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February 13, 2024

Master’s of Data Science Programs Go Online


Data science skills are in high demand, as organizations continue to ask more from their data. That’s leading universities to get creative in how they structure their post-graduate data science programs.

One way the universities are getting creative is by launching online programs, such as the Master of Data Science (MDS) program that began a year ago at the University of California, San Diego.

Co-developed by the university’s Halicioglu Data Science Institute and the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, MDS allows students to connect with professors and staff through email, discussion boards, and video conferencing. The program takes a minimum of two years

“We’ve designed the online Master of Data Science program for working professionals who want to upskill or re skill, whether that’s business, marketing, biology, genomics, agriculture,” Kyle Hofer-Mora, an HDSI assistant director, says in a video that accompanied a story last month in UC San Diego Today.

UCSD, which is home to the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC) attracts its share of top talent, many of whom reside on the faculty. MDS courses are taught by the same professors and researchers who also teach the in-person classes at UCSD.

“All the classes are designed to be mostly asynchronous so that working professionals can really engage with the class on their schedule on their timeline,” says David Danks, a professor at the HDSI and UCSD’s Department of Philosophy.

UCSD is accepting applications now for Fall 2024. The priority deadline is March 15, and the final deadline is June 5. You can get more information here.

Another school offering an online master’s program in data science is the University of Pittsburgh. In December, the school announced that it’s joining up with Coursera to offer the program, enrollment for which started Monday. The course costs $20,000 and takes a minimum of 20 months to complete.

What makes the Pitt’s School of Computing and Information (SCI) master’s program a little bit unusual is that it’s open to anybody with a bachelor’s degree in any subject. That should help to attract people to the program who might have otherwise avoided it, says SCI Dean Bruce Childers.

“The gap and the need for data science is so wide that to limit it to [people with] a data science background or computer science background would I think impede the opportunities,” he told Pitt’s University Times, “and it will also impede supporting what the workforce needs.”

It’s unclear how many accredited universities offer online master’s programs in data science. Fortune has a list with 23 schools, while the Master’s in Data Science website lists more than 35 programs. However, neither the UCSD nor Pitt programs are listed on the Master’s in Data Science website, which is sponsored by edX (an online learning program created by MIT and Harvard in 2012), so the actual number is larger.

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