The 10 Best Master’s In Data Science Programs in the US

The term “data science” can refer to numerous fields of study. It is anything from old-fashioned statistics compiled and analyzed through new technologies, to computer science filtered through a results-oriented lens.

Anyone interested in coding, information analysis, pattern recognition and prediction, and algorithm creation certainly falls within the data science student or researcher category.

These days, researchers in almost any discipline need an understanding of data science. The vast amounts of information now available through electronic data mining cast new light on nearly all branches of study.

While obvious uses present themselves for medical research, advertising and business context, and scientific studies, data analysis transforms humanities research as well, in contexts like history and linguistics.

Not everyone studying data science plans to be a coder, and strategizing social media advertising doesn’t define every data mining venture. 

Like any new discipline, data science gives scholars a chance to improve the world if applied with critical reasoning and contextual understanding.

The interdisciplinary field of data science still grows in scope and meaning. Each of the following schools sets the parameters differently, and each has its own nomenclature.

Within some schools, more than one department offers coursework related to data science. Computer science departments, statistics programs, and information and library science departments can provide separate degree paths, or sometimes a multidisciplinary degree program overlaps several schools or departments.

For several years running, Glassdoor market research has named Data Scientist as one of the top three jobs in America. All of these programs look to the future, understanding that the data we can now collect provides a new opportunity for reflection, for knowledge, and for creating a better world.

Here are our picks for 10 of the best Master’s in Data Science programs in the US.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Champaign, IL)

Beyond My Ken, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, CC BY-SA 4.0

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign offers data science studies within the school’s Department of Statistics, housed in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences. 

This department’s majors and graduate degrees teach students how to model, summarize, compute, and analyze data, tools useful within any scholarly context.

The department’s Master of Science in Statistics follows a traditional statistics course of study, but the Master of Science Concentration in Analytics expands the traditional program with coursework in computational and data analytics. 

Students learn to build models with large datasets, as well as techniques for data analysis and management.

Data science and Big Data analytics play a large role in the university’s research profile. The faculty at Illinois currently pursue topics including functional image analysis in medical contexts, climate prediction, and network analysis, among others.

The campus hosts the State Farm Research and Development Center, where Illinois’  data science students can intern for real-word job experience in managing data, data mining, modeling, and other data science-related skill areas. 

The Center also offers financial assistance for graduate students in data science, alongside other program-based scholarship and funding opportunities.

Illinois also offers an online Master of Computer Science in Data Science, a program joining computer science, statistics, and the School of Information Science

Cloud computing, data mining, computer programming, and numerical analysis factor into the program’s coursework.

The University of Illinois’ program seeks to prepare students for careers in the growing field of data science and statistics, anticipating an increase of 34% in job outlook over the next decade. 

UIUC ranks in the top ten schools in the country for undergraduate programs in data science, and its graduate program comes in at number one, according to Discover Data Science, specifically for its online Master of Computer Science in Data Science joint degree.

University of Maryland, College Park (College Park, MD)

University of Maryland
Bgervais, UMD Hornbake plaza, CC BY-SA 3.0

The University of Maryland offers a Master of Professional Studies in Data Science and Analytics, a Master of Machine Learning, and professional certificate programs in data science and digital studies. 

All of the data science programs at Maryland can be pursued on campus or online.

The Data Science and Analytics program at Maryland encompasses statistics skills, machine learning (non-traditional distributional model-based statistics), computer science and programming, and a component consisting of professional applications. 

Students complete the program with a capstone project designing their own data research.

The Machine Learning program readies students to become information engineers or data scientists. This program centers on algorithms and models for making predictions based on data; students learn how to create these systems in practical contexts, including security, biology, marketing, and social networking, among other areas.

Maryland’s Science Academy administers both Master’s programs, allowing working professionals to complete these advanced degrees. The Academy runs a bootcamp in quantum computing as well.

For an article exploring the new field of data science, U.S. News turned to the department at the University of Maryland for expert advice.

Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)

Georgia Tech
Davidhermanns, Kessler Campanile, Georgia Tech, CC BY-SA 4.0

Several paths exist to study data science at Georgia Institute of Technology’s Institute for Data Engineering and Science. The IDEaS offers through the College of Engineering an MS in Analytics and, in cooperation with the Scheller College of Business, an MS in Quantitative Finance.   

Short courses, workshops, and boot camps in data science and analytics offer students across many departments the opportunity to introduce data science to their studies.

One of Georgia Tech’s most important features for data science students: Georgia Tech hosts the South Big Data Hub, offering numerous research and collaboration opportunities for its students. 

Implemented by the National Science Foundation and managed by Georgia Tech and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the South Big Data Hub actively pursues data solutions in areas like environment and infrastructure, community health issues, manufacturing, and education.

IDEaS coordinates collaboration between area universities, the Center for Disease Control, and civic and state organizations centered on using data science tools like high-performance computing and machine learning.

The Center for High Performance Computing and the Transdisciplinary Research Institute for Advancing Data Science are also located at Georgia Tech. 

TRIAD includes faculty from mathematics and several branches of engineering at GT working toward research program structures to support advancements in numerous fields.

Columbia University (New York, NY)

Columbia University
Beyond My Ken, Columbia University, CC BY-SA 4.0

While many universities offer data science programs as interdisciplinary programs spanning more than one department, Columbia University established its Data Science Institute in 2012, making Columbia a leader in data science education.

Columbia’s Data Science Institute conveys the excitement of creating a new discipline whose parameters continue to realign. 

The university consolidated the resources of its acclaimed computer science, statistics, and industrial engineering programs to fortify the mission of the Data Science Institute. Courses in computation, probability, optimization, and modeling are part of the program.

The institute offers an M.S. in data science and a professional certificate program, as well as a Ph.D. specialization in data science within related Ph.D. programs like applied mathematics or statistics. 

Rather than a thesis, students complete capstone projects at the end of their coursework, applying the analytical and predictive methods in real-world situations.

Columbia’s Industry Affiliates Program connects with businesses to create relationships, helping the program and its industry partners. 

The DSI provides its services to the campus community as well, offering data analysis services to researchers on campus who need help extracting meaning from their data sets. 

Columbia’s undergraduate data science program ranks in the top ten nationally

Qualified students can apply for the JPMorgan Columbia University Data Science Institute Master’s Diversity Fellowship Award Program, which provides educational funding for full-time study and living expenses for historically underserved populations.

University of Rochester (Rochester, NY)

University of Rochester
Public domain photo by tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Rochester offers Master’s degree and advanced certificate tracks through its Goergen Institute for Data Science. The institute conducts research in health analytics and artificial intelligence, along with studying the tools and methodology of data science itself.

Students interested in a Data Science Master’s but without a lot of computer science undergraduate coursework can begin the program at GIDS by enrolling in their optional Summer Bridging course. The basic Master’s course of study can be completed in two to three full-time semesters.

During the program’s final semester, students begin envisioning their professional futures during a practicum assignment. 

Assigned to a problem-solving team of other Master’s candidates, students complete a project focused on solving a real-world problem for the sponsoring partner organization

A final presentation on the practicum assignment serves as the thesis.

Graduates of the program go on to internships and to careers at companies from Google to Wegmans Food Market as data analysts, researchers, and project managers. 

Having participated in its founding, the University of Rochester sends many graduates to work with the Rochester Data Science Consortium, researching solutions for many kinds of industries.

New York University (New York, NY)

New York University’s selective, streamlined Master of Science in Data Science centers on discovery: the program’s mission roots in finding new methods and tools to sort and make meaningful the massive amounts of data to which the world now has access.

NYU’s Center for Data Studies offers a couple of ways to approach the Master’s path of study. All students learn through real-world projects, collecting and analyzing data to solve specific problems. Capstone projects synthesize the skills and experience students acquire during their coursework.

Tracks allow students to choose coursework paths in their areas of career interest. The Industry Concentration path allows students to select coursework specific to the career they plan to pursue

This avenue includes a first-year internship, making it a practical choice for students who already know exactly how they’ll be applying their degrees.

With one of the only Data Science PhD programs in the country, many Fellows and Postdoctoral researchers, and a host of cross-disciplinary projects, the Center for Data Science offers students a chance to collaborate on the most innovative work happening in the field.

The career services arm of the Center organizes events and recruits for top companies among students working in the program. The Summer Research Initiative offers students a chance to participate in funded projects in a number of data science fields.

Faculty from the CDS host the Brave New World podcast, an ongoing examination of the ways data science affects our daily lives, our decision-making, and our perceptions of our world. 

Students interested in studying data science can also listen to the center’s admissions podcast to understand what graduate study in data science really looks like.

Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)

Carnegie Mellon adopts an interdisciplinary model for its Data Science graduate programs. Multiple Carnegie Mellon schools—including the Heinz College School of Information Systems and various institutes within the School of Computer Science—offer a range of Master’s degrees in specific kinds of data science.

Prospective students apply through the individual departments and schools. Carnegie Mellon’s approach allows the university to provide much more industry-specific data science degrees. 

Programs like CM’s Master of Science in Software Management, developed at the university’s Silicon Valley campus, the Integrated Innovation Institute, represents some of the industry’s most dynamic study and research.

The university’s Entertainment Technology Center offers a Master of Entertainment Technology, a new and so far unique degree program encompassing the skills needed to deliver narrative in new media contexts.

Location, degree completion times, and application requirements vary from program to program. From consulting work to game design, Carnegie Mellon prepares students for data-driven careers in numerous fields.

University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

UC Berkeley
Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

The University of California at Berkeley offers data science-affiliated graduate programs through multiple departments, most prominently through the School of Information. Its scope encompasses all ways we interact with data: academic, scientific, civic, cultural, corporate, and other uses.

The Master of Information Management and Systems (MIMS) takes place on campus; three other Master’s programs can be completed online. 

The Master of Information and Data Science, 5th Year Master of Information and Data Science, and Master of Information and Cybersecurity offer multidisciplinary curriculum and faculty from the professional world.

The MIDS program provides a comprehensive curriculum, grounding students in a broader base of data science than many programs eager to move directly to industry-specific coursework. Critical thinking skills and ethics round out a view of data use across multiple disciplines.

Berkeley also offers a Cybersecurity-focused online Master’s degree. Graduates can move on to work in systems architecture or management, filling the increasing industry need for security expertise.

The program offers a few Fellowships for Data Science students. Length of study can be adjusted to fit a student’s work and life schedule in either accelerated, standard, or decelerated.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)

Rather than offering a traditional slate of degree programs, the Statistics and Data Science Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology serves as a research and organizational hub for data science-related study throughout the university. 

MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society hosts research projects, events, visiting and permanent faculty all focused on expanding the practical and academic uses and definitions of data science.

MIT offers the MicroMasters Program in Statistics and Data Science. Four MIT courses, taken online, provide a data science foundation for further study.

Seven different graduate programs accept MIT’s Micromasters as credit toward completing a full Master’s degree. 

While the program does not grant a degree, its foundations can add a data science component to graduate study in multiple disciplines.

The Sloan School of Business at MIT offers a Master’s in Business Analytics, focused on data science in a business context. 

Students can also study machine learning, deep learning, prediction, and statistics in a 10-week Data Science and Machine Learning online program.

Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Stanford offers multiple Master’s degrees with data science components. 

Its Data Science Institute coordinates various kinds of research on and off Stanford’s campus, engages Post-Doctoral Fellows for collaboration, and administers summer programs in data science practices.

The Scholars program brings together students using data science in programs throughout the university, funding their studies and creating a collaborative community. 

Members of the Data Science cohort pursue Master’s degrees within their respective disciplines while shaping the new field of data science.

Stanford Data Science partners with industry to provide solutions to societal problems using the built-in intellectual resource of its innovative faculty, researchers, and students involved with Data Science at Stanford.

All students at Stanford can approach data science through workshops through Stanford’s library, Stanford’s Research Computing Center, and programs through the school’s IT technology training.

Stanford envisions the need for data science across academic disciplines, and its multidisciplinary, open program places data science tools in all students’ hands.

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