The realm of data science is one that onlookers regard with curiosity and respect. There are a lot of unknowns in this area of study that only recently became hugely relevant. A few decades ago, the job of data scientists was non-existent or very rare.
With the lack of exposure, many, like you, may not know if a career in data science is the right one to pursue. It is important to get the facts on how expertise in data science is transforming the world. Below are some highlights of what a bachelor’s degree means in today’s market and the future.
What is a Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science?
A bachelor’s degree in data science comes in two forms, i.e., a BA or a BS. It is an interdisciplinary field, and both the science and arts tracks are chock full of STEM elements. These include computer science, databases, ethics, mathematics, and statistics.
There are general differences between a bachelor of arts versus a bachelor of science in data science. For a BA, the emphasis is on the humanities. For a BS, math and science are the focus. There are many areas to which a BA or BS in data science can be applied. These range from business and health to social science, the climate, and oceanography. Learn more by visiting the data analytics and data science degree page guide.
What Can I do With a Data Science Degree?
To get a glimpse into the power of data science on a global scale, you only need to see what is trending in Fortune 100 companies these days. According to TechRepublic, Facebook employs 1,200+ data workers. The headcount for Microsoft and Amazon is close to that. IBM employs the highest at 2,500.
There is a multitude of opportunities and these are ever-changing. With a degree in data science, you can write your ticket. Here is just a sample of the occupations that are out there.
- Data scientists, engineers, and architects
- Database administrators
- Machine learning experts
- Big data engineers
- Artificial intelligence specialists
The Growth of Data Science
A bit of history here. Data science was born in the 1960s, although it did not become popularized until the 2000s. When applications like AI and ML came to market, the need for this type of knowledge grew. A decade or so later, data science now falls among the top 10 best majors.
To show the progression of this discipline, look at how two generations perceive(d) data science on college campuses. Generation Z views this STEM-centric field as a highly sought-after career. Students are in hot pursuit of it and for the right reasons. According to a Glassdoor survey, data science ranks very high in terms of job satisfaction.
In contrast, when Generation X-ers, these now 40 and 50-year-olds, were choosing college majors, computer science was the only option. Back then, this faction of science was new, and enrollment in it was minimal. Today the occupation of data scientist stands as the single fastest-growing job. According to LinkedIn, it is predicted that there will be 11.5 million new jobs in the field by 2026.
Online Data Science Degree Programs
Many online programs are broadcast to students these days. This is due in part to the cultural shift to all things remote. The other factor is the growing desire for flexibility.
A bachelor’s degree in data science is one of the highest-trending. Public and private sectors place a great deal of focus on the study. The reason being is that they see the need. Know-how in data science is deemed critical in making its mark on a) the business world and b) community outreach. There remain high hopes for how emerging tech and the data scientists behind it can advance in multi areas. Think of the impact on medicine, government, infrastructure, and much more.
There is a concerted effort to get the best and brightest to gain expertise in the subject matter that calls for exactly that. As a result of this need, STEM education has become an initiative on a grand scale. You can see its importance reflected in the goals of the US Department of Education. STEM is front and center.
Business leaders and the government are putting an exorbitant amount of money into those who tout the STEM mind. In 2021, the Department of Energy (DOE) announced its pledge of $34.5 million for data science and computation tools. That same year, US corporations made investments to the tune of $350 billion towards largely STEM programs in education.
If data science is your niche, the financial support and convenience of an online format may make it hard to pass up.
Online Degrees and Hands-On Experience
If you are new to an online curriculum, you may have questions. Like, how do you get direct experience in a remote environment? You will be amazed by the learning developments in recent years. Programs like these can help enrich your online experience:
Internships: In a field as cutting-edge as data science, hands-on learning is a must-get. Data science internships, in-person or online, are the surefire way to enjoy the kind of real-world experiences that every student needs. There are pluses to interning from a remote space. You gain exposure to virtual collaboration platforms and work tools. These are key to finding success in a real-life position in data science. Check out remote data science internships to get a feel for what is offered.
Hands-on projects: This is a key component of any program. In the field of data science, the focus is on the building of know-how in math and statistical theory. It will allow you to put forth the practical application of what you have read about.
A data science degree in an online format can be appealing to students that have a passion for data. Learning in a remote environment should be right up their alley. That said, online programs differ across the board. Some even have in-person requirements. There is a trend for a hybrid offering. Be sure to check out all of the options that are available.
Application Process for an Online Data Science Degree
The application process for an online data science degree is pretty straightforward. There is nothing out of the ordinary compared to an on-campus program. Other than assuming that you have internet access and a laptop, there is no real difference.
You will need to have completed high school or received a GED. Some universities require a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA and a satisfactory SAT or ACT score. Stats will vary depending on the competitive nature of the program.
Every college or university has an application to fill out which may or may not be part of the Common App. Most call for a letter(s) of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a written essay. Be sure to carefully review the requirements and deadlines.
Courses in an Online Data Science Degree
There is probably no better way to assess if a program is a good fit than to see if the course titles sync with your interests. There are many classes from which to choose. It seems like each year, with emerging technology, universities are adding new ones. Every program is unique, but below are some to take a peek at:
- Introduction to Programming
- Programming and Problem Solving
- Analysis of Categorical Data
- Data Structures and Programming (R, Python, SAS, Applied Linear Algebra, and/or SQL)
- Algorithm Design and Analysis
- Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
- Math (Modeling/Linear Algebra/Statistics/Probability)
- Experimental Design
- Machine Learning
- Predictive Modeling
- Big Data Analytics
Acceptance Rates for Online Data Science Degrees
Acceptance rates, to some extent, point to the competitive level of a program. US News & World Report data from a few years ago shows that generally speaking, online schools have higher acceptance rates than in-person programs. There may or not be environmental factors that contribute. Some that show 100 percent acceptance rates, at the same time, rank high in educational value.
Don’t discount the level of education that you are getting with the online format. Many great online schools will set you on the right career path. More important is whether a vocation in data science is right for you. Talk to real-life workers or research to hone in on the behind-the-scenes work.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Online Degree
If you review any online program in detail, you will quickly see its benefits. This form of education promotes life-long learning, and it gives you real-world skills as well. For these good reasons, remote programming is popular and growing. It is a convenient route to take and offers much flexibility to boot.
Despite the perks, getting a bachelor’s degree in a highly complex field of study is not for everyone. For some, it can be isolating and difficult to time manage. The abundance of freedom and lack of face-to-face contact may prove overwhelming. You have to carefully evaluate if the style of online learning is right for you.
It’s easy to look at the viability of a degree in data science and want to sign up right away. The age-old advice holds. Mark Twain famously quoted “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
Choosing the right program may be the hardest task in the vetting process. In this Age of Information, there are many sites to guide you along the way. The cost of an online data science program varies greatly. These range from $28,160 to $88,000, with the average in-state cost at $53,100. Only you can determine if you should seek the most cost-effective route or the best-ranked program.
Start researching the online data science programs that are available, and be sure to take good notes. Map out your end goals, and look closely at the course curriculum. College counselors say to build a spreadsheet weighing the pros and cons of each.
Careers in Data Science
It doesn’t matter where you look. Every source cites the same bottom line. The career outlook for any student of data science is almost guaranteed a positive outcome. According to 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor stats, the median pay of a data scientist is $100,910. The 2021-31 job outlook is forecasted at 36% which is much higher than average. In terms of career planning, stats don’t get much better than these.
To set expectations, it’s key to think about where a data scientist might begin their career path. Everyone has to start at the bottom. Entry-level positions include titles like “entry-level data scientist” or “junior data scientist.” The average salary is $85,586.
With more experience, data scientists are compensated with higher wages. In just a few years, pay reaches a base salary of $144,986. At the management level, the payout is as high as $250,000.
The key takeaway is that the study of data science, cultivated through any program, yields one of the most in-demand set of skills. There is no need to calculate the ROI. You will have zero problems finding a job nor should you have a problem earning a six-figure salary or close to it.
To back your decision, look at how the country is responding. Millions upon millions of dollars are being spent. These are to expose, educate, and re-enforce science, technical, engineering, and math skills. Only you can decide if this area of coursework suits you.
If the government and market get their wish, the world will be seeing a lot more “data science” people in the future. It’s up to you if you want to be one of them.