by Sarah K. White

Top 10 data science master’s degree programs

Nov 13, 2018

Thinking about getting your master's degree in data science? Here are ten of the top schools with data science degrees worth pursuing.

graduation cap, degree scroll and books
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Analytics is a fast-growing field as companies race to make use of the valuable data they collect. If you want to grow your data scientist career and capitalize on the demand for the role, you might consider getting your master’s degree. A master’s degree in data science will qualify you for higher ranking positions and can set you apart from other candidates vying for the same job openings.

The Data Science Degree Programs Guide narrows down the best data science master’s programs at public and non-profit universities. A points system was developed based on three categories: student-to-faculty ratio, average net price and whether the school offers concentration areas in the degree program. Here are the top 10 schools that made the list as having the best data science master’s programs in the US.

1. Purdue University: Krannert School of Management

Offered through the Krannert School of Management, Purdue University’s Master of Science in Business Analytics and Information Management is a full-time program that starts every year in June and runs for three semesters. The graduate program offers three specializations in supply chain analytics, investment analytics or corporate finance analytics.

It’s a STEM-certified program designed to educate students on the latest technologies and analytical techniques through hands-on experience and a well-rounded curriculum. You’ll also learn to use several industry-relevant tools such as SAS, Python, Minitab, and SQL. By graduation, the university promises you will be able to apply your skills to real-world data problems using the latest best practices for business data analytics.

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance required
Tuition: $29,741 for in-state students, $47,786 for out-of-state students
Concentrations: Supply chain analytics, investment analytics or corporate finance analytics

2. DePaul University

DePaul University offers an MS in data science that promises to equip students with the right skills for a career in data science. The program includes a graduate capstone requirement, but you can choose between completing a real-world data analytics project, taking a predictive analytics capstone course, participating in an analytics internship or completing a master’s thesis.

DePaul University also offers four concentrations for its data science programs, which includes computational methods, health care, hospitality and marketing. The curriculum for each concentration “emphasizes technical proficiency and practical experience” while providing students with “advanced skills in data mining, statistics, machine learning and big data processing,” according to the DePaul University website.

Location: Chicago, Illinois
On-campus or online: All computational methods courses are available online; some health care, marketing and hospitality courses are online, but others require in-person attendance
Tuition: $850 per credit hour
Concentrations: Computational methods, health care, hospitality and marketing concentrations

3. University of Rochester

The University of Rochester offers an MS in Data Science through the Goergen Institute for Data Science. The program can be completed in two or three semesters of full-time study, but the two-semester path includes a rigorous course load, so it’s recommended for students who already have a strong background in computer science and mathematics. For those without a strong background in computer science, you can take an optional summer course that will help get you up to speed before the program starts.

Throughout the program, you’ll have the chance to complete internships, meet with corporate recruiters and get career advice. You can choose from three concentrations, including computation and statistical methods, health and biomedical sciences and business and social science.

Location: Rochester, New York
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance is required
Tuition: $51,072, on average, for 32 credits
Concentrations: Computational and statistical methods, health and biomedical sciences and business and social science

4. New York University

New York University offers an MS in Data Science (MSDS) and offers several concentrations to select from, including data science, big data, mathematics and data, natural language processing and physics. You’ll need to earn 36 credits to graduate, which takes full-time students an average of two years to complete.

You’ll also be required to complete a capstone project during the program that will take you through the entire process of solving real-world problems with data across every industry. Students are expected to gain useful hands-on experience collecting and processing data and then using that data to design and implement solutions.  

Location: New York, New York
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance is required
Tuition: $2,286 per credit, but you can save on registration and service fees by paying for more than one course at once
Concentrations: Data science, big data, mathematics and data, natural language processing and physics

5. Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University offers a Master’s in Computation Data Science (MCDS) through the Tepper School of Business. During your first semester, you will be required to take four core courses: cloud computing, machine learning, interactive data science and a data science seminar. By the end of the first semester, you will need to select from three concentrations, including systems, analytics or human-centered data science. Your concentration will help inform the courses you take during the rest of the program.

The program focuses on scientific experimental design, data collection, data modeling and analysis, problem solving and human-computer interaction. Problems in these areas are addressed using a computer science curriculum that includes software engineering, machine learning and statistics. Students walk away with the knowledge of how to work with large-scale datasets in complex IT environments.

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance is required
Tuition: $25,000 per semester
Concentrations: Systems, analytics and human-centered data science

6. Columbia University in the City of New York

Columbia University offers an MS in Data Science through its Data Science Institute, which requires 30 credits to complete. Columbia University offers a long list of concentrations for its MS in Data Science program, including health analytics, cybersecurity, finance and business analytics and smart cities, among other topics.

Before you apply for the program, you’ll need to be able to code in multiple languages, such as R, Python, C and Java. Even if you apply with a strong quantitative background and no programming skills, you will still need to learn at least one language before you can take the Algorithms for Data Science course. You will need to complete 12 credits to earn a Certificate of Professional Achievement and 30 credits to earn your Master of Science degree. 

Location: New York, New York
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance is required
Tuition: $2,018 per credit
Concentrations: Computing systems for data-driven science; cybersecurity; data, media and society; financial and business analytics; foundations of data science; health analytics; sense, collect and move data; and smart cities

7. North Carolina State University – Raleigh, North Carolina

North Carolina State University offers an MS in Analytics (MSA) program that’s designed as a 10-month cohort-based learning experience that focuses on teamwork and one-on-one coaching. The graduating MSA class of 2018 had a 95 percent employment rate by graduation, with an average base salary of $98,200 per year, according to the university.

To apply to the program, you’ll need experience with coding in more than one language, knowledge of complex quantitative analysis and completed coursework in an undergraduate-level statistic course. The graduate program is unique in that you won’t select from a long list of electives and core classes, instead you’ll follow a finely-tuned curriculum that encourages interactive learning and teamwork.

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina
On-campus or online: On-campus attendance is required
Tuition: $23,460 total for in-state students, $43,466 total for out-of-state students
Concentrations: None

8. Georgia Institute of Technology

The Georgia Institute of Technology offers an MS in Analytics that combines statistics, operations research, computing and business to offer an interdisciplinary degree program for data scientists. It’s designed to equip data science students with the right skills to tackle business intelligence and decision making in an enterprise setting.

The MS program includes three tracks: analytical tools, business analytics and computational data analytics. You can choose between an on-campus program that can be completed in one year or an online degree program that is typically completed in one to two years. If you opt for the on-campus program, you’ll also be sent to a major analytics conference and receive in-person job counseling from professionals.

Location: Atlanta, Georgia
On-campus or online: On-campus and online programs available
Tuition: $1,206 per credit hour for in-state students, $1,665 per credit hour for out-of-state students; $275 per credit hour for the online program
Concentrations: Analytical tools, business analytics and computational data analytics

9. University of Oklahoma

The University of Oklahoma offers a master’s in data science and analytics through the Schools of Computer Science and Industrial and Systems Engineering. The course combines expertise and knowledge from both departments to teach students the right skills to “design and build tools to extract, assimilate and analyze data and the systems understanding to predict and enhance future performance.”

Full-time students can earn a degree in 14 months but there are also options for part-time students. The non-thesis degree path requires nine electives, 13 hours of courses on top of the required 20 and four hours of an engineering practicum course. The thesis degree path requires three electives on top of the required 20 core electives, one hour of engineering practicum and six hours spent on a research project.

Location: Norman, Oklahoma
On-campus or online: On campus, online and hybrid options available
Tuition: $30,000 per semester, on average
Concentrations: None

10. University of Iowa

The University of Iowa offers its Master’s in Business Analytics through the Tippie College of Business. This degree will give you the skills to analyze raw data, deliver insightful reports and to use that data to make business decisions. The course focuses on giving students the skillsets to apply descriptive, predictive and prescriptive analytics in real-world settings.   

The program consists of 10 courses, and you can participate part-time off campus at a flexible pace or full-time on campus, completing the degree in three semesters. To earn your master’s degree, you’ll need to pass all 10 courses, but once you pass the first five, you will earn a certificate.

Location: Full-time: Iowa City, Iowa; part-time: Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Davenport, Iowa

On-campus or online: On-campus attendance required
Tuition: $10,457 per semester for full-time, in-state students, $16,860 for full-time, out-of-state students; $19,950 for the full 10-course program, regardless of residency
Concentrations: None

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