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The World Economic Forum reports that by 2020, humans generated 40 times more bytes of data than there are stars in the observable universe.

With the rate of data creation rising, companies need skilled professionals to capture, manage, and interpret this data.

With an online master's degree in data science, graduates qualify for lucrative, in-demand, data-related jobs, like database administrator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for database administrators to grow 9% between 2018 and 2028. These professionals also earn above-average salaries, making a median salary over $90,000 per year.

Top 10 Online Master's in Data Science 2020

#1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
#2 University of Virginia-Main Campus Charlottesville, VA
#3 Brandeis University Waltham, MA
#4 George Mason University Fairfax, VA
#5 DePaul University Chicago, IL
#6 Regis University Denver, CO
#7 Davenport University Grand Rapids, MI
#8 Austin Peay State University Clarksville, TN
#9 Western Governors University Salt Lake City, UT
#10 Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network Boston, MA

Table of Contents

This guide ranks the best online data science master's degrees to help students find the best programs for their individual needs.

Best Online Master’s in Data Science Programs

1
University of Southern California
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4

George Mason University 

Fairfax, VA

About this school

As Virginia's largest public research university, George Mason University serves more than 37,000 learners on campus and online. Mason Online, the university's online learning branch, offers more than 50 fully online and hybrid programs. Mason's online data science master's program ultimately awards a master of science in data analytics engineering.

The career-focused curriculum includes 30 credits, half of which come from required classes while the other half come from electives. Core courses include big data and information, principles of data management and mining, and a data analytics project.

Learners do not choose from concentrations but rather build personalized degree plans, with elective options in information representation, processing, and visualization; knowledge mining from big-data; and decision and risk analysis. The well-rounded curriculum prepares graduates to work as data scientists, analysts, or data engineers in any field. Students can earn this degree in two years. All coursework takes place online.

Mason accepts applications on a rolling basis. Candidates should hold bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited universities with GPAs of at least 3.0. Candidates with lower GPAs may apply with addendums that explain their lower grades. While Mason does not require any specific undergraduate experience, applicants should demonstrate strength in computer science and mathematics.

Graduation Rate
70%
5

DePaul University 

Chicago, IL

About this school

DePaul University is the largest Catholic university in the country, and the faculty focuses primarily on teaching, not research or publishing. Even with such a large community, DePaul maintains relatively small classe,s with an average size of 40 students. DePaul offers an online master of science in information systems with options for students who are interested in data science.

The curriculum for this program includes foundation courses, electives, and a capstone. Core required classes include systems analysis, organization modeling for digital transformation, and fundamentals of IT project management. Learners choose between six elective domains, which are similar to concentrations. Students who want to work in data science can choose between two elective domains: analytics-driven decision-making or data management.

The first option focuses on areas like data visualization and data analysis, which help leaders make decisions for their organizations. The data management option includes courses in data warehousing, database programming, and enterprise data management. All students complete the program with a capstone course, internship, or research project.

All foundational courses take place online. DePaul offers electives online during some terms and not others. Some electives only take place on the Chicago campus. Students should consult with academic advisors to make plans that work with their schedules.

DePaul offers four start dates per year with admissions deadlines in March, May, August, and December. Applicants should hold bachelor's degrees from regionally accredited universities with GPAs of at least 2.5.

Graduation Rate
72%
6

Regis University 

Denver, CO

About this school

This Jesuit, Catholic university offers online learning programs with accelerated and flexible coursework. Regis's online data science master's program combines data engineering and analytics. Learners explore data theory and complete projects that allow them to apply what they learn.

Students earn 18 credits from core courses, 12 credits from electives, and six from the required practicum in data science. Core courses include ethics, privacy, and social justice in data science; statistical methods and experimental design; and information technology research methods. Electives in subjects like artificial intelligence, visualization, and business intelligence allow students to prepare for their dream careers. Learners can use their elective and practicum requirements to earn the data engineering specialization.

Regis offers this degree with fully online courses, including the practicum requirements. Candidates can enroll in full- or part-time courses. Terms last eight weeks each, starting in January, March, May, July, August, and October each year. The accelerated schedule allows many learners to graduate within two years. Learners pay the same tuition prices regardless of residency.

Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees and GPAs of at least 3.0. If their bachelor's degrees are in an unrelated field, candidates should have relevant work experience. Prerequisites for the program include courses in statistical computing and Python programming, though Regis may waive these requirements for some applicants.

Graduation Rate
69%
7

Davenport University 

Grand Rapids, MI

About this school

Davenport University is a private, nonprofit university that opened in 1866, making it one of the oldest higher learning institutions in Michigan. Today, more than 7,000 learners attend Davenport through the school's 14 Michigan campuses and distance learning programs.

DU's online master's degree in data science is one of the few programs for both information technology professionals and business managers. The 30-credit curriculum includes courses in data mining, predictive modeling, and data visualization. In their final term, students complete capstone courses. Graduates are proficient in industry-standard software, including IBM SPSS Statistics, RStudio, and Tableau. Alumni can use their skills to advance in their existing careers or move into data-driven careers as data analysts, consultants, or managers.

The program delivers all coursework asynchronously with no in-person requirements. The recommended course sequence takes 30 months. Students take two classes during most 15-week terms and three classes during one term.

Candidates must hold either bachelor's degrees with GPAs of 2.75 or graduate degrees with GPAs of 3.0. They should have bachelor's degrees in one of the following areas: engineering, accounting, marketing, science, computer science, finance, math, or statistics.

Graduation Rate
49%
8

Austin Peay State University 

Clarksville, TN

About this school

This growing university recently added a doctoral program and experienced record enrollment rates in 2018. Despite its growth, Austin Peay State University maintains small class sizes with an average of 24 students. The master of science in computer science and quantitative methods is one of APSU's 19 master's programs.

Students in the program earn 33-36 credits. The curriculum includes three core classes: leadership and communication, probabilistic and statistical reasoning, and leadership for the scientist-manager. The concentration in data management and analysis makes this one of the best online data science master's programs. Students who choose this concentration take courses in database management concepts, data mining applications, and data science in python.

Learners can complete all requirements online or take courses on campus. Students also choose between full- and part-time enrollment, which allows them to graduate in two or three years, respectively. APSU also offers a professional science master's degree with the same concentration and online learning options.

Candidates must hold bachelor's degrees in any subject from accredited institutions. APSU requires applicants to have GPAs of at least 2.5 and to submit official transcripts. Although the school does not require GRE scores, candidates may submit them. Each applicant must send verification of United States residency, a resume with three professional or academic references, and a personal essay.

Graduation Rate
41%
9

Western Governors University 

Salt Lake City, UT

About this school

In 1997, a group of governors established WGU with the mission of helping working adults earn degrees. WGU now provides online education for working professionals. WGU's master of science in data analytics program teaches learners to mine, map, and manage data.

WGU created the curriculum for its online data science master's program in conjunction with the Information Technology Program Council. The curriculum includes courses in data mining and analytics, R for data analysts, and advanced data visualization. Learners also complete a capstone project in data analytics. Graduates qualify to sit for the SAS Certified Statistical Business Analyst Using SAS 9 and the SAS Certified Base Programmer for SAS 9 Credential exams.

WGU's competency-based learning model allows students to test out of classes if they know about the subject already. Learning is not only asynchronous but also self-paced. Students can review materials and complete the comprehensive exams on their own time. Most graduates complete this program in 18 months. Learners pay flat-rate tuition based on six-month enrollment terms.

New students can begin on the first day of any month. Applicants must hold bachelor's degrees in related areas, hold Udacity degrees in data analytics, have recent relevant certifications, or demonstrate at least three years of relevant experience.

Graduation Rate
29%
10

Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network 

Boston, MA

About this school

Northeastern University partners with more than 3,000 corporations to provide more than 4,000 experiential learning opportunities for online graduate students through its Lifelong Learning Network. The private, nonprofit university maintains connections around the world to help learners and alumni advance their careers. The school's online master of professional studies in informatics is one of the many programs that allow learners to work on real-world projects for school credit.

This online master's degree in data science includes five general credit courses in subjects like foundations of informatics, database management systems, and information technology project management. Students also choose between six concentrations: information security management, cloud computing application and management, geographic information systems, human-centered informatics, leading and managing technical projects, and analytics.

Students must complete informatics capstone courses or experiential learning projects at the end of their degrees. Experiential learning projects can take place online through virtual collaboration or through full-time work. Graduates are prepared to work in management roles in fields such as healthcare, finance, and communications. Learners choose between full- and part-time enrollment, and they can complete the program in 18-36 months.

Northeastern offers four start dates each year. While the school accepts applications on a rolling basis, learners should send all required documents at least 10 days before their desired terms start. Each candidate should submit a statement of purpose, transcripts, a professional resume, and two letters of recommendation.

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End of list, bravo!

Ranking Methodology

Online Master’s in Data Science Programs Ranking Guidelines

Best Online Programs - Master’s in Data Science

We selected these accredited Data Science programs based on the quality of the program, types of courses provided, faculty strength, school awards, rankings and reputation, including the reputation for providing online degree programs.

What Is Data Science?

Data science is an emerging, interdisciplinary field that incorporates aspects of mathematics, statistics, analytics, software, computer technology and machine learning. Because of its potential for maximizing systems efficiency (and, in turn, maximizing profits), data scientists, database analysts, and database administrators are lately in high–demand by everyone from federal agencies to universities to private corporations. To provide a concise definition of a massive topic: data science examines patterns and trends in all sorts of data to solve complex problems, answer pressing questions, untangle logistical knots, and mitigate impending unseen disasters.

What is Data Analytics?

A component of data science, data analytics is the practice of analyzing and drawing conclusions through modeling, inspecting, and transforming data sets. Data science professionals use data analytics as a way of both posing and answering questions, with a wide array of goals. For example, data analytics can be used to solve logistical problems for international businesses, to plan public health initiatives for national governments, and determine the best SEO practices for generating traffic for a website (like in the case of Google analytics). Wherever it is applied, data analytics is part of the new frontier of applied sciences.

What is Big Data?

Big data is a sub–field of data science that focuses specifically on systematically applying data analytics methods to massive data sets. The clue is in the name; these data sets are too big to be handled by traditional data–processing software. Major international corporations, governments, and software and technology firms rely on talented data science professionals to make sense of big data to solve problems and, in many cases, increase efficiency to make more money. With the rise of social media, big data has become a household name, and big data analytics a more common profession.

How Do You Choose an Online Master's in Data Science Program?

Students pursuing their online master's in data science balance theory and fundamentals with industry-relevant projects and applications. Learners explore data analytics and data science concepts while maintaining ethical standards in data management. Upon graduating, students can create infographics and visualizations to explain data, identify patterns and trends in data, and use data to find new revenue sources to define business strategies. Students study a variety of important topics, including database administration, data warehousing design, data analytics, big data, and technical foundations.

Students study a variety of important topics, including database administration, data warehousing design, data analytics, big data, and technical foundations.

Some data science programs allow students to choose a concentration and tailor their degree to meet their interests. While every data science program differs, each provides students with a solid skill set and knowledge base to thrive in the field. Some programs require students to complete a thesis, final project, or other on–campus component prior to graduation.

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Data Science Program?

Students in an online master's in data science program explore topics that prepare them for successful careers. Learners study different aspects of data science, including data analytics, administration, data warehousing design, database design, implementing databases, and web–enabled information systems. Some programs place more emphasis on business and management, while some focus more on the technical and scientific aspects of the field. While course topics vary by program, students can examine key components in their area of interest.

Curriculum for a Master's in Data Science Degree Programs

Database Administration

The database administration course introduces students to the roles, responsibilities, critical knowledge, and skills necessary for database administrators.

Data Analytics

Focused on investigating and understanding data, data analytics courses develop fundamental concepts for students who anticipate working in big data, including modeling, mining, hypothesizing, transforming, and cleaning data.

Data Warehousing Design

Focusing on the implementation of data warehouses, the data warehousing design course teaches students fundamental concepts, including record of source, metadata, granularity, and partitioning. Students learn how data warehousing can support various roles in the field.

Database Design and Implementation

Focusing on the relational database model and logical, conceptual, and physical phases of database development and design, the database design and implementation course allows students to discover emerging data warehouse technologies.

Web Enabled Information Systems

Introducing the design of web–enabled information systems and reviewing programming principles, the web–enabled information systems course teaches students about object–oriented principles. Students learn about web applications, exploitation of technology, and data retention and integrity.

Technical Foundations

Providing students with a substantive review of technology, the technical foundations course reviews networking technology, hardware, databases, applications, and information services. Students learn about data in transit, data at rest, and data being processed.

Data Science Jobs

Graduates of online master's in data science degree programs can find work in many lucrative careers. Most graduates pursue careers as database administrators or managers, finding employment in a variety of work environments, but a wide selection of data scientist jobs exist.

Database Administrator

Database administrators use specialized software to organize and store data, including customer shipping records and financial information. Database administrator jobs require these professionals to backup and restore data to prevent loss. Database administrators work in computer systems design, insurance, data processing, and educational services.

Median Annual Salary

$90,070

Projected Growth Rate

9%

Mathematicians and Statisticians

Mathematicians and statisticians gather data, analyze it for patterns, and crunch numbers as a way of solving problems, answering questions, and predicting future goals and needs. They use computer technology and software and data science principles to design studies and collect the information necessary for making key decisions in a variety of professional settings, including federal agencies, universities, private companies, and research firms.

Median Annual Salary

$88,190

Projected Growth Rate

30%

Computer and Information Research Scientist

This high–earning and fast–growing category includes data scientist jobs and database analyst jobs. Individuals in this area of specialization use computer technology solve complex problems, improve technology systems, and maximize efficiency. Professionals in big data utilize principles of analytics, including Google analytics, to better understand how systems should function toward achieving their stated goal. Individuals in this field can find employment in federal government agencies, private computer technology and consulting companies, colleges and universities, and research.

Median Annual Salary

$118,370

Projected Growth Rate

16%

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Responsible for analyzing their organization's computer needs and suggesting potential upgrades for top executives to consider, computer and information systems managers also direct and plan the installation and maintenance of computer software and hardware. These managers ensure the security of their organization's electronic documents, data, and networks. The largest employers of computer and information systems managers remain manufacturing companies, information companies, finance and insurance agencies, and computer systems design organizations.

Median Annual Salary

$142,530

Projected Growth Rate

11%

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