Best Online Doctorate in Data Science Programs

A Ph.D. is a lot of work, but is it worth it? Specializing in data science might be the key to opening new opportunities.
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Published on October 19, 2023
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Deciding to undertake a Ph.D. is a big choice. While there are always huge benefits to learning and becoming better in your industry, going back to school can also be challenging. Studying data science requires a list of skills, but if you find an online doctorate that fits your interests and needs, it can also be highly rewarding.

Popular Doctorates in Data Science Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

There are numerous things to keep in mind in order to pick the right online Ph.D. for yourself. With the amount of time and resources it takes to finish a Ph.D., it is important to choose a program that you are going to enjoy and that will fit your needs.

What is an Online Ph.D. in Data Science Program?

An online Ph.D. in data science offers advanced training and research in the field of data science, including fostering expertise in data-driven decision-making, data visualization, and research methodologies. Students can expect rigorous coursework, research opportunities, and collaboration with industry professionals and faculty.

Featured Online Data Science Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Online Doctorate in Data Science Programs of 2023

Professionals interested in advancing their tech careers or pursuing research opportunities might consider a Ph.D. in data science.

Explore the following list of 2023's top online Ph.D. in data analytics programs, accredited by either the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) or the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC).

How We Rank Schools

In order to create our directory list of doctorate in education programs, the BestColleges Rankings Team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). We identified schools that qualify for our alphabetical list based on the following criteria:

*Each school must be an accredited public or private nonprofit institution.

*Each school must offer a doctoral degree program in the given subject.

*Each school must submit an annual report to NCES.

Review our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more about the standards we uphold.

We use datasets from sources like the National Center for Education Statistics to inform the data for these schools. BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site. from our partners appear among these rankings and are indicated as such. All data is current as of the date this article was published. Program-specific information may vary.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Best Online Doctorate in Data Science Programs

Colorado Technical University

  • Colorado Springs, CO
  • 4 years
  • Online
  • Doctor of Computer Science in Big Data Analytics
  • Accreditation: HLC
  • Delivery Format: Online (asynchronous) with residency component, In-person symposium
  • View Program
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$11,934
Out-of-state
$11,934
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$13,785
Out-of-state
$13,785
Retention Rate
48%
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
28,244
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
100% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Higher Learning Commission
Best Online Doctorate in Data Science Programs

National University

  • La Jolla, CA
  • 4 years
  • Online
  • Doctor of Philosophy in Technology Management — Data Science 
  • Accreditation: WSCUC
  • Delivery Format: 100% online (asynchronous)
  • View Program
Average Undergrad Tuition
In-state
$11,064
Out-of-state
$11,064
Average Graduate Tuition
In-state
$16,983
Out-of-state
$16,983
Retention Rate
Not provided
Acceptance Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
12,471
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

The Pros and Cons of a Doctorate in Data Science

Undertaking a Ph.D. is a big decision. While a positive experience for many as well as a good career step, it is also a lot of work and a time and financial commitment.

Pros

  • Check
    Expertise and Specialization: A Ph.D. allows you to become an expert in a specific area of data science, giving you a deep understanding of the subject matter and its applications.
  • Check
    Research Opportunities: Pursuing a Ph.D. opens doors to conduct cutting-edge research, contribute to the field's advancement, and potentially publish influential papers.
  • Check
    Career Advancement: A doctorate can enhance your career prospects, making you a valuable asset for industry, academia, research institutions, or government agencies.

Cons

  • X
    Narrow Focus: Specializing in a specific area of data science may limit job opportunities compared to a broader skill set often sought after in the industry.
  • X
    Time: Completing a Ph.D. typically takes several years, demanding substantial time commitment and potentially impacting work-life balance.
  • X
    Stress: The research process can be mentally and emotionally taxing, with pressure to produce original and impactful work.

Only you can decide if now is the right time to undertake a Ph.D. or not. There will always be numerous pros and cons, but only you can choose if it is the right step.

Courses in Data Science

While there are variances between programs, the typical course load of an online doctorate in data science includes advanced coursework in data analysis, machine learning, research methods, and specialized topics, along with research projects and a dissertation. Since the dissertation is highly personal, however, research focuses can differ significantly.

Data Analysis

Data analysis covers statistical methods, data visualization, and exploratory data analysis. In this course, students will learn the skills to process, interpret, and draw insights from large data sets. Being able to draw conclusions from data sets is a crucial part of data science and vital for many careers.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence that encompasses algorithms, model training, and predictive analytics. Nearly all forms of AI use it to help machines learn matters and relationships in data. With this course, students will be able to build intelligent systems and leverage data-driven decision-making.

Research Methods

Research methods in data science cover various techniques for designing and conducting data-driven research, including data collection, experimental design, and statistical analysis. This course prepares students to contribute to cutting-edge research, advance the field's knowledge, and apply robust methodologies in their data science careers.

Statistics

Statistics is a fundamental aspect of data science, encompassing probability, inferential analysis, and hypothesis testing. This course provides students with the essential tools for data analysis, model validation, and understanding uncertainties, making them adept at drawing meaningful insights and making data-driven decisions in various domains.

Natural Language Processing (NLP)

Natural Language Processing (NLP) covers techniques that allow computers to analyze and understand human language. This course equips students with skills in text mining, sentiment analysis, language generation, and machine translation, making them capable of developing advanced NLP models for various applications, such as chatbots, language understanding systems, and information retrieval from text data.

While every program might have slight differences, overall, students going into a Ph.D. in data science should expect courses with a strong focus on math and computer science.

Featured Online Data Science Degrees

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

Admission Requirements for an Online Ph.D. in Data Science Program

Admission requirements for most online doctorates in data science typically include:

Ph.D.s are often very competitive. Assembling everything you need for an application will take quite a bit of time and effort. Taking the time to do it right can increase your chances of being accepted.

Career and Salary Outlook for Data Science

A doctorate in data science is incredibly versatile and can help graduates land high-level jobs across multiple sectors. Graduates can become data scientists, research scientists, data analysts, or work in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Other potential options include roles in academia as professors or researchers, positions in the industry as data engineering or machine learning specialists, and leadership roles as data science managers or directors.

While pursuing internships can be common to gain practical experience, if your field is related to your Ph.D., you should be able to skip this step and go directly into the job market. Here are some common career options

Data Science Careers and Wages
Data Science Career Median Annual Wage (2021)
Machine Learning Engineer $123,650
Data Scientist $100,910
AI Specialist $82,298 (average)
Business Intelligence Analyst $103,500
Database Administrator and Architect $101,000
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary.com, ONET

With continuing education and certifications, there is a lot of movement and flexibility possible in the tech space. Data science is also an important aspect of many other careers so there is a lot of possibility for career movement and development.

Joining a Professional Organization

Joining a community or professional organization and getting involved can have a lot of important benefits both in terms of technical skills and interpersonal relationships. Whether it is a local organization or a national one, it’s important to get involved and utilize these great resources.

Advantages of joining a data science professional organization include access to:

  • Educational courses and workshops to enhance skills.
  • Networking opportunities with industry experts and potential employers.
  • Grant and funding opportunities for research projects.
  • Conferences and events to stay updated on the latest trends.
  • Collaborative projects and research initiatives.

Make sure to also search for any local associations or see if you can go in person to any conferences or events.

Scholarships and Financial Aid

The average cost of a doctoral degree in the US is $150,835 according to the Education Data Initiative. For most people, scholarships and financial aid are vital.

Different options for financial aid and scholarships in data science programs include:

  • Scholarships from universities or external organizations based on academic merit or specific criteria.
  • Research or teaching assistantships, providing stipends or tuition waivers in exchange for work.
  • Fellowships and grants for exceptional researchers or underrepresented groups.
  • Employer sponsorships or tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing advanced degrees.
  • Government-funded scholarships, loans, or grants for eligible students.

Financial aid is often limited and competitive so it is important to find as many options as possible and try and apply to as many options as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions About a Doctorate in Data Science Degree

How long will it take to get a Ph.D. in data science?

A Ph.D. in data science typically ranges from 3 - 5 years, depending on the program, research topic, and individual progress. It will also significantly depend on if you are studying full-time or if you have work or other personal commitments that will limit the time you can dedicate to your Ph.D.

Is it worth it to get a Ph.D. in data science?

The value of a Ph.D. in data science depends on your individual career goals. A doctorate offers expertise, research opportunities, and potential for high-level roles in academia, research, or industry. However, for some data science careers, a master's degree may be enough, and industry experience can also be valuable.

Do you need a Master’s or Ph.D. to become a data scientist?

A Master's degree is often sufficient to become a data scientist. Many professionals work as data scientists with a master's in data science, computer science, statistics, or related fields. However, a Ph.D. can lead to specialized roles, research opportunities, and higher-level positions.

Will a Ph.D. in data science pay more?

A Ph.D. in data science can lead to higher-paying positions but there is not always a correlation between education and pay levels. Industry salaries can also be influenced by experience, job responsibilities, and the specific demands of the job, regardless of the degree level. This is particularly true in tech where experience and alternative education methods like certifications hold a lot of weight.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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