Associate Degrees in Data Science
Last Reviewed/Updated: November 5, 2020
Foundational topics in data science and data analytics can be completed in a two-year higher education program with an associate degree. Associate degrees provide a pathway to assistant job opportunities or entry-level analyst positions in working with big data. Whether completing the program directly in the discipline or taking concepts of analytics toward a different subject, students will hold important skills in an emerging job field.
Are There Online Programs for Associate Degrees?
Not many associate degrees are available online with a specific discipline in data science. This can be due to limited resources available at community colleges and smaller institutions. As data science continues to grow in various industries and there is wider availability for community colleges, students should review what is available at institutions close to them.
Considering a discipline within data science for concentrated coursework
Specific disciplines may not be frequently available online, but there are alternatives. Data science topics can be found in various associate degree disciplines, such as computer science, computer engineering, and information systems. Concepts may be used in unrelated disciplines, like criminal justice, due to their use of analytics in criminal intelligence and understanding this type of behavior.
Online options for full or part time students
If students choose to pursue a program online, there may be an option to enroll on a part-time or full-time basis. Associate degrees are geared toward full-time enrollment with students completing around four to five courses in each semester and completing the curriculum in two years. Graduates have the option to pursue further studies with a Bachelor's degree or enter the workforce at an entry-level position.
Associates of Data Science Programs
Technical requirements will differ at each institution, such as operating system and the type of device that is needed to access course content. Some learning management systems will allow mobile devices to easily access course material or will have a natural app available on Android and iOS devices. Other needs to consider are applications like the Microsoft Office suite and web browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.
What Are the Steps to Getting an Associate Degree?
An associate degree is the quickest way to receive a full diploma beyond the high school education level. This provides an opportunity for individuals to get an entry-level position that requires data collection and organizing, statistical analysis, data visualization, and more. They can also use it to transfer over to a full undergraduate program, such as a Bachelor's degree.
The curriculum for an associate degree is divided up over a two-year span for full-time enrollment. General education courses, such as humanities, social sciences, mathematics, and communication and writing combine together with the major selected. In many cases, these courses will be frontloaded in the program, but students often have multiple courses to choose from and can spread these requirements throughout.
Students must hold solid academic standing in their education process, and specific requirements will differ based on the institution. In many cases, students will need to maintain a C-grade average, or at least a 2.0 GPA, in order to continue their studies at the college. Higher grade requirements may be needed in the courses directly toward the major.
In some cases, an associate degree may have the education and resources necessary for a professional to fulfill the needs of their career. When reviewing data science jobs, many opportunities require at least a Bachelor's degree, but there may be opportunities in business analytics or becoming an assistant within the information technology sector.
Variances in Associate Programs
There are different types of associate degrees to consider. Terminal associate degrees prepare students for an entry-level career in the discipline studied. Other associate degrees may be built around completing early education in a discipline and transferring credits over to a different institution to finish an undergraduate degree in more advanced topics.
For an alternative to the associate degree, prospective students may consider specialty certifications that are offered by an institution. These often provide a way to sit for certification exams by a vendor, such as Microsoft or IBM. This designates that a professional is competent in a specific area of data science or they are familiar with the software and hardware distributed by the vendor.
Online Associate Degrees in Data Science
Wake Technical Community College
Available at the Research Triangle Park Campus and conveniently online, the Associate in Applied Science in Business Analytics offers studies in data mining, warehousing, predictive modeling, and more. There is an option to take courses with a blend of on-campus and online experiences if desired. Pursuing the program with full-time enrollment, students can complete the associate degree in approximately two years.
With a focus on business analytics, courses will have a few courses on programming related to preparing data sets and using these features toward statistical analysis. The majority of the curriculum will focus on creating predictive modeling and various tools used in this process, such as regression analysis and proper visualization techniques to present this information to others in the organization.
64 total credit hours are needed to complete the AAS degree, and courses are available both day and night for those taking the hybrid or on-campus formats. Many courses will have lab sessions that offer application of statistical skills learned. As an alternative, students can consider related certification programs that will take a group of courses from the AAS degree and verify that the individual is proficient in a particular subject.
The Business Intelligence certificate requires the completion of the first four courses in the traditional AAS degree, and this can be used to sit for the SAS Base Programmer certification exam. Other certificates include Business Analyst and Logistics Analytics. There are accelerated programs available for students with prior experience that requires just one semester for certification.
Southern New Hampshire University
An Associate of Science in Data Analytics requires 60 total credit hours to complete, and the work in this program is easily transferrable to the Bachelor's degree in the same discipline. These credits are also applicable to other related degrees within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Graduates could consider entry-level analytical positions or data management instead of further education.
Students will explore general education required by the university and introductory-level coursework in analytical skills. A Bachelor's degree will expand on these topics and give students an opportunity to add electives or a minor. This can prepare students for implementing numerous statistical methods and gaining initial concepts in working with Python and R programming, which are topics in data science.
Reviewing the curriculum, 24 total credit hours are within general education, where students will take basic courses in English, quantitative analysis, microeconomics, and an overview of the online learning process at SNHU. 27 credit hours are for the data analytics major, and the remaining nine credit hours are free electives that give the curriculum further flexibility for students.
Examples of courses within the major are Role of Data Analysis in Organizations, Data Policy and Decision Making, and Emerging Technologies and Big Data. The latter course focuses on how big data is transforming over to newer technology, such as cloud-based storage and artificial intelligence. Data Policy and Decision Making focuses on how data analytics can influence government policy and business decisions.
The State University of New York (SUNY)
Herkimer College within the SUNY network offers an online Associate in Applied Studies for Crime and Intelligence Analysis. This takes concepts of data science and analytics, and puts it into a discipline for criminal justice. Graduates will either move on to further undergraduate studies or gain opportunities in law enforcement, government intelligence, or strategic solutions in military operations.
63 total credit hours are needed to fulfill curriculum requirements, and it can be completed over a span of four semesters with full-time enrollment. Examples of courses that students may pursue include Forensic Science, and Crime Analysis and Crime Mapping. There is an emphasis when looking into criminal activity with serial killers and sexual predators.
Online education is mostly asynchronous through SUNY's online-focused programs and students will often not have specific times set for their courses. There is an ability to view on-demand lectures at the student's convenience while following due dates for assignments and examinations. SUNY Online does give credit to many other institutions if students are transferring general education credit over.
This program is regionally accredited by the Middle State Commission on Higher Education. Graduation from this program will provide eligibility for individuals to take state certification for crime analysts positions through the Division of Criminal Justice Services.
American Military University
Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, the School of STEM provides a fully online Associate of Science in Data Science. 60 total credit hours are required throughout the program, and courses are distributed in eight-week modules and begin on a monthly basis. Benefits taking this program include no cost for book and technology fees, application fees, and transfer credit evaluation for military members.
Students will explore programming methods used to collect and clean information from structured and unstructured data sets, using different analytical methods, and entry-level machine learning concepts. There is an ability to move into the Bachelor's program after completing the associate degree if desired and complete two more years to receive the following degree.
Reviewing the curriculum, this associate degree is divided evenly with general education and the major in data science. Examples of topics that students will take within the major include multiple levels of advanced calculus, linear algebra, statistics, and data visualization. The program will culminate with an associate seminar course where students work with a team and solve real-world organizational problems.
In order to get into the AMU program, applicants will need a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Prerequisites must include the completion of mathematics courses up to pre-calculus. A College Readiness Assessment is required unless the applicant has already gained at least nine credit hours of college-level coursework.
Weber State University
The School of Computing and Department of Engineering, Applied Science, and Technology offers an Associate of Applied Science in Computer Science. Students gain preparation in fundamental computer science topics and object-oriented programming. Advanced placement examination is available to test out of certain entry-level courses based on the score they receive.
Here are a list of required courses that students take in the program, both directly related to the computer science major and supportive courses based around concepts of data science.
- Introduction to Data Structures and Algorithms
- Introduction to Database Design and SQL
- Computer Architecture and Organization
- Probability and Statistics
- Network Fundamentals and Design
- Business Communication
There are no major requirements needed to get into this program directly. Admission into the university requires the submission of high school transcripts showing completion or GED equivalent, ACT or SAT testing scores, and any other resumes or official transcripts that can be used in the process. Testing scores are not required, but students may test out of certain math or English courses.
In order to graduate from the program, all 63 credit hours must be completed to fulfill curriculum requirements. Another necessity includes passing all computer science-related courses with a grade of C or higher. Along with these scores, students should maintain an overall cumulative 2.7 GPA.
An Associate of Arts degree in Computer Science and Technologies with a concentration of Computer Science is available online. This is geared to be a program that is transferrable to a Bachelor's degree and the curriculum is fully offered in a convenient online format. Students will gain competency in object-oriented programming and implementing algorithms into statistical analysis.
Students will take four to five courses in each semester with full-time enrollment, completing the degree in two years. Initial courses will consist of entry-level programming, two levels of calculus, and an overview of computer science. More advanced topics of computer science, and courses like Introduction to Discrete Structures, are in the second year with further general education.
Online education is identical to the program being offered on campus with the same faculty members and curriculum. Many courses provide an asynchronous format where lectures can be viewed on-demand. Students should review if they have the technical requirements needed to successfully pursue the program, such as having a Windows or Mac operating system and high-speed internet access.
Alternative educational options to consider are a concentration in Information Sciences and Systems, and a certification in Computer Science. This concentration emphasizes system analysis and database design, and what tools are used to organize data. Tools students will gain competence in include Functional Decomposition Diagram, Unified Modeling Language, and Joint and Rapid Application Development.
Other Associate Degrees in Data Science
Northwestern Connecticut Community College
The Associate in Technology Studies with a concentration in Data Science is available to those looking for full-time study with general education and foundational subjects in data science. Students completing this associate degree can transition into the Bachelor of Science in Data Science or Technology Management offered at the university.
67 total credit hours are earned in the program, which is earned exclusively at the Winstead campus in Connecticut. In the first year, students will mostly focus on general education and some initial background in sciences and mathematics. Examples of data science courses in the second year include R programming, machine learning, and first-level graduate calculus.
Various elective opportunities are available throughout the program in all four semesters that are taken. For example, students can select an economics and psychology elective in the first year, and pick up to three math or programming-related courses. This provides plenty of customization for students that will eventually be transitioning to a full four-year undergraduate program.
When graduating this program, individuals will have a better understanding of basic concepts in data science, including specific topics in mathematics and statistics. They will also obtain communication and public speaking skills that are necessary to present their findings when collecting and analyzing big data from a variety of sources.
Brigham Young University-Idaho
Through the Department of Mathematics, students can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Data Science. Students will become proficient in entry-level programming needs and statistical analysis toward positions in data science. Between 60 to 62 total credit hours are needed to fulfill the curriculum, and this can be completed over a span of two years.
38 credit hours represent specific topics within data science, such as introductory-level programming and database management. There are a number of categories that will offer students multiple courses to choose from, including taking a course in Biostatistics or Business Statistics, and Database Design and Development or Programming with Classes.
Other course requirements include six total credit hours in general electives that customize the program further, and 18 credit hours are needed in general education that are mostly taken in the first portion of the curriculum. Topics within general education include writing, quantitative reasoning, religion, and college success (explores life success skills and succeeding online academics).
To get into the program, students should have a high school diploma with high academic merit. This program is geared to be terminal, meaning the focus is toward students looking for employment after graduation instead of further studies.
North Hennepin Community College
A member of the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, students can earn an Associate of Science in Data Science under the Computer Science program. Goals for students in this program include being able to use and interpret different forms of data in order to make successful organizational decisions. They should be able to parse out important information and give context to the data they retrieve.
Required courses in the main program include introductory-level Python and Java programming, accessing databases with Structured Query Language (SQL), and database design. Electives can further customize the program with exploring the Linux operating system and various data algorithms. General education courses may consist of micro or macroeconomics, public speaking, college writing, and applied statistics.
60 credit hours are needed to complete the program, and students are required to graduate with a 2.0 cumulative GPA toward the courses taken at the university. At least 50 percent of the degree must be completed at the college, which includes at least 15 credit hours per semester.
This program can act as a degree providing essential knowledge and skills to thrive in a data science position, or graduates can transfer over to a different program to complete a Bachelor's degree. Accreditation has been received by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Based in Florida, this college has multiple locations across the state and opportunities to pursue the Associate of Science in Business Analytics. This associate degree can be used as a stepping stone to get into the Bachelor of Applied Science also offered by the school. Students must have a high school diploma or GED equivalent in order to gain admission into the program.
Full-time enrollees will finish the program in approximately two years, divided up into six terms. Suggested pathways include courses during the summer semester, but this can change if students are eligible to test out of any courses. Multiple elective courses will be taken in the final few terms of the program, and these must be approved by the program director.
As the major emphasizes business analytics, there is little exposure to programming and more focus on business topics, such as management, public speaking, and statistical methods. Examples of courses that students may take in this program include Introduction to Accounting, Database Management for the Office, Marketing in the 21st Century, and Data Collection and Presentation.
Student shave the opportunity to complete an internship after their first year or consider vendor-specific certifications, such as becoming an Oracle SQL Certified Associate or Excel Office Specialist. Part-time students have a bit more flexibility and can complete the program in 10 terms, taking either two or three courses in a given term.
Typical Coursework for the Associate Degrees
Many associate degrees will require some form of English composition or writing course, which prepares students for creating detailed reports on their statistical analysis. Within data science, this can provide further details in statistics found in data sets or making recommendations on what an organization should pursue based on information.
Almost as important as writing and visualization information is being able to communicate these findings to other sections of an organization. This requires the ability to clearly articulate points in business meetings or one-on-one sessions. Data science tends to have a lot of jargon, and these courses can provide tips on how to clarify specific aspects of information that may be difficult to understand.
Various humanities may consist of topics in ancient history of Western culture or Greek mythology, evolution of the arts over a specific time period, or reviewing philosophers and the impact they have had in their culture. This is one of many liberal arts courses that are required within the university’s general education portion of the curriculum.
The entry-level economics course is beneficial in data science for students looking to become business analysts or creating predictive models. Microeconomics studies the decision-making process of individuals and businesses and how this impacts supply and demand.
Multiple levels of calculus are common and necessary when pursuing a major in data science. Understanding calculus is important when creating formulas and programs that manipulate various sources of data and cleaning the information to make important decisions for an organization. The amount of courses in calculus needed will vary on the program selected.
When first exploring statistical analysis in future data science projects, students need to know the basics behind probability, distribution, and different graphs and charts that are used to display information. They must be able to determine outliers and misleading information, and the potential causes behind these findings. Some regression analysis may be looked at, but this is typically for later studies.
Introduction to Data Analytics
Before jumping into any particular topics in data science or data analytics, an introductory course provides context behind potential careers and why this process has been growing in organizational decision making. This can also provide an overview on what tools are used, such as Python, SAS, or Tableau, and the process of data mining, analysis, and visualization.
The basics behind popular object-oriented programming languages like Python and/or R may be explored in the disciplines of data science and data analytics. Introductory courses will explore the basic concepts of Python, such as various classes that can be implemented and used when creating programs. R emphasizes statistical analysis and different visualizations that can be used.
Also known as data mining and/or data cleaning, this is the beginning process of transitioning data from structured or unstructured sources and ensuring that it can be used for analysis. These courses may look into the differences in sources that information is collected and tools that can be used to organize, review, and clean this data, and various database management systems used by organizations.
How to convert analysis into visual, easy to digest information is explored in this course. Students will learn the different tools and software available to them and what types of charts and graphs should be used in certain circumstances. Visualization projects may need to completed to inform other segments of the organization or to shareholders for data-driven decision making.
Tuition Costs for the Associate Degrees
When comparing tuition rates for undergraduate degrees at bigger universities and associate degree programs at community colleges, the latter provides a cheaper pathway into entry-level positions in data analytics. A full two-year program can be found for under $10,000, but this can be higher based on the location of the program and if the student is a resident in the state the college is located at.
Reviewing current tuition rates at Nashua Community College at Nashua, New Hampshire, students will pay between $200 to $500 per credit hour for the Associate in Science with a focus on data science. If students are a resident in the state of New Hampshire, the rate is $215 per credit, and this jumps to $490 per credit for non-residents. Adding all tuition together, residents in New Hampshire will pay $13,115 for the 61 credit hour program.
In order to continue decreasing costs for tuition, students should consider local community colleges for an associate degree where they do not have to pay for out-of-state fees. Some online programs at different locations provide tuition at the in-state rates. For community colleges, there may be further discounts in education if a student is located in the same county or working in a specific industry.
Another consideration is full-time or part-time enrollment, with the former providing a cheaper overall experience for students. By completing the full associate degree in two years, there are less overall fees that students will have to pay that are charged annually. Having an associate degree will also already provide a cheaper way to get a Bachelor’s degree instead of pursuing the full program at a university.
Scholarship Options for the Associate Degrees
Students can apply for scholarship opportunities at community colleges when gaining admittance into a program. Financial aid is available for full-time students, but these are loans that must be paid back unless a certain amount of funds fall under a grant. Scholarships are awards given that deduct or fully eliminate tuition costs for various students.
Eligibility for students will depend on what the college has available for particular programs. Some scholarships will be geared toward specific groups of people or are limited to students that have shown high academic merit in their high school studies. For example, a scholarship may award minorities or women exclusively if there is demand for them in a particular industry.
Scholarships may be available through the college itself or from associations that distribute them on a regional basis. For example, a state chapter of a particular industry organization may give a certain amount of tuition award to help dedicated and experienced individuals. These scholarships can also be available on a national scale or provided by vendors associated with improving the field of data science.
Some workplaces may provide discounted or free education with advanced subjects like data science. This is due to the demand for experienced professionals in terms of completing statistical analysis or presenting these findings to make data-driven decisions in an organization. Opportunities like this are more commonly found when pursuing a Master’s degree for advanced data science positions.
What Can You Do With the Associate Degree in Data Science?
There are different pathways that students can consider with an associates degree. Usually offered at community colleges and smaller institutions, this program can be a stepping stone to a Bachelor’s degree in a similar discipline. Gaining an associate degree and completing general education and foundational courses in the major may decrease overall tuition costs or influence another career pathway for the student.
Many institutions will provide an ability for students to transfer over to an undergraduate program with an associate degree and complete the Bachelor’s in Data Science degree. This is also a possibility if students are looking to pursue their studies at a different university. Students must review the courses completed and determine what is viable to count for credit with the new program curriculum.
On its own, the associate degree can provide entry-level job opportunities, and a curriculum that only spans two years may be enough instead of completing a four-year program. Some associate degrees will be geared for students that are looking to complete studies in two years as full-time enrollees. For data science professionals, opportunities may be limited to the complexity of working with various data sets, information systems, and statistical analytics.
Alternatives to Associate Degrees
Individuals unable to commit to a multi-year higher education program may consider some alternatives to the associate degree. Certifications provide a more focused education in a particular area of data science, such as implementing information systems in an organization or using various statistical methods to analyze data. These are often completed within a year and may be specific to particular vendors.
Computer and data science bootcamps also require a shorter time frame to receive basic data science education. These offer all-day courses that may explore numerous topics or specializes in one specific area of data analytics and what is related to it. Ranges for bootcamp sessions range widely depending on the resource, but some course material can be completed in as little as a few weeks.
What are the admissions requirements for AS or AA programs?
1. High school diploma or GED
Students will need to hold at least a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED, to get into an associate degree program. Specific to data science, there may be prerequisites to complete, such as pre-calculus or entry-level statistics. If these courses are not already completed, the institution may offer supplemental courses that do not count toward the associate degree curriculum.
2. There may be ACT or SAT requirements but check with your school
Standardized testing with the ACT or SAT are commonly required to get into an undergraduate program. This requirement is becoming phased out from admission requirements, but prospective students should review if this is needed for the institution they are applying to. In some cases, SAT or ACT scores can be supplemental application material that will give students the ability to test out of certain courses.
3. Other requirements include career goals and payment plan (or financial aid)
Other potential admission requirements include having a certain grade point average in high school studies or graduating within a specific portion of the class. A statement of career goals may be needed, which includes why the applicant chose the particular institution to study at. There may also be letters of recommendation from prior managers or academic teachers, and there is usually an age limit.
For some students, they will be completing an associate degree and transferring to a different institution to pursue a Bachelor’s degree. It is important to determine if the university being transferred to will accept the associate degree with comparable courses. Students should work with academic advisor to verify their ability to complete the program and all transfer rules are followed.
Enrollment Opportunities for Associate Degrees
Students usually have the option to pursue the associate degree with part-time or full-time enrollment. In many circumstances, this program is completed on a full-time basis in order to transfer over to a Bachelor’s degree and complete the entire undergraduate process in a typical four-year time span. The associate degree itself will span over four semesters, or two years prior to transferring.
Being able to complete an associate degree on full-time enrollment opens the door for additional financial aid opportunities. Overall costs can also be less as certain fees for technology and other resources charged on an annual basis will be paid for in a few years. This also holds true in completing a portion of the Bachelor’s degree at a community college prior to enrolling at a more expensive university.
Benefits of Part-Time Enrollment
Online programs and associate degrees that are terminal provide flexibility for their studies. Instead of completing coursework on a full-time basis, students can instead work on one or two courses at one time and finish the degree at their own pace. While less financial aid options may be available, students may be able to pay for their studies with just a few courses at a time.
Other benefits include completing an associate degree while being able to complete other life obligations, such as raising a family or continuing professional work. There is no need to make a large commitment to a university and pay for room and board if it is not within the student’s residence.
If content is potentially overwhelming for the student, studying on a part-time basis provides more focus on particular topics. This can also open up the door to changing the course load in a particular term, potentially having more general education courses in one semester and focusing on a few major-specific courses in another semester.
Students should take note that universities will often have a limit on how many years they can use to complete a program. Since an associate degree typically takes two years to complete on a full-time basis, it is reasonable to expect the college requiring the entire program being finished between four to seven years. These requirements will vary depending on the institution.
A number of entry-level jobs can be earned with certification or an associate degree in data science. These positions will typically fall into database administration, support services, and network analysis. When it comes to maintaining information or providing support for other employees that are accessing information on a network, these positions do not require advanced levels of data science or analytics education.
Many jobs in the field of data science will list a Bachelor’s degree as a requirement, but this is not typically mandatory. An associate degree provides the basic skills needed to configure network hardware and solve software compatibility issues. This lends an opportunity to get jobs in an organization’s help desk or support desk in the information technology sector.
On a more advanced level, computer systems analysts go further by evaluating existing systems and determining how to implement new innovations into the IT department. They may be responsible for how to configure new hardware and software to ensure its compatibility with existing systems and adapting employees to new processes and procedures.
Quality assurance analysts will test new hardware and software to evaluate its compatibility and efficiency with existing platforms. They may analyze rigorously to determine of these innovations can handle a significant workload and if data remains secure with no vulnerability points and eliminates potential for unauthorized access.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, average salaries for computer systems analysts are $90,920 annually across the country. Graduates with an associates degree will likely not get positions that pay at this level as these estimates are for management and designing information system solutions. These required tasks are above the skills earned at the foundational level of data science.
Based on location, professionals with an associates degree will likely see salary figures between $40,000 to $60,000 for their position. PayScale estimates that salaries average at $54,074 for professionals that hold associate degrees and work in the information technology sector. Specifically, support technicians will make $48,000 annually, and specialists are on the higher end at $57,000 annually.