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

Online master’s in data science programs offer the same quality education as in a traditional on-campus format. Also, the flexibility of online programs makes it much easier to hold down a full-time job or handle household responsibilities. When choosing your distance learning institution, you should compare different master’s in data science programs to ensure you select the one that best fits your professional goals and personal needs.

Available concentrations

If you’re interested in a particular aspect of data science, look for a program that allows you to focus your studies on that specialty. Some of the most common concentration options for a master’s in data science include:

  • Cybersecurity: The focus for this concentration is the privacy and security of collected data. Courses will cover how to use data science to address internet security risks.
  • Health Analytics: Learn how to apply data science concepts to improve the efficiency of the healthcare system and the care provided to patients. Courses cover gathering data to understand health processes better and using it to give providers more targeted treatment options.
  • Financial and Business Analytics: This concentration prepares students to help organizations use data to minimize risk and improve decision-making.
  • Big Data: Learn how to work with large volumes of data. Graduates prepare to use complex algorithms to gather, manage, and analyze data sets.
  • Physics: Receive traditional data science training focusing on how to apply these skills to physics research topics that are data-intensive.
  • Natural Language Processing: This concentration focuses on building the skills to create machine-learning models for natural language processing, which is primarily useful in the study and development of artificial intelligence technologies.

Common degree curriculum

Many factors will affect the curriculum in the program you choose, including the distance learning institution that offers the program and the concentration you pursue. If the school is some distance away and you don’t plan on relocating, check to ensure there are no on-campus lectures or labs required for the online program.

Although curriculum requirements vary, some courses are common in most master’s in data science programs. A few examples of popular courses you might see include:

  • Data Visualization: Discover how to conceptualize large data sets using visual tools such as graphs or charts and use these tools to share findings with others.
  • Web Analytics for Business: Analyze website data to influence business decisions and help improve marketing strategies.
  • Big Data: Learn about the massive amount of data produced through internet use and how to process and analyze this data.

Certification and license preparation

In addition to a master’s in data science, you should consider earning professional certifications to enhance your credentials further, which helps you access more job opportunities and advance to higher-paying positions.

  • IBM Advanced Data Science Specialization: Choosing a master’s in data science program with a natural language processing concentration gives you the necessary knowledge to obtain the IBM Advanced Data Science Specialization. This certification requires the completion of four courses offered through the Coursera learning platform.
  • Certified Analytics Professional: The CAP certification was created to identify analytics professionals who meet educational and experience standards, have mastered the skills required to be successful in this field, and commit to the CAP code of ethics. Students must take the exam for this certification at one of Kryterion’s computer-based testing centers or via an online proctored session at your home.

Program accreditation

Only apply to schools 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 the faculty and curriculum of postsecondary education institutions to ensure they offer students a high-quality academic experience. If your school doesn’t have regional accreditation, you may also be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

Because accreditation guarantees the integrity of the curriculum you complete, some certifications and licenses depend on your decision to earn your degree through an accredited school. Some employers may even require this to verify that your education meets the required knowledge standard.

Program completion timeframe

Online master’s in data science programs usually require 30 to 32 credit hours and take one to three years to complete, but some factors can change the timeline. Choosing an accelerated program can potentially cut completion time to just one year, but this format requires a heavier course load that may not work for those with other obligations. A part-time schedule will slow the process but could be the answer for students with little spare time.

Choosing a program with asynchronous courses lets you work at your own pace, which may allow you to complete your program faster. Synchronous programs require you to participate with your classmates at designated times and prevent you from working ahead of your group.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Data Science Graduates

Data science is an excellent career choice for anyone interested in earning a high income. Most jobs in this field offer salaries of at least $80,000, and once you’ve gained some experience, you may very well be able to earn six figures.

As high as the salaries are for this career path, the projected job growth is even more impressive. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of jobs in the United States is expected to grow by 3% over the next decade. Most data science jobs are expected to grow much faster than that. For example, the number of positions for statisticians is projected to grow by 32% — more than ten times the overall average.

Some occupations in this field, such as statistician, require a master’s degree for entry-level positions. Others only require a bachelor’s, but in these cases, having a master’s will improve your odds of getting job offers and promotions.

Job Title Job Description Median Yearly Salary Projected Growth Rate (2022 – 2032)
Management Analyst A management analyst collects and interprets data to recommend changes that will improve the overall efficiency of an organization. $95,290 10%
Operations Research Analyst Operations research analysts use statistics to help organizations find solutions to their problems. They identify problems, collect and analyze data, and use reports and presentations to share their findings. $85,720 23%
Database Administrator Database administrators are in charge of the storage and organization of data. They are responsible for allowing access by authorized users without sacrificing data privacy or security. $112,120 8%
Statistician Statisticians use advanced mathematical methods to help their employers solve problems. To collect data, they may be responsible for conducting surveys, questionnaires, or opinion polls. They may also identify relationships and trends in collected data, use statistical software to create data visualizations, and build models for making predictions. $98,920 32%

Professional organizations

Professional organizations offer data science majors the opportunity to network with others in their field and stay current on the latest news and trends. Some may even provide educational opportunities or specialized certifications. Here are a couple of organizations data science graduates should look into:

  • Data Science Association: This organization offers its members industry-related resources and hosts several events encouraging in-person networking.
  • American Statistical Association: Becoming a member of the ASA gives professionals access to several industry publications, job postings, members-only discounts, and educational opportunities.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Data Science Degree

Despite the savings found in choosing an online master’s in data science program rather than a traditional on-campus program, some students may still need financial aid. Filling out the Federal Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA) should be the first step in seeking financial assistance, as this determines whether you are eligible for any federally funded grants or loans. If additional aid is needed, private scholarships and loans may be enough to cover your expenses.

Student Finance Resources and Guides

Many different organizations offer financing options for graduate students, and it can take quite a bit of research to discover all of the opportunities you may qualify for. Start with the resources below if you need help paying for your master’s in data science degree.

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Interested in a degree?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.