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Students pursuing an online master’s in data science will learn more about a particular branch of computer science that plays an increasingly important role in developing software-based solutions to consumer problems. These programs typically range between 36 to 45 credit hours. Full-time students can complete most of these programs within two years, and select accelerated programs allow students to complete all their coursework within one year.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that the average cost of tuition for a graduate degree is $20,513 per year. After graduation, students will qualify for data scientist positions and can expect an average salary of $103,500 per year.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Data Science Program

Choose your area of study

This degree is usually offered as a Master of Science (MS) in data science. Depending on the online master’s in data science program students select, they may be able to choose a specific area of study to specialize in. These specialized concentrations may include machine learning, data engineering, and business analytics. All programs provide a strong foundation in data science, and the specialty courses help students customize their education while preparing for specific jobs after graduation.

If students have a solid idea of what they would like to do with their master’s degree after graduation, they are encouraged to choose a school offering the exact area of study that will best prepare them for this career.

Research schools and programs

Students are often surprised to discover just how many online master’s in data science programs are available, so it’s crucial for them to quickly determine how they will narrow down the list of prospective schools.

You should only consider institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Another important factor is cost, as most students have a budget that will inevitably preclude applying for the most expensive programs. Beyond accreditation status and the price, students may wish to rule out schools that don’t offer enough of a support system for remote learners.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. For example, some online master’s in data science programs no longer require students to submit GRE scores as part of their application, while others still have this as a major requirement. Be sure to review each application carefully to discover whether it requires the submission of these test scores and the minimum score requirements for the different sections. Students who haven’t taken the GRE before should also consider application deadlines, as it may take up to three months to study for the exam and up to 15 days to receive test results.

Review other potential application requirements, such as undergraduate transcripts, cover letters, personal statements, and letters of recommendation. Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

With the list of schools narrowed down, students must determine which online master’s in data science programs they will apply to.

Cost should still be a primary consideration, and students are encouraged to only apply to programs they can afford. Students may also explore the job placement rate of specific programs, which can help them assess their odds of getting their ideal job. It is also helpful to research which professors are teaching courses in the program, as professors with solid connections to the data science field can help students find great jobs after graduation.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Are you only interested in 100% online programs, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a few in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Every student who is worried about how they will pay for their online master’s in data science should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each academic year while they are in school. By filling out this application, most students automatically qualify for federal student loans, and the FAFSA is sometimes required to obtain grants and certain scholarships.

Students should also call the financial aid department of any schools they’re interested in, as the financial aid counselors may have insight into special aid available to graduate students through either the school or the state. Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Data Science Programs

Best Master's in Data Science Programs

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

University of Wisconsin

Johns Hopkins Engineering for Professionals

University of California, Los Angeles

University of California at Berkeley

University of Maryland

Northwestern School of Professional Studies

University of Michigan

University of Houston

Colorado State University

University of Southern California

Rutgers University

Tufts University

University of Virginia

University of California Riverside

The University of Texas at Austin

Indiana University Bloomington

Villanova University

Syracuse University

Southern Methodist University

Bay Path University

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Clemson University

Illinois Institute of Technology

Oklahoma State University

Texas Tech University

University of Missouri

DePaul University

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Lewis University

University of Michigan - Dearborn

Regis University

Rice University

Eastern University

Stevens Institute of Technology

Pace University

Boston University

University of Notre Dame

Brandeis University

University of Denver

Harvard University

Rochester Institute of Technology

Carnegie Mellon University

Drexel University

Elmhurst College

Merrimack College

University of San Diego

Saint Mary’s College

Northeastern University

Penn State World Campus

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How We Rank Schools

This list features some of the best online master’s in data science programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online master’s in data science programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Data Science Program?

An online master’s in data science program helps students study large data sets and analyze them for accurate insights. Many courses are designed with a theory-based approach that helps students learn more about the different skill sets that go into data science. For example, coursework typically includes machine learning, statistics, data visualization, and programming. Depending on the program, a brief residency may be required that allows students to practice these skills and demonstrate what they have learned in a campus setting.

Exactly how long this program takes depends on whether it is a standard or an accelerated program and whether the student can attend full-time or only part-time. Full-time students can complete standard programs in two years and accelerated programs in one year. Meanwhile, part-time students won’t be able to keep up with accelerated programs, and they’ll need three or more years to complete a standard program.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online master’s in data science degree program

  • Data Structures & Algorithms. This course helps students expand their existing programming knowledge by focusing on the fundamentals of algorithms and data structures. The coursework is typically designed around Python, and students must complete programming assignments in increasing complexity to demonstrate what they have learned.
  • Probability & Inference. This course helps build on students’ existing statistics knowledge while also serving as an introduction to essential concepts such as regression-based modeling, probability calculus, and hypothesis testing.
  • Regression & Predictive Modeling. While regression modeling is often an aspect of other coursework, it plays a central role in this class. The course introduces students to both the theoretical background of the topic and real-world examples of how invaluable this knowledge is for anyone hoping to achieve a leadership role in the industry.
  • Machine Learning. This course helps students learn more about machine learning by focusing on the heart of this growing field’s statistical concepts and core algorithms. Students will learn more about feature extraction, interpreting models, and how to apply skills such as classification and regression to machine learning development, analysis, and implementation.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Data Science?

Career outlook

In our data-driven world, the demand for professionals skilled in data analysis, interpretation, and decision-making has surged. An online master’s degree in data science equips individuals with the knowledge and expertise to navigate the vast sea of data, extract meaningful insights, and inform critical business decisions. Whether you are an IT professional wishing to specialize in data science or someone switching to this high-demand field, the career outlook is positive for graduates with an online master’s in data science.

Indeed, data science is at the forefront of the digital transformation, playing a pivotal and growing role in industries ranging from finance and healthcare to marketing and technology. Earning a master’s degree in this field opens the door to a wide array of career options, each focusing on different aspects of data analysis and interpretation, including the following:

  • Data scientist — Use data analysis and visualization methods to extract meaningful insights from data sets and present findings to others.
    • Median annual salary: $103,500
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 35%
    • New job openings projected: 17,700 annually
  • Mathematician or statistician — Use computational techniques to help organizations solve problems.
    • Median annual salary: $99,960
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 30%
    • New job openings projected: 3,500 annually
  • Management analyst — Advise organizations on how to increase revenue, reduce expenses, and improve efficiency.
    • Median annual salary: $95,290
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 10%
    • New job openings projected: 92,900 annually

Online Master’s in Data Science Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online master’s in data science degree program?

To apply to an online master’s in data science program, students must submit the application on the relevant university website. Students can apply directly from the site, and the site will specify whether additional paperwork is required. For example, students typically have to submit undergraduate transcripts and a cover letter, but they may also have to submit GRE scores, admissions essays, and letters of recommendation.

Any students who are worried about whether their application is complete should contact the admissions department, and the counselors there can answer any questions students may have about the matter.

How much does an online master’s in data science degree cost?

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of graduate school tuition is $20,513.

The exact cost students pay will depend on several factors, including whether the program is located at a private school (which is usually more expensive than a public school) and whether they will be an out-of-state student (public schools tend to charge out-of-state students much more than in-state students). The number of credits required will also affect the overall cost, with programs requiring more credits generally costing more than those requiring fewer credits.

How long does it take to earn an online master’s in data science degree?

Students who are pursuing their online master’s in data science on a full-time basis can usually earn their degree within two years, while part-time students may need up to five years.

Ultimately, each remote learner knows best how much time they can devote to their academic studies, and the most important thing is finding a reputable, affordable program that is also willing to work with the scheduling needs of its online learners.

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

Earning an online master’s degree in data science offers significant value for several reasons. Data science is in high demand across various industries, and professionals with data science expertise are sought after by employers. They often command highly competitive salaries due to their specialized skills and knowledge, which are essential for data-driven decision-making.

A master’s in data science opens doors to diverse career paths, allowing graduates to work in fields as varied as finance, healthcare, marketing, and technology. Data scientists play a pivotal role in shaping business strategies, marketing campaigns, product development, and more, making a significant impact on an organization’s success.

Earning your degree online can have benefits that make it a worthwhile choice for many students. Online education provides access to diverse course offerings from different institutions across the country, allowing you to choose a program that aligns with your academic and career interests. Most online programs offer a higher degree of flexibility than on-campus programs, making them a superior choice for students with other significant personal or professional responsibilities.

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