This guide takes a deep dive into data analytics and data science associate degree programs. These degree programs are increasing in popularity because corporate and governmental decision-making processes rely heavily on collecting and analyzing data, primarily using specialized programs and systems.
As such, careers in data analytics and data science continue to grow at an above-average rate, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicting a 28 percent job growth rate for data scientists through 2026 and between 14 percent and 25 percent growth for various types of data analysts, such as management analysts, market research analysts, and operations research analysts, all of whom rely on the gathering and evaluation of data to make managerial decisions within their specific areas.
It should be noted that, while the terms data science and data analytics are often used almost interchangeably, there is one notable difference between the two fields. Data analysts tend to gather information and use that data to solve problems and draw conclusions without using algorithms and modeling, which data scientists utilize more. Thus, the work of data analysts is more contextual, while data science leans more toward predictive and statistical means by which to evaluate data. While both results are the same, the standards by which the two professions arrive at their conclusion differ.
Since so few associate degree programs exist for either subject area, for the sake of this article, we will examine programs offered in both data analytics and data science. Associate degree programs in data analytics and data science do exist. Though they are less common than more advanced degree programs, earning a two-year degree in these subject areas is possible.
For the most part, at least a bachelor’s degree in data analytics, data science, business data analytics, computer science, or statistics is required to begin working in this field. In some cases, companies might even require a master’s degree for those starting in the data science field. To that end, many schools offer four-year undergraduate and graduate degree programs in these areas.
So, why pursue such an associate degree if many companies require at least a bachelor’s degree, even for entry-level positions in data science or analysis? For one, you might prepare for bachelor’s-level studies by completing an associate’s degree program in one of these areas. You could also earn credits toward a bachelor’s degree program; some programs allow for applying credits earned in a two-year program to a bachelor’s degree program in the same area.
An associate’s degree could be a more cost-effective approach to earning a degree in data analytics or science. For instance, you might find a company that accepts a two-year degree for an entry-level position, allowing you to gain entry into a company that might offer tuition reimbursement. You can then take advantage of that benefit to pursue a bachelor’s and even master’s degree to help you advance your data analysis or data science career.
The curriculum of a two-year degree program, awarding an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree in either data analytics or data science, contains mainly introductory and fundamental courses in statistics, data analysis or analytics, programming, data visualization, and big data. Some programs have hands-on labs and opportunities to apply concepts and methods studied in the coursework. This hands-on experience could prove invaluable for preparing you for entry-level positions.
Hands-on learning could occur in courses using specific programs or applications. For instance, you might use the MySQL database management system when taking a database foundations course providing studies in the Structured Query Language (SQL) programming language or Tableau or Geographic Information System (GIS) software in a data visualization course. Some courses could be project-based, with students applying software and other tools to create tables or models. Case studies could also be a part of associate’s degree studies, allowing students to understand how data analysis, modeling, and other methods can provide solutions in real-life environments.
As the curriculum of an associate degree program in data analytics or science cover fundamental topics, hands-on learning with specific software and applications is an important way for students to gain knowledge and skills in these areas; however, internships or field experiences do not tend to be offered at this level. These opportunities are more commonly found in four-year and even more so in master’s degree programs.
Online Associate Degree in Data Analytics and Data Science
Most are in-person programs of the handful of associate degree programs in either data analytics or data science. Given the nature of labs and hands-on opportunities, there appear to be no such associate degree programs that are offered 100% online; some might offer a hybrid study option wherein courses are offered online and in-person. In some cases, a school might provide general education or general studies courses online, while the major course of study will mainly be in an on-campus format.
Hybrid programs might offer the flexibility you need if you are, for example, working full-time and cannot put an entire semester or year of in-person classes into your schedule. In some cases, an online course could allow you to log in at various times to access studies.
Some specific courses you could expect to find in the curriculum of an Associate of Science in Data Analytics include:
- Data Analytics
- Predictive Analytics
- Database Foundations
- Introductory Statistics
- Big Data and Visualization
In an AS in data science program, you are more likely to take courses addressing database programming, programming languages, statistics and probability, and computing fundamentals that discuss algorithms, data structures, and software design.
Tuition for an Associate Degree in Data Analytics and Data Science
As expected, the tuition for a two-year degree program in either data analytics or data science varies from institution to institution. Fees, state residency, and other factors play a role in determining how much a program will cost.
Below are tuition costs at some post-secondary institutions offering an associate degree in data analytics or data science. One important variable in the price is whether the student will pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. The difference can add tens of thousands of dollars throughout a program.
Another thing to remember is that most associate degrees in data analytics or data science are charged by the credit hour. Since the standard credit-hour requirement is 60 hours, the easiest way to figure out tuition rates is to find the credit-hour cost and multiply by 60 (unless the program has different hours requirements). Credit-hour costs can range from $48 a credit hour for in-state (at Coastline College, for example) up to $762 per credit hour for out-of-state at Northwestern Connecticut Community College.
Fees such as technical fees, student activity fees, and campus access fees typically apply and vary between schools. Note that some of the tuition figures listed above include fees, while others do not.
Most colleges and universities offer financial aid through grants, federal loans, and work-study options. Academic scholarships are also offered at many of these schools; providing your academic status qualifies you for such an award, scholarships can help offset tuitions costs. Tuition payment plans or installment plans could also be an option at some institutions.
Employment with an Associate Degree in Data Analytics and Data Science
While even entry-level job titles in data science or analytics can require a bachelor’s degree or higher, some companies will accept an associate’s degree for a junior position. For example, some employers seeking a junior data analyst will accept candidates who hold at least a two-year degree; however, due to the nature of a data scientist’s job, which is more deeply involved in statistics and advanced modeling and predictive analysis, at least a four-year and often a graduate degree is typically required to begin. In contrast, entry-level data analysts might find it easier to obtain employment with an associate degree.
According to Salary.com, the average salary for a junior data analyst as of September 2021 is between $44,300 – $56,805. The BLS reports that the job growth rate for data analysts is 20 percent between 2018 – 2028, with industries such as healthcare, insurance, finance, and information technology predicted to be the industries with the highest demand for these professionals.
The BLS further reports that the job growth rate for data scientists, labeled as “computer and information research scientists,” is 22 percent between 2020 – 2030. The job growth rate statistics for both data analysts and data scientists indicate a growth rate that is, according to the BLS, much faster than the average compared to other occupations.
Associate Degree in Data Analytics and Data Science FAQs
This section has answers to questions that may not have been answered in the preceding article. While attention has been paid to supplying as many details as possible regarding the nature of the work in both data analytics and data science, what one might expect as a student of an associate’s degree program in these subject areas, and employment and salary information for those holding a two-year degree, you might have further questions that may be addressed below.
Some relevant associate’s degree programs might cover related subject materials and might be more common than data analytics/data science associate’s programs. Examples include an associate degree in computer science, an associate degree in information technology, an associate degree in computer information systems, an associate in arts with an emphasis in mathematics, and an associate in applied science in business analytics.
In most cases, yes. However, professional experience combined with a degree is often required. For example, suppose you wish to pursue the Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) certification. In that case, you need to show seven years of experience in the field if you do not hold at least a bachelor’s degree. Some certifications, such as Microsoft Certified Data Analyst Associate, do not have academic requirements.
Yes, AA or AAS in data analytics or science are typically classified as STEM programs.
There are no specific course requirements to be met before enrolling in an associate’s degree program in either data analytics or data science. A solid academic background in computer science, mathematics, and statistics would be beneficial.
Some institutions will offer financial aid opportunities for part-time students. However, the amount of assistance may be adjusted for part-time attendance.