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

If you’re considering an online program to complete your master’s in data science degree, you can take comfort that the curriculum offered will provide you with the same quality education that you would receive with a traditional on-campus schedule. Unlike on-campus programs, pursuing your degree online allows you the attendance flexibility to still hold down a full-time job or handle household responsibilities. When choosing your distance learning institution, make sure to compare different master’s in data science programs to ensure you select the one that is the closest match to your professional goals and personal needs.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Data Science

Cybersecurity Allows students to explore data science applications as solutions to internet security risks. The focus for this concentration is the privacy and security of data that has been collected. Data engineer, information security analyst in an office setting with a company or government agency
Health Analytics Learn how to apply data science concepts to improve the efficiency of the health care system and the care provided to patients. Skills will revolve around gathering health data to better understand health processes and using it to give providers more targeted treatment options. Data management professional, data engineer in a health care facility office setting
Financial and Business Analytics Prepares students to work with and develop the tools needed to analyze the growing volume of available data for businesses and organizations to minimize risk and aid in decision-making. Data management professional, data engineer, business analyst in a traditional office setting for a business or corporation
Big Data Provides students with the tools they need to work with large volumes of data. Graduates will know how to work with complex algorithms to gather, manage and analyze their data sets. Data management professional, data engineer in a traditional office setting
Physics Offers traditional data science training with a focus on how to apply those skills to physics research topics that are data-intensive. Data management professional, data engineer in a traditional office setting in an educational institute or research center
Natural Language Processing Focuses on building the skills necessary to create machine-learning models designed to process or produce data through natural language text. This is primarily useful in the study and development of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to improve interaction between humans and computers. AI software developer, data engineer, data management professional, machine learning researcher in a traditional office setting in a research facility

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Data Science

There are many factors that will affect the curriculum in the program you choose, including the distance learning institution that offers the program and the concentration you pursue. When trying to narrow down your list of potential schools, look for a program that offers a concentration and courses that will help you achieve your professional goals. 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 included in the online program.

Although courses will vary between programs, there are some that are common in most educational institutions. A few examples of 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 that data with others.
Web Analytics for Business Analyze website data to influence business decisions and help improve marketing strategies and the positive impact of the company’s online presence.
Big Data Learn about the massive data cache gathered through internet use and how to process and analyze that data through large-scale applications to help businesses and organizations leverage it for improved business practices.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Data Science?

To complete an online master’s in data science program, students should expect to work through 30-32 credit hours. Most programs are designed to be completed within one to three years, but there are factors that can change the time line. Choosing an accelerated program can potentially cut completion time down to just one year but requires a heavier course load that may not work for those who have other obligations. A part-time schedule will slow down the process but could be the answer for students with little spare time.

Choosing a program with asynchronous coursework lets you work at your own pace without a defined time line to complete classes. Synchronous programs require you to participate along with your classmates at designated times and prevents you from working ahead of your group.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Data Science Prepares For

IBM Watson IoT Data Science Certification Choosing a master’s in data science program with a natural language processing concentration will give you the knowledge you need to obtain the IBM Watson IoT Data Science Certification. This certification, developed by IBM, also requires completion of three certification courses offered through the OfCourse.me website.
Certified Analytics Professional Certification The CAP certification was created to identify analytics professionals who meet educational and experience standards, have mastered the skills required to be successful and commit to the CAP code of ethics. The exam must be taken at one of CAP’s computer-based testing centers.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Data Science

To ensure the curriculum you choose will provide you with the quality education you need to be successful in your field, verify whether the program is accredited by one of major accrediting agencies. National agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education, offer accreditation to programs that meet general national standards. Regional agencies, such as the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, will go a step further and increase the likelihood your credits can be transferred to other educational institutes in the region.

Because accreditation guarantees the integrity of the curriculum you complete, some certifications and licensing are dependent on your decision to earn your degree through an accredited school. Some employers may even require this to ensure your education meets the standard of knowledge they require.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Data Science Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

With the potential of big data being realized, the demand for professionals with a data science degree is projected to increase faster than average according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is good news for anyone pursuing a data science graduate degree because it helps make a resume stand out against candidates with a bachelor’s degree. Depending on the career path you choose, having a master’s degree may even be required to obtain an entry-level position. Those who have in interest in becoming a statistician will need to complete their online master’s in data science program to have a real shot. The additional education can also increase your negotiating power when you do land a position, which could translate into a more desirable schedule, better benefits or the opportunity to work on the projects that interest you.

Expected Salary

Along with benefits and intangible perks, your salary can receive a boost with the completion of an online master’s in data science program. If you look at the salary ranges on the table below, you can see the salary potential for positions available to someone who holds a master’s degree.

Management Analyst $45,275-$98,217
Senior Business Analyst $61,543-$112,141
Data Scientist, IT $63,483-$128,630
Director of Analytics $83,343-$169,764

Although some of these positions can be filled by someone with a bachelor’s degree, the senior positions are typically reserved for those with more education and experience. Looking at the following chart, it’s easy to see the wide difference in salary for an entry-level position versus one at the senior level.

Career Opportunities

A graduate degree in data science provides an opportunity for multiple career paths. Many positions rely on the same skill set so professionals have the ability to work within different industries if they choose.

Management Analyst A management analyst gathers and analyses data within an organization to recommend changes that will improve efficiency and profitability and increase marketing effectiveness. $82,450 per year 14%
Operations Research Analysts The operations research analyst gathers and analyzes relevant data to help organizations find solutions to company problems. $87,020 per year 11%
Database Administrator A database administrator is in charge of the storage and organization of data and is responsible for allowing access by authorized users without sacrificing the privacy and security of the data collected. $81,390 per year 27%
Statistician Statisticians use collected data to generate statistical data in an effort to solve business issues using mathematical techniques and theories. $84,760 per year 33%

Professional Organizations

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

Data Science Association: This organization offers its members access to industry-related resources and hosts several events that encourage 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

Despite the savings found in choosing an online master’s in data science program rather than a traditional on-campus program, some students may find themselves in need of financial aid. Filling out the Federal Application for Free Student Aid (FAFSA) should be the first step in seeking financial assistance to find out if you are eligible for any federally funded grants or loans. If additional aid is needed, scholarships and private loans may be enough to cover your expenses. Start with the resources below if you are looking for help to pay for your graduate degree.



Scholarships Details
Lynda Baboyian Memorial Scholarship Award: $2,000

Deadline: May 1

Eligibility: Open to students enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate data science program at a U.S. university or college with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

Analytics Society Data Analytics Scholarship Award: $3,000

Deadline: February 17

Eligibility: Open to students enrolled full-time in a data science/analytics undergraduate or graduate program at an accredited university. Students must be over the age of 18 and U.S. citizens/permanent residents.

Charlie Corr Memorial Scholarship Award: $2,000

Deadline: May 1

Eligibility: Open to students attending an accredited university, full-time, majoring in the field of data science/computer science. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA and professional recommendations.

Wells Fargo Campus Analytics Challenge Award: $1,000-$2,000

Deadline: October 15

Eligibility: Open to students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in data science or analytics, who submit a project and required documentation.