Online Degrees in Data Science

Article Sources


  • August LinkedIn Workforce Report: Data Science Skills are in High Demand Across Industries, LinkedIn, 2018, https://news.linkedin.com/2018/8/linkedin-workforce-report-august-2018
  • BS Degree in Data Science and Analytics, Thomas Edison State University, https://www.tesu.edu/heavin/bs/data-science , accessed April 2019
  • Burtch, L., The Burtch Works Study Salaries of Data Scientists, May 2018, Burtch Works Executive Recruiting, 2018, https://www.burtchworks.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Burtch-Works-Study_DS-2018.pdf
  • Data Science, John Hopkins University, https://ep.jhu.edu/programs-and-courses/programs/data-science , accessed April 2019
  • Data Science, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, https://www.wpi.edu/academics/study/data-science-phd , accessed April 2019
  • Data Scientist Report 2018, Figure Eight, 2018, https://www.datasciencetech.institute/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Data-Scientist-Report.pdf
  • Doctor of Computer Science - Big Data Analytics, Colorado Technical University, https://www.coloradotech.edu/degrees/doctorates/computer-science/big-data-analytics , accessed April 2019
  • Master's in Data Science, Northwestern University, https://sps.northwestern.edu/masters/data-science/ , accessed April 2019
  • Online Bachelor's Degree: BS in Data Analytics, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-data-analytics , accessed April 2019
  • Online Master of Data Science, University of Wisconsin, https://datasciencedegree.wisconsin.edu/data-science-program/ , accessed April 2019
  • PhD in Data Science, Centre for Data Science, NYU, https://cds.nyu.edu/academics/phd-in-data-science/ , accessed April 2019
  • What's Driving the Demand for Data Scientists?, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 2019, https://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/whats-driving-demand-data-scientist/

Technology is being incorporated into every aspect of life — from e-commerce to how we interact with our friends and families. All this is creating vast amounts of data that can be used to mine information to help businesses serve their customers better, governments to improve policies and even help scientists organize vast amounts of data to understand trends and patterns in their research.

A bright future can await those with a degree in data science. Big data is creating a big demand for data scientists. As organizations gain the ability to collect and use vast amounts of data for the growth of their business, data scientists are in high demand in by companies across the country. According to LinkedIn co-founder Allan Blue, quoted in a blog by The Wharton, "Data scientists are almost all already employed, because they're so much in demand."

Big opportunities can present themselves to those who choose this field. For busy adults, online degrees in data science can offer the flexibility needed to balance work, life and other commitments along with the convenience of being able to study at your own pace.

The Harvard Business Review dubbed data scientist as the sexiest job of the 21st century Figure Eight

According to a 2018 report published by Burtch Works Executive Recruiting, data scientists are predictive analytics professionals who focus on organizing and analyzing data using sophisticated computer science and programming skills. Some duties include:

  • Acquiring required data by sifting through databases, building ETL pipelines and application program interfaces
  • Organizing messy and unstructured data sources into datasets for analysis or predictive modeling
  • Using statistical and machine-based modeling to uncover patterns in the data
  • Interpreting the results of data analysis to help develop business strategies

As you can see, they are needed every step of the way, right from gathering data to developing business strategies.

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

The minimum degree needed to work as a data scientist is a bachelor's degree which may qualify you for entry-level jobs in the field. However, the Burtch Works survey found that of those working in the field of data science only 9 percent held an undergraduate degree; 43 percent held a master's degree; and 48 percent held a doctoral degree. Those aspiring to a leadership role may want to consider an advanced degree.

There are no data science programs at the associate degree level. However, if data science is a field that interests you, you may want to consider online associate degree programs in computer science or information systems that can act as a stepping stone toward a career in data science.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor's degree program?

A bachelor's degree program in data sciences online can help you learn about the key technologies used in the field including how data is mined, statistical methods of analysis and predictive modeling.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Curricula include general education courses along with broad degree-specific topics that can help you understand the different techniques and applications of data science. Some courses you may take are:

  • Data analytics
  • Introduction to network analysis
  • Introduction to data and information management
  • Database design
  • Principles of statistics

You may also have to complete a capstone project as a part of your degree requirement.

Possible electives: SQL - Introduction to database queries; financial risk modeling; integer amd nonlinear programming and network flow

What can I do after earning a bachelor's degree?

Earning your master's degree in educational technology online can pave the way for a number of different occupations within the field of instructional technology. Some potential occupations include:

  • Market researcher
  • Statistician
  • Data miner
  • Data analyst
  • Information technology specialist
Nearly 50% of data scientists get contacted at least once a week about a new job opportunity, with about 30% getting contacted several times each week. 85% get contacted at least once a month Figure Eight

What can I expect to learn in an online master's degree program?

Online master's in data science degree programs build on the knowledge offered in a bachelor's degree program to go more in-depth into the world of data analytics. You can learn how information gleaned from data is analysed along with how to apply this information toward forming strategies for businesses and other stakeholders.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor's degree in data science or a related field

Typical coursework: Topics are designed to help you to learn how to organize and analyze large sets of data. You can learn to find data patterns and relationships in complex data sets and to communicate this information to non-technical personnel. Some of the courses you may take are:

  • Programming for data science
  • Big data: high-performance computing
  • Practical machine learning
  • Decision analytics
  • Algorithms for data science

You may also have to complete a capstone project or a master's thesis as a part of your online data science master's degree requirements.

Possible electives: Generalized linear models; advanced modeling techniques; artificial intelligence and deep learning

What can I do after earning a master's degree?

Data science jobs are no longer limited to hi-tech industries and software companies. According to the Wharton School, there has been a massive growth in the demand for data science in sectors like education, marketing and manufacturing. A master's data science degree can open up more opportunities than a bachelor's degree. Some job titles include:

  • Data mining engineer
  • Machine learning engineer
  • Data warehouse architect
  • Consultant, strategic business and technology intelligence
  • Director of market intelligence
For data scientists working on the coasts, median base salaries continue to be higher across most job categories when compared to salaries in the Middle U.S. region Burtch Works Study

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Data science can involve the use of cutting-edge technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence and more which is exactly what an online doctoral degree program in data science can prepare you to do.

Typical duration: Five to seven years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Master's degree in data science or a related field

Typical coursework: Many Ph.D. programs in data science online inculcate computer science, mathematical science and business topics into their curricula. Some topics you may study include:

  • Business intelligence and case studies
  • Integrative data science
  • Mathematical analytics
  • Probability and statistics for data science
  • Tools for big data analytics

Doctoral thesis: Students are required to write and defend doctoral dissertations based on original research within the field.

Possible electives: Deep learning; mathematics of data science; natural language understanding with distributed representations

What can I do after earning a doctoral degree?

According to the 2018 Burtch Works Study, holders of a doctoral degree in data sciences earn higher salaries than those with only a master's degree. Data scientists with doctoral degree may be hired in a number of different industries including finance, health and governmental sectors. A doctoral degree can qualify you to hold high-level leadership positions within the field or help you enter the fields of research and academia, as well.

Hiring "unicorns" with broad skillsets used to be the norm in data science, but now specialists, as well as generalists, are in high demand Burtch Works Study


Accreditation is a voluntary process universities undergo to demonstrate that their educational offerings meet the high standards offered by the industry today. Additionally, attending an accredited school can be important for students in order to receive federal loans, scholarships and grants as well as for transferring previously earned credits. Many employers also prefer hiring candidates who have graduated from accredited schools. Accreditation may be regional or national and may also be offered by professional bodies at a programmatic level. The Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) is the main accrediting body in the US for online data science degree programs.

Specializations in data science

The wide applications of data science have led to a number of different specializations in the field. Many of these specializations can be taken up while you earn your master's in data science online. A few specializations are:

  • Analytics And Modeling
  • Analytics Management
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data Engineering

Professional certifications, although not mandatory, can help demonstrate your expertise in a particular aspect of the field. Additionally, they can also show potential employers that you are willing to go an extra mile to continually improve your credentials. Earning a certification may require candidates to pass an examination as well as take continuing education classes to keep the certification concurrent. Some certifications for data scientists include:

Scholarships and financial aid programs are available to eligible data science students across the country. They may be offered by universities, professional bodies, educational trusts and even multinational corporations. It can be a good idea to check with your university to see if they offer any financial aid programs that you are eligible for. Some scholarships to help you get started include:

Other resources for those aspiring to work in the field of data science

According to a 2018 LinkedIn Workforce Report, there is a shortage of 151,717 data scientists across the United States. The cities that are suffering the most from these shortages are New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles.

The table below lists the occupations related to the field of data science along with associated median wages, job openings, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026 using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Employment Statistics

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Federal Executive Branch*
  • Software Publishers
  • Computer Systems Design and Related Services
  • Other Information Services
  • *OES desgination
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Maryland
  • Virginia
  • Texas
  • Washington
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • Huntsville, AL
  • Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL
  • Albuquerque, NM

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

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