Just because you’re in and around data science doesn’t mean that you are knowledgeable of what a master’s in data science truly means. As you can guess, the field of study is an interdisciplinary one. It’s made up of domain know-how, statistics, and computer systems.
A master’s level degree in data science can be applied to multi sectors. With it, you will gain in-depth knowledge of all of the topics that are trending. Think about where the subject matter will take you, i.e., data mining, machine learning (ML), predictive modeling, data visualization, artificial intelligence (AI), and big data. The main objective of these is to prepare its students for a career as data scientists. However, there are many other job paths from which to choose.
Benefits of an Online Data Science Master’s Degree
When prospective students pose the “why” to an online master’s degree in data science, they want to know if it’s necessary to propel them in their fields. Do you need an advanced degree in data science to take on new responsibilities? Will it result in earning a promotion? Only you can make such a decision.
There is clear merit in an advanced degree for those who desire to become leaders in the field. It prepares you to move forward in your business. One thing for certain is that the discipline of data science is ever-changing.
Online MS in Data Science Curriculum and Format
You likely have in your mind the advantages and disadvantages of an online program, but e-learning has morphed in recent years. Due to student expectations and the marketplace as a whole, all are seeing that the online platform is a world of its own. For starters, there are two kinds of scheduling in online education:
Synchronous: This refers to a schedule that is the same days and hours each week. It fills an exact time slot on your calendar. You are expected, along with your classmates, to attend “live” classes during these periods. Some students favor being in a virtual classroom with their professor and students at the same time.
Asynchronous: For full autonomy, students may opt for a schedule that is asynchronous. This is a highly flexible program and perfect for students who wish the freedom to move at their own pace. It allows students to view pre-recorded classes within a given timeframe. Students with questions can enlist the support of their professors during office hours.
Think About the Coursework and Projects
An online master’s in data science appeals to an array of thinkers and types of personalities. However, the common link among all students in this field is a hunger for innovation. It is no wonder when you look at the elements of the core curriculum. An example is these:
- Data engineering
- Machine learning
- Statistics & probability
- Data visualization
- Research design
- Mining and exploring
- Big data
- Linear models
- Programming (Python, R, or Go)
- Communicating results
- Ethics and privacy
After completing your core course, the next phase is the choice of specialization and electives. The world is your oyster. You get to chart your path.
You may desire to take it to the next level in one area like data engineering or analytics. Or you may focus on a key industry. Get on board to learning the most cutting-edge concepts like robotics or natural language processing.
Advantages of Getting Your Data Science Master’s Online
There is a large batch of benefits to earning your master’s degree online. An online program is sometimes slightly less expensive than an on-campus one. Regardless, there is money to be saved for commuting, meals, and even materials. Digital formats are less expensive than books.
The #1 reason that students go the online route is the flexibility in scheduling. Whether you have a job, or family, or seek more free time, online education gives you the latitude to do what you need or want. That adds another plus to the mix: time management.
With the online schedule, you are in charge of when and how you learn. You choose the time to attend classes, set up one-on-ones to meet with your professors, and fit in study time to meet deadlines. You can even elect to pause a lecture or rewind and repeat.
We all lead busy lives and being able to manage your time is a real skill. Who wouldn’t be on board to advance their education and fit in their job or home tasks? The flexibility of the online mode cannot be beaten.
Disadvantages of Getting your Master’s Online
Keep in mind that pursuing your master’s degree online is not for everyone. It’s important to be clear about some of the downsides as well. There are aspects of an online program that may not be optimal for you personally.
One of the biggest complaints about online learning is the distance from professors and the lack of interaction with students. It can be unsettling for some to delve into complex subjects from remote locales. The absence of eye contact and pleasantries can be hard to deal with.
For some, another disadvantage is the lack of structure and routine. It can be hard to put forth the self-discipline to set aside time for lectures, follow-ups with the professor, and studies. You have to be the kind of person that is good at creating or following their own schedule.
The other gripe of learning online is technology. It can be frustrating when you are focused on areas of study and Wifi goes down or there is a computer glitch. You have been operating in the digital world long enough to know that all kinds of technical snafus can and will happen.
Online Data Science Master’s Admissions at a Glance
Like most graduate programs, a BA or BS is a prerequisite. To position yourself well for a master’s in data science, an undergraduate degree that has built up your quantitative skills is a plus. Many good candidates apply after earning a degree in a STEM-related field. These range from computer science and data science to engineering and math. Other pertinent degrees may include the study of health sciences, economics, or psychology.
To further paint a picture of your qualifications, admissions will ask for letters of recommendation and what is commonly referred to as a “personal statement.” They need a description of your real-world experiences as these pertain to data science or data analytics. As is also a requirement for most (but not all) masters-level programs, you will be asked to submit to standardized testing, i.e., your GRE score. Don’t forget your official transcripts and resume as well.
Requirements to Graduate
The requirements to graduate all depend on the program. If you choose one like Eastern University, you can earn an online MS in data science in 10 months. It will take you much longer at a university like Georgia Tech in which the completion rate is 1-3 years. In the same way, the requirements of credit hours range. 48 credits are needed at Harvard. At Washington University, 45 is required. At Illinois, the magic number is 32 credit hours.
Many programs call for the completion of a capstone project. This takes place over the last two semesters or quarters. Here, students work in small groups to collect and analyze data to solve problems in real-life companies.
This is where it gets exciting. Pick almost any industry, and there is likely a need for data science. Imagine the multitude of ways in which you can apply your newly earned degree.
The fact that you earned this degree is a heads-up to HR that you take your commitments seriously. To the prospective employer, an MS next to your name adds credibility to the experiences that you list in your resume. This combined experience and education will make you a candidate that is to be sought after.
In a tech-centric field like data science, it speaks volumes that you a) completed your master’s and b) did so through an online channel. Your ability to learn in a remote environment is the tell-all. You have honed skills that are transferable in the field of data science.
Beyond the Virtual Classroom
A key component of any degree program is the experiential learning that goes with it. It is up to the student to put scientific principles to practice in the real world. There are two must-haves to take your classroom concepts to the next level. These will put you on the fast track to landing your dream job:
Networking: It’s important to glean insights and ideas from faculty, students, and alumni through mixing and mingling. Get connected with people through events, online meets, and social media. Plan for meetups with like-minded professionals via LinkedIn, Kaggle, or Twitter. Special groups are Data Science Central, Real Data Science USA, and Data Set Repository.
Internships: A great way to get your foot in the door to an innovative company or broach a brand-new experience is through an intern program. There is a plethora of openings all over. Just to get a sense of the opportunities that are out there, check out Handshake, Internships.com, and Indeed.
As with all things, there is a cost associated with high-value items. The tuition for an online master’s degree in data science varies. You can shop for a more affordable online program, or opt for a top-of-the-line.
Graduate tuition at Johns Hopkins will put you at $57,556. Cabrini University is at the opposite end with fees at $6,305. There is a wide range. In the middle are Southern New Hampshire University at $18,810 and the University of Michigan at $24,218.
If the high or low range is a financial burden to you, don’t be discouraged. There are options to help students. Begin your research for resources with Coursera. This site includes everything you need to know in terms of federal aid, scholarships and grants, and much more. There is also help that is unique to master’s degrees.
Jobs and Salaries
There is no doubt that deep knowledge in an area that only the brightest can master brings with it great value. You would be hard-pressed to find an article that doesn’t tout the high compensation that is linked to a master’s in data science. Look at any of the major job sites for real-life numbers.
Although it’s helpful to look at the compensation level per job type, don’t let it dictate your career path. Instead, focus on the salary ranges that a master’s in data science is linked. According to Interview Query, the median salary range is $126,830. A recent article in Fortune cites annual salaries from some of the best schools as high as $155,000. To get a full view of what is out there for graduates with a master’s in data science, you need to check out Indeed and Monster.
Final Thoughts on an Online MS in Data Science
There is an array of programs being offered in today’s market. It can be hard to know “should I” and “which one.” The advice here is to plot out the pros and cons. Be honest with yourself as to which elements are most important to you personally.
There are bound to be days that cause you to question your decision. Choose the path that feels right for you. There are many choices, and the future is a bright one.