’s in Data
Science Programs

Most colleges enrolling students in data science programs require the Graduate Record Examination or GRE scores. However, some colleges, such as the University of California Berkeley, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and the Columbia University Data Science Institute, exempt students from this requirement of submitting GRE scores by offering online master’s in data science no GRE programs. Removing the need for GRE helps students from diverse fields to apply for such programs. It will encourage people from diverse portfolios to apply for the program.

How Long does it take to complete the Online Master’s
in Data Science Degree

Most master’s in data science online programs take about 2 years to complete if a student has opted for full-time study. If one opts for part-time study, the degree will take more than 2 years to finish. One should note that a data science master’s degree duration also depends on the chosen courses and electives and the number of credits students must complete in a particular semester. The chosen concentration and synchronous and asynchronous learning modes also influence the program’s duration. Here is a quick look at the timeline:

  • Time to complete a full-time online master’s in data science degree: typically 2 years
  • Time to complete a part-time online master’s in data science: typically about 2 to 4 years

Accelerated Online Master’s in Data
Science Degrees

Accelerated programs help students complete their degrees in less time than the required 2 years. They allow students to pursue their studies while ensuring they have time for their other priorities. Accelerated programs also tend to be cheaper because of the lesser time spent in college, one of the main reasons why many students prefer such programs. Accelerated online master’s in data science programs come in different variants. Some have a shorter program duration, some combine a bachelor’s with a master’s degree, and some are dual degrees. Here are a few examples:

Northwestern University

offers an accelerated master’s in data science

UMass Dartmouth

offers an accelerated BS and MS in data science

Quinnipiac University

offers an accelerated Dual Degree of a bachelor’s in data science with an MBA

Accreditations for Online Master’s in
Data Science Degrees

Accreditation is a process by independent agencies that ensures that colleges maintain a certain quality and continuously improve their programs. Completing an accredited program assures people and companies that the degree is of good standing and that the person has received a quality education. Accredited online master’s in data science programs can be programmatically accredited by the Data Science Council of America. In the absence of this accreditation, students must look for college accreditation, often provided by six regional accrediting bodies, which are:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Read the Guide to College Accreditation to understand the accreditation process.

How to Pay for an Online Master’s in
Data Science Degree?

The cost of an online master’s in data science program could range from $20,000 to well over $58,860, depending on factors like geographic location, thesis or non-thesis-based programs, travel costs, accommodation costs, etc. Although online students do not have expenditures their offline counterparts would have to incur, the high tuition fees and sometimes additional technology fees can add up to a lot. Here are some funding options students can explore to help pay for their graduate studies:

Scholarships

Scholarships are funding that students can apply for based on their academic merit. They can also be awarded based on extracurricular activities such as sports, music, art, etc. The best thing about scholarships is that students do not need to pay back the awarded amount.

Grants

Students can be given grants by organizations like educational institutions, non-profit institutions, and state and federal governments. Grants can be awarded to students based on their needs and not necessarily on merit like scholarships.

Graduate Assistantships

Students can make valuable contacts in their fields while funding their studies through a graduate assistantship. Graduate assistants assist faculty members, departments, or other departments within the institution in establishing programs, educating students, and carrying out other academic duties. Their fees are lowered or waived in exchange for their work.

Student loans

Students can take educational loans from private institutions, national banks, and other financial institutions against interest payment. If one finds it challenging to repay the loan in good time, they could look for grants or donors to help them pay off their debts.

FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is an application form to determine if a student qualifies for federal financial aid or can receive funding from institutions. Read the FAFSA student aid guide to understand more about it.

To understand more about how to pay for college, read the guide to financial aid.

Scholarships for Online Master’s in Data
Science Students

Scholarships help students in reducing the costs of their education considerably. With tuition fees paid for through a scholarship, students can focus on their studies rather than burdening themselves with ways to pay for college. Here are examples of some data science graduate scholarships:

ScholarshipDescription Award/AmountApplication Deadline
Great Minds in STEM ScholarshipThe Great Minds in STEM or GMiS scholarship is provided to students enrolled in health-related or STEM undergraduate and graduate programs at accredited 2-year or 4-year colleges in the United States.$500 to $5,000TBA
ACM SIGHPC Computational and Data Science FellowshipsThis scholarship is aimed at increasing the diversity of students by preferring candidates with backgrounds from varied disciplines who would be able to bring new perspectives to the field of data science.$15,000 for up to 2 yearsMarch 2024
Acxiom Diversity ScholarshipThe Acxiom Diversity scholarship encourages minorities, veterans, women, and disabled individuals to register for full-time junior, senior, undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs in data science at accredited U.S. institutions.$5,000TBA

FAQs Related to the Online Master’s in
Data Science Degree

How long is the master’s degree in data science?

The graduate data science degree can take up to 2 years to complete if one has opted to pursue it full-time. Those who prefer to pursue the degree part-time typically require 2 to 4 years.

What can you do with a master’s in data science?

Is an online master’s in data science worth it?

What does the curriculum of the graduate degree in data science entail?

What is the difference between data science and data analytics?

What can I use data science specializations for?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after an Online
Master’s in Data Science Degree

The data science field is an upcoming field and advancing at 36% (up to 2031), much faster than average, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Professionals working as data scientists or related careers work in office settings across varied industries. There are many different career opportunities for students looking for a master’s in data science jobs. Here are a few examples, along with their median annual salary and job outlook:

Occupation Job Description Skills RequiredMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030)
Computer and Information Research ScientistsComputer and information research scientists use innovative designs to use existing and new computing technologies. They help in solving complex problems of computing. They invent new computing languages, methods, and tools to improve people’s work with computers.Problem-solving skills, analytical skills, decision-making skills$131,49021% (much faster than average)
EconomistsEconomists analyze and collect data, evaluate economic issues, and understand research trends for resources, services, and goods. They work independently or collaborate with other statisticians and economists.Analytical skills, detailed-oriented skills, verbal communication$105,6306% (as fast as average)
Data ScientistsData scientists interpret and analyze digital data with the help of statistics and assist in the decision-making process of businesses. They use different tools to analyze and extract meaningful information from data and employ algorithms and machine learning to classify data.Analytical skills, technical skills, statistical skills$100,91036% (much faster than average)
Mathematicians and StatisticiansMathematicians and statisticians analyze different data and apply varied computational techniques that help in solving problems. They work in collaboration with teams of engineering scientists and other different specialists.Computational skills, detailed-oriented, decision-making skills$96,28031% (much faster than average)
Survey ResearchersSurvey researchers conduct and design different kinds of surveys and analyze data from them. They render their services to polling organizations, non-profits, corporations, colleges and universities, research firms, and governmental agencies.Practical skills, decision-making skills$59,7406% (as fast as the average)

Certifications and Licensing for Online Master’s
in Data Science Students

Through professional certifications, students get qualifications that demonstrate that they can perform quality services and exhibit high standards of professionalism. Certifications increase one’s chances of employment and the possibility for higher pay and prove to employers and the industry that one is an expert in a specific area of data science. Online master’s data science students can consider certifications from various professional organizations. Examples include:

Cloudera Certified Associate Data Analyst

A SQL developer who has earned this certificate can perform the core competencies required to pull and generate reports. This certification measures the ability to analyze different questions and implement technically oriented with a high degree of precision.

Data Science Council of America Senior Data Scientist

This certification is a good fit for students who want to be exposed to research and analytics and prepare themselves for data scientist roles in large institutions. Individuals will be tested in spreadsheets, statistical analysis, RDBMS, and databases.

Principal Data Scientist

The principal data scientist certification helps develop competence, strategic potential, and readiness to perform challenging leadership roles in data science across different sectors and organizations. Professionals with this certification drive and impact outcomes in security, research, social development, business, governance, and education with the latest data science and analytic technologies.

Data Scientist-Advanced Analytics

This certification assesses students’ knowledge by using advanced analytics, operationalizing, and data visualization techniques. The certification understands the data analytics lifecycle and helps students in doing an initial analysis of data. Students will also learn about advanced analytics and understand the technology and tools used in big data.

Students who have a bachelor’s degree or higher with a minimum of two years of related experience in the field of data science (must have one year of experience in data science) could also be eligible for licensure in some instances. Licensing in the data science field could also depend on employer requirements, education, and the level of expertise a student has. Although most private employers do not require licensure, governmental and military agencies would, which would be provided to them through training, certifications, and exams.

Additional Resources for Online Master’s in
Data Science Students

Joining professional organizations provide ample opportunities for students to further their careers in the field of data science. Students pursuing master’s data science online programs will be able to attain in-depth knowledge, upskill, and interact with a range of industry professionals by tapping into the vast resources these organizations offer. They can also gain additional benefits like grants and scholarships, networking opportunities, career advice, etc. Here are a few resources for individuals to explore:

Organization Job Description
United States Data Science InstituteThe United States Data Science Institute focuses on providing world-class knowledge in data science. They have frameworks and state-of-the-art learning facilities that help integrate different professionals in the field of data science.
Association of Data ScientistsThe Association of Data Scientists encourages the education of students and helps them continue their studies in data science. They promote high standards of professionalism and integrity in fieldwork.
American Statistical AssociationThe American Statistical Association is the second-oldest professional association in the United States. The organization’s mission is to develop and promote professional and public education in statistics and related fields like medicine, data science, society, etc.
Data Science Council of AmericaThe Data Science Council of America is an organization that supports leaders and stakeholders in making cutting-edge decisions about big data technologies. They also provide advanced professional certificate programs that help professionals in advancing their careers considerably and work as data leaders.
Institute for Operations Research and Management ScienceThe Institute for Operations Research and Management Science (INFORMS) provides many opportunities to professionals in different fields like data science, management science, etc. They also offer advertising, sponsorship, and exhibiting opportunities to raise the individual’s or organization’s profile.

Author Bio:

Brandon Mario D’Souza

Brandon is a registered social worker with Social Work England. He obtained his master’s in social work (personnel management & industrial relations) and used it in fields such as water treatment, construction, software, and education. Then he transitioned to the health and social care sector with an M.Sc. in health psychology. Brandon loves to write, cook, and play musical instruments (piano, guitar, melodica, ukulele, and kazoo) and enjoys the calmness and serenity of nature.

Degrees

Master of Social Work, Master of Health Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

Disclaimer:

The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.