Best Online Master’s in Data Science Programs of 2021

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Published on January 29, 2021

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Students interested in earning a master's in data science can review this page and look through our StudyMatch™ sponsored programs to learn more about the variety of resources and benefits available to them. Below, we highlight the best online master's in data science programs of 2020, common coursework at the master's level, common concentration opportunities, admission requirements, pathways and related careers, and additional resources to help students better explore their program options.

Across the data science field, professionals who hold a master's degree are eligible for lucrative, in-demand careers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research scientists earn an annual mean wage of $122,840 and these positions are projected to grow by 16% from 2018-2028; both of these numbers far outpace national averages for all jobs. Data science professionals can also find high-paying careers in the navigational, measuring, electro medical, and control instruments manufacturing industry.

What Are the Best Online Master's in Data Science Programs of 2021? Here Are Our Top 10:

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#1 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
#2 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
#3 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
#4 Southern Methodist University Dallas, TX
#5 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus University Park, PA
#6 New Jersey Institute of Technology Newark, NJ
#7 The University of West Florida Pensacola, FL
#8 Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX
#9 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
#10 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus Stillwater, OK
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2021 Best Accredited Online Master's in Data Science Programs

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Johns Hopkins University View School Profile Baltimore, MD

Located in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins offers a customizable, hybrid or fully online master's in data science. While most students hold a bachelor's degree in a similar field of study, Johns Hopkins offers proficiency exams for applicants from any background who believe they possess the necessary prerequisite knowledge.

The program prepares students for careers related to game theory, machine learning, or data visualization. The curriculum consists of seven core courses, one mathematics elective, and two additional electives. Students blend theoretical learning with hands-on, practical scenarios. Students must complete all courses within five years.

Johns Hopkins is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Private
Tuition: $4,595 per three-credit course
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: No more than 5 years
Format: 100% online or hybrid

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

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University of Southern California View School Profile Los Angeles, CA

Located in Los Angeles, USC offers an online MS in computer science with a data science emphasis. Students can expect to develop a strong background in computer science, along with specialized knowledge in algorithms, statistics, and data systems.

The curriculum features all of the requirements for a master of science in computer science, plus specialized coursework in data science. Graduates prepare for various career fields, such as computer simulation, computer security, and aerospace/defense.

Through a proprietary electronic system, online students view the same lectures as their on-campus peers. The system also allows online participants to fully collaborate with their instructors and fellow students, regardless of where they live. Online students may visit campus at any time. USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Computer Science (Data Science)
School Status: Private
Tuition: $2,148 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 1.5-2 years (full time); 2.5-3.5 years (part time)
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No set requirement
Standardized Tests: GRE strongly recommended (waived through fall 2021)

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University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign View School Profile Champaign, IL

Located in the city of Champaign, U of I offers a fully online master of computer science in data science. The program satisfies all requirements for a master of computer science, with a specialized focus on data science.

Designed for students with a strong background in data structures, algorithms, and object-oriented programming, the program offers those without relevant prior coursework the opportunity to show proficiency by taking an optional exam. Students take one course each in machine learning, data mining, data visualization, and cloud computing. From there, they can customize their own path by selecting additional courses.

A service known as ProctorU provides exam proctoring for online learners. U of I is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Computer Science in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $670 per credit
Credit Requirements: 32 credits
Program Length: 1-5 years
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.2 or higher recommended
Standardized Tests: Not required

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Southern Methodist University View School Profile Dallas, TX

A private research university in Dallas, Texas, SMU offers a fully online master's in data science. The program combines online instruction, collaborative group projects, and interactive coursework to prepare students for careers that utilize data-driven decision-making.

Students choose one of two specializations. Those with highly technical career interests may select the machine learning track, while those with a primary interest in business strategy may prefer the business analytics track.

Regardless of their track, all students receive a strong background in theory and practice, developing skills that can transfer to career fields such as aerospace and defense, engineering, media, and healthcare. SMU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,704 per credit
Credit Requirements: 33.5 credits
Program Length: 20-28 months
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No specific requirement
Standardized Tests: Not required

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Pennsylvania State University-World Campus View School Profile University Park, PA

Penn State World Campus offers an online master of science in spatial data science. The program prepares students specifically for the geospatial industry, where spatial analysis meets data science to harness the power of location-based data. Future career opportunities may be found in the areas of geospatial data engineering, data visualization software engineering, or geospatial software development.

The school designed the program for students with a strong background in geographic information systems (GIS), but the program does not require experience with computer programming. Students who lack familiarity with GIS may complete a post-baccalaureate GIS certificate before applying.

The program provides weekly assignments for students to complete at their own pace, and learners can choose a thesis or nonthesis option. Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Spatial Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $924 per credit
Credit Requirements: 33-36 credits
Program Length: 2 years
Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Asynchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: No specific requirement
Standardized Tests: Not required

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New Jersey Institute of Technology View School Profile Newark, NJ

Located in Newark, NJIT offers an online master's in data science. The program prepares students to manage large data sets, create and evaluate advanced statistical models, and use artificial intelligence and machine learning in complex predictive tasks. Graduates find career success in fields such as data science, machine learning engineering, and business intelligence analytics.

Students receive theoretical instruction and complete hands-on projects, utilizing Python along with such tools as Tableau for data visualization and R for analysis. Successful applicants should have experience with calculus and linear algebra, as well as statistics and software development.

NJIT is a public university that is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $1,050 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

The University of West Florida View School Profile Pensacola, FL

A public university located in Pensacola, UWF offers an online master's in data science. The program teaches students the tools they need for data science positions across a variety of industries, including big data analytics, machine learning, and statistical analysis.

Students may choose from three different tracks, depending on their interests and career goals. The analytics and modeling track focuses on software development, machine learning, and data analysis, while the analytics of business decisions track equips students to make business decisions based on data, including improving efficiency and solving organizational problems. The health analytics track prepares students to use data science to meet the healthcare industry's unique challenges.

UWF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $385 per credit (in-state); $479 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 24 months
Format: 100% online
Instruction Style: Synchronous

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Waived through summer 2021

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Request more information about this program.

Texas Tech University View School Profile Lubbock, TX

A public research university located in Lubbock, Texas Tech offers an online master's in data science. Taught in tandem with the on-campus program, this one-year lockstep program does not require students to visit campus. The program starts in the summer, and students take 12 credits per term for the summer, fall, and spring semesters.

Students learn data science tools, including scripting languages, machine learning, and multivariate analysis. They also develop the business skills needed to translate discoveries into solutions. All students take the same courses, with no electives.

Texas Tech is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition:$333 per credit (in-state); $755 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 12 months
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GMAT or GRE

Contact the School

Request more information about this program.

Drexel University View School Profile Philadelphia, PA

Located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers an online master's in data science. The program welcomes students with or without a data science background. However, those who lack a relevant degree or experience with computer science, software engineering, or math may need to take prerequisite courses.

The program focuses on three core areas: analytics, mining, and algorithms; visualization and communication; and management and accountability. Students may choose electives as desired. All students conclude their program with a capstone project.

Drexel is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,342 per credit
Credit Requirements: 45 credits
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum required
Standardized Tests: Not required

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Request more information about this program.

Oklahoma State University-Main Campus View School Profile Stillwater, OK

A public university located in Stillwater, OSU offers a fully online master of science in business analytics and data science. Heavily focused on practical applications, the program utilizes enterprise-level and open-source software to give students hands-on experience solving real-world business issues. The program provides several options for specialization, including healthcare analytics, cybersecurity analytics, advanced data science, and marketing analytics.

Knowledge prerequisites, which applicants need to complete before enrolling in advanced courses, relate to programming skills, basic business knowledge, and basic statistics. Students may present proof of prior coursework or industry experience to meet these prerequisites.

OSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Business Analytics and Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $505 per credit (in-state); $635 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 33 credits
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

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North Carolina Central University View School Profile Durham, NC

A historically Black university located in Durham, NCCU offers a fully online master of science in mathematics with a concentration in data science. The program features a computational science track designed to provide students of different backgrounds with a uniform grounding in computational techniques.

Those who complete this track may complete further study or pursue work related to computer consulting or business leadership. Students may choose to focus their coursework on cryptography, number theory, analysis, or bioinformatics.

NCCU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Mathematics With a Concentration in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $274 per credit (in-state); $921 per credit (out-of-state)
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 2.7 minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE required

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Syracuse University View School Profile Syracuse, NY

A private university located in upstate New York, Syracuse offers an online master of science in applied data science. Designed in collaboration with the university's Whitman School of Management, the program provides students with the opportunity to earn a certificate of advanced study in enterprise technology management or information security management without taking extra courses. Syracuse invites online students to attend campus-based immersion events if desired.

All students take a series of foundational courses, then choose one or two areas of specialization. Several electives, such as natural language processing or text mining, allow students to fine-tune their curriculum further. Each student must complete a portfolio of chosen projects throughout their course of study and submit the portfolio for final approval before graduation.

Syracuse is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Applied Data Science
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,782 per credit
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Program Length: 18 months
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT optional

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University of North Texas View School Profile Denton, TX

A public university located in Denton, UNT offers a hybrid or fully online master's in data science. Students receive a broad foundation in data science fundamentals and then choose a set of guided electives based on their chosen area of interest. All students select additional electives, either chosen from a prearranged list or approved by their advisor. This process provides for a great deal of program customization.

In keeping with UNT's deep commitment to research, all students must also complete a final internship or research project. UNT is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Public
Tuition: $769 per credit (in-state); $1,178 per credit (out-of-state)
Credit Requirements: 36 credits
Format: 100% online or hybrid

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.2 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT

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Colorado State University-Fort Collins View School Profile Fort Collins, CO

A public research university in Fort Collins, CSU offers an online master of applied statistics with a data science specialization. The program emphasizes both practical and business-related applications. Many graduates go on to data science careers at corporations or government agencies.

To place all students on equal footing, all admitted applicants must take two summer courses before the program begins: math skills for statistical analysis and computing skills for statistical analysis. All learners take the same core courses, while a handful of electives allow students to focus on individual areas of interest.

CSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Applied Statistics With a Data Science Specialization
School Status: Public
Tuition: $811 per credit
Credit Requirements: 31 credits
Program Length: 1 year
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: No minimum required
Standardized Tests: GRE

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Rochester Institute of Technology View School Profile Rochester, NY

Located in upstate New York, RIT offers an online master's in data science. This part-time program, designed for working professionals, focuses on applied theoretical and practical career skills. Though students come from diverse backgrounds, those lacking either coursework or professional experience in computer programming must take bridge courses to boost their foundational knowledge.

All students take five core courses, including applied statistics and software engineering. Students may then select a combination of electives based on their individual interests and career goals. The program offers entry dates in the fall and spring.

RIT is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Program Snapshot

Program Name: Master of Science in Data Science
School Status: Private
Tuition: $1,191 per credit
Credit Requirements: 30 credits
Program Length: 24 months
Format: 100% online

Admission Requirements

GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: Not required

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Online Master's in Data Science Program Overview

Coursework for online master's in data science programs can vary between institutions and often depends on faculty expertise and/or institutional priorities. Additionally, some institutions offer specializations or concentrations that allow degree-seekers to tailor their program to better match their personal interests and career goals. These specializations usually relate to common career opportunities in the field.

While specific courses vary, students often complete a mixture of core, concentration, and elective courses, as well as a culminating practicum. Core coursework emphasizes computer science, industrial engineering, and business concepts, while electives may include topics such as algorithms and data structures, digital image processing and analysis, distributed systems, and bioinformatics.

Earning an online master's in data science prepares learners to enter the field immediately upon graduation. Alternatively, some graduates go on to pursue additional education in the form of a doctoral degree.

Common Master's in Data Science Degree Courses

Accounting Data Analytics

This course examines techniques, concepts, and software applications used to analyze accounting data. Students apply these methods to support financial planning and decision-making for an organization. They also learn about common scenarios that involve important financial decision-making.

Enterprise Planning Systems and Business Integration

Students in this class review the primary software packages used to handle managerial, operational, and accounting activities of organizations. Learners examine the ways enterprise planning systems coordinate business processes to promote efficient management of a particular organization.

Artificial Intelligence

Students focus on planning and problem-solving, rules and production systems, knowledge representation with semantic frames and networks, and game playing and adversarial search methods. Throughout the course, students learn to understand logic programming, constraint satisfaction techniques, and optimization algorithms such as genetic algorithms.

Customer Relationship Management

This course explores customer relationship management as well as conceptual foundations. Coursework focuses on the interactions between corporate strategy, supply chain management, organizational structure, and customer-facing applications. Students also review the management and measurement of customer loyalty, satisfaction, and profitability.

Econometrics

Students in this course review probability and statistics, including common families of statistical distributions, properties of a random sample, multiple random variables, and moment generating functions. Throughout the course, learners review estimation and hypothesis testing, maximum likelihood estimators, instrumental variable estimators, and the generalized method of moments.

Related Master's in Data Science Degree Concentrations

Advanced Analytics

This concentration examines concepts of data science strategies and leadership, as well as how organizations can manipulate data to fit their specific goals. Learners also explore the role data science plays in organizational strategies.

Data Computing

Students pursuing this concentration gain an understanding of how to understand big data. This includes an exploration of how to store, manage, visualize, analyze, pre-process, and acquire data.

Data-driven Business

Learners review the practice of using analysis in industry and business. This includes how to frame, understand, and solve problems in finance, marketing, operations, human resources, managing information technology, and accounting.

Financial Analytics

Data science students pursuing a financial analytics concentration build analytic and financial expertise. Coursework explores fraud examination and litigation support, financial statement analysis, and forensic accounting.

Cybersecurity

A cybersecurity concentration includes courses such as cybersecurity governance and cybersecurity risk management. This track prepares learners to prevent and respond to cybersecurity attacks.

Online Master's in Data Science Admission Requirements

While colleges and universities require master's degree-seekers to hold a bachelor's, many data science master's programs require applicants to hold an undergraduate degree in a STEM or business discipline. This demonstrates their competencies and skills relevant to data science.

Students typically need to meet a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement of 2.5-3.5. Some institutions may not require a minimum GPA for admission, but this depends on the preferences of the admissions department.

Many colleges and universities require master's degree applicants to provide 1-3 letters of recommendation. These letters should be written by educational and/or professional references; applicants should avoid references from friends or family members.

Data science master's programs often require applicants to provide their GRE or GMAT scores for the quantitative, verbal, and writing sections. However, not all schools require these test scores for admission, and some may offer waivers for applicants if they have a graduate degree, hold a high undergraduate GPA, or have several years of relevant professional experience.

Although professional experience is not necessarily required for admission into master's programs in data science, many colleges and universities ask applicants to provide a professional resume. This gives admissions representatives a better understanding of an applicant's relevant experience.


Online Master's in Data Science Career Paths

Individuals who earn an online master's degree in data science prepare for careers such as computer and information research scientists. These professionals design and implement novel technological approaches and discover new uses for current technologies. These research scientists usually need to hold a master's degree in a relevant field, although a limited number of employers might accept candidates with only a bachelor's degree.

Other common career opportunities for these graduates include machine learning engineers, data architects, database administrators, big data engineers, data analysts, business intelligence analysts, and statisticians.


Related Careers

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I do with a master's in data science?

Earning a master's degree in data science can prepare learners for a variety of lucrative career opportunities across the data science field. Graduates can consider careers as statisticians, business intelligence analysts, data analysts, big data engineers, database administrators, data architects, and machine learning engineers.

Do you need a master's degree to be a data scientist?

Data scientists — or computer and information research scientists — must hold a minimum of a master's degree, although some data scientists pursue a doctoral degree. Students should explore different master's programs in data science to locate the school that best suits their educational needs and professional goals.

Is a master's degree in data science worth it?

Professionals who possess a master's degree in data science qualify for advanced career opportunities and high salaries. A master's degree provides advanced, specialized skills in the discipline, building on a student's knowledge base.

How long does it take to get a master's in data science?

The length of a master's program can vary depending on the college or university and on the type of enrollment students pursue. For instance, full-time master's students can complete their degree within two years. Alternatively, part-time learners may take closer to three years.

How much can I earn with a master's in data science?

The earning potential of professionals with a master's degree in data science depends on the career they pursue. Salary opportunities also vary depending on a worker's location and level of experience. However, the median annual salary for computer and information technology occupations was more than $88,240 in 2019.

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