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Your Complete Guide to

Masters in Data Science

Online Masters Degree
on February 8, 2024

Why We Love It

  • Competitive Salary
  • Excellent Growth Potential
  • Lots of Options

* The Why We Love It section is solely based on the opinion of's Editorial Team. Any salary & growth research or estimates should be referenced further at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for your specific desired career.

What is an MS in Data Science?

Ninety percent of the data in the world have been created in the last two years.  In 2020, data-driven businesses were worth an estimated $1.2 trillion.

This is a rapidly expanding field that isn’t going anywhere.  On top of that, Harvard Business Review called data scientists “The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.”  Glassdoor called it the “Best Job in America” for two years.  Best of all, the degree that can land you this job is relatively new, meaning you could be getting in on the ground floor.

A Master of Science (MS) in Data Science is an interdisciplinary degree designed to train you in scientific methods and processes to extract (or mine) data to gain insights or knowledge from that data.

Data science seeks to unify statistics and data analysis and apply them to understand actual, real-world phenomena. A Master’s degree in Data Science provides introduces students to datasets and the skills and knowledge to manipulate and work with the datasets to extract valuable insights. These insights help make decisions in organizations across industries.

An MS in Data Science will teach you about the theory and application of several broader areas, such as:

  • Statistics: Collecting, organizing, analyzing, and interpreting data is essential to making them useful.
  • Information Science: Whereas statistics is a mathematical concept, information science makes sense of data by analyzing them and putting them in context.
  • Mathematics: Nearly all data are expressed in mathematical terms so that quantities can be easily recorded and compared.
  • Computer Science: This refers to more than actual hardware and software; computer science also deals with theoretical studies of information, algorithms, and computation.

Within the field of computer science, the following topics are particularly important to data science:

  • Statistical Classification: This is essentially pattern recognition based on statistical data.
  • Data Mining: This is where statistics and computer science intersect, extracting data and organizing it in a useful way.
  • Cluster Analysis: One of the main concepts behind data mining. This involves grouping similar objects in “clusters,” such that those objects are more similar to each other than to objects in other clusters.
  • Databases: More than simple organization and storage of data, databases are complex tools developed with advanced design and modeling techniques.
  • Visualization: The best way to communicate data is often through graphic representation.
  • Machine Learning (ML): A subset of artificial intelligence (AI), this is the study of algorithms that automatically improve themselves with experience.  ML is often used to make predictions based on statistics.

Recommended Schools

What Can You Do With an MS in Data Science?

You can have a great job.

An infrastructure architect ensures that a company’s technical systems can handle the requirements of the business.  A data engineer helps to develop a self-driving car.  A data analyst helps to discover a comet by analyzing astronomical survey data.

These are only a few examples. The possibilities are endless. You get to choose what you’ll do, and you don’t have to know what that is right now. Professionals with this degree have the advantage of opting for jobs in data engineering, data analysis to many other cutting-edge fields that have the potential to shape the future. An MS in Data Science could give you the tools you need to do a wide variety of jobs, so you’re not committing to a career before you even finish your degree.

Best Programs for an MS in Data Science

Here’s the best part: We’re going to give you the secrets to finding the best programs for adults, programs that could help you get your MS in Data Science faster and with as few headaches as possible.

We know planning for college can be confusing, and is dedicated to helping you find the right path for you so that you can complete your degree and start your new career as soon as possible.

Why We Love an MS in Data Science

  1. Competitive salary:  Data scientists are usually well-paid. Career fields in data science present a higher likelihood of financial stability, with more opportunities in the growing field, increased demand for skills, and competitive salaries for the skills.
  2. Excellent growth potential:  Data science is an ever-growing field with plenty of room for advancement. The field is expected to grow, providing a constant stream of employment opportunities. For these professionals, this means stability.
  3. Lots of options:  An MS in Data Science degree could be your gateway to a wide variety of career paths. You could be interested in pursuing a career in technology, finance, business, or even healthcare, and with a degree in data science and the right skills, you would be able to succeed in these or other such fields successfully.

Online vs. Traditional Campus

Most people who think about going back to school and getting their MS in Data Science never even get started.  Not only are there various entrance hurdles like exams and application fees, but it’s also tough to make school work around your schedule.

And for someone coming with a lot of family, personal, and work commitments, this is a very tough decision.

Technology has changed all of that.

With adult-friendly schools, there is really no reason not to go back to school anymore.  What makes a school adult-friendly?  Here are a few key attributes:

  • Schools are totally online. Online learning is best for busy adults, who have to balance their ongoing education with work, kids, and everything else that comes with being a grownup. With a fully online program, schools offer convenience for adults by allowing them to schedule their learning around their diverse responsibilities making the entire experience flexible and accessible.
  • Can offer accelerated programs, with ongoing enrollment.  What’s better than getting your master’s in two years?  Getting it in fourteen months.  With ongoing enrollment, you don’t have to wait until fall or spring to start on your new journey; many schools offer monthly enrollment periods, meaning you can start whenever it works for you.
  • Can offer more support than traditional schools.  This includes but is not limited to, career services, making it easier for you to begin your new career.  Because, at the end of the day, isn’t that why you’re going back to school?

Recommended Schools

Admissions Requirements for MS in Data Science

So what do you need to go to grad school?  You need to take the GRE or another entrance exam, right?

Not anymore.

Many adult-friendly schools do not require GRE or entrance exams.  Online programs generally require only a bachelor’s degree to get started, and there are no application fees to worry about.  You start when you’re ready.

Masters in Data Science Curriculum

As mentioned above, an MS in Data Science will expose you to statistics, information, and computer sciences, and more specialized fields like data mining, visualization, and machine learning.

These are all essential to the growing field of data science, and you will need a working knowledge of these concepts to compete in this exciting and ever-changing field.

What Courses Will I Take in My MS in Data Science Program?

Because data science is so complex and versatile, the core curriculum of an MS in Data Science program will likely include courses that build a foundation of knowledge in the aforementioned areas.  Examples include:

  1. Probability and Statistics: These two branches of mathematics are closely related and very important to the field of data science.
  2. Data Visualization: This would likely involve interacting with data to find the best way to understand and present data available to you.
  3. Predictive Data Analysis: Understanding and presenting data is not enough; data are at their most useful when they can be used to make predictions.
  4. Scientific Decision Making: This would build on your understanding of data to identify patterns with the most significant statistical support, and to make generalizations and/or draw conclusions based on those patterns.
  5. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning: Computer science has come a long way, and computers can analyze and interpret data much faster than people can; this allows people to spend more time making decisions based on the data collected and created by these algorithms.
  6. Computational Science: Related to machine learning, this field uses advanced computing to solve complex problems.

MS in Data Science Program Length

Most MS in Data Science programs require a minimum of 30 credits to graduate.  Normally, an MS in Data Science program takes one to two years to complete.  An accelerated plan, however, could take less than a year.

This is where adult-friendly schools really shine.  They know their students have jobs, kids, and other obligations that make a traditional school schedule unrealistic.  The best adult-friendly schools make the process as convenient as possible, and they could get you into the workforce as fast as possible because they know that’s what adults want.

Choosing the Right University or College Master in Data Science Program

Choosing the right school for you can be exciting, but it can also be a hassle.  Tuition costs, application fees, accreditation, enrollment windows, and entrance exams are just some of the variables to consider.

That’s why we created the Smartplan.  We want to help people go back to school, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone.  With our Smartplan, we make it easy for you to start on your path towards your MS in Data Science.

Here are just some of the benefits of your Smartplan:

  • No application fees
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • No entrance exams or testing
  • Faculty and professors who understand adults
  • Discounts and scholarships available
  • Open enrollment dates

Recommended Schools

Best Jobs for Those With a Masters in Data Science

What can you do with an MS in Data Science?  What kind of salary can you expect?

Here are some common careers for MS in Data Science holders, with salary data estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Statistician or Data Analyst:  This is someone who collects, analyzes, and interprets data, and develops statistical models.  You could make anywhere from $49,350 to $157,300 per year.
  • Applications Architect:  This involves planning how the applications used by a business will rock together.  They ensure reliability and scalability as the business grows.  You could make anywhere from $64,240 to $164,590 per year.
  • Data Architect:  This is someone who designs and manages how an organization’s data is created, stored, and managed.  You could make anywhere from $63,260 to $169,500 per year.
  • Infrastructure Architect:  This deals with the actual hardware that makes up an organization’s network, as well as its technical requirements.  You could make anywhere from $64,770 to $168,390 per year.
  • Data Engineer:  Similar to an infrastructure architect, a data engineer designs and maintains databases and other aspects of business information systems.  You could make anywhere from $55,670 to $147,670 per year.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite careers, but an MS in Data Science does provide you with broad skills to work in. Advanced education in Data Science equips students with a specialized skill set that can be applied to a diverse range of industries, giving professionals to experience different career options. And again, you don’t need to know right now which job you want. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose from.

Cost and Tuition

Cost and tuition vary from school to school, and you’ll want to speak with each of your prospective schools directly.  Fortunately, online schools are generally more affordable than their in-person counterparts.

Adult-friendly colleges understand that most adult students would want to save if they can due to many financial responsibilities and commitments. They also understand that the current economy has left people struggling with finances, and they could even help you with financial aid if you’re eligible. You’ll definitely want to speak to a few schools, and can help you with that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do I need to know what job I want before I start an MS in Data Science program?

A: No!  An MS in Data Science program could prepare you for a wide variety of careers.  You certainly don’t need to know what job you want today.

Q: Will I make more money with an MS in Data Science?

A: That depends on a variety of factors.  But as you can see above in the “Best Jobs for Those With an MS in Data Science” section, your MS in Data Science could mean excellent earning potential.

Q: How long will I be in school?

A: That could depend on you, your current job, and any other obligations you might have.  An MS in Data Science program could take anywhere from six months to two years, but our Smartplan is designed to help you find the right degree for you, so could finish as quickly as possible!


How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Masters in Data Science degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

Create Your Free SmartPlan

There are many ways to make college affordable and accessible.

That’s why we created a helpful tool called SmartPlan.

It’s free, and helps you find potential ways to save and tons of information about each school you’re considering

Think of it as your “college blueprint”, to help you instantly craft a path to your degree:

  • Which Colleges Match Your Needs
  • Ways You Could Save Time & Money
  • Free Courses You Could Take for Credit
  • Valuable Data and Insights on Each College
  • Detailed Steps You Should Take!

See what’s possible for you and generate a free plan within just a few minutes

Create My SmartPlan

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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