Certificates in Data Science: Undergraduate and Graduate
Last Reviewed/Updated: October 17, 2019
One of the quickest ways to break into the data science industry or to advance in the workforce is to obtain a certification from an institution. There are some differences to note between an undergraduate and graduate certificate, and completing an online program allows the freedom of picking the right program and provides maximum flexibility to fit in anybody's schedule.
Data Science Certificates Online
With data science certificate, generally speaking, in a short time frame (such as a year or less), people can acquire the basic skills necessary to become business analysts, quality analysts, machine learning engineers, or any other opportunity in the world of big data.
What is a Data Science Certificate?
An academic certificate is a credential that somebody has received specialized education and training in a certain subject. This is a form of secondary education offered at various colleges and universities in the United States. By obtaining a certificate, this signifies that the person has been able to reach a level of education in their studies and abilities. There are both undergraduate and graduate certificates, which demonstrates the completion of courses parallel to a Bachelor's degree and beyond.
Online Data Science Certificate Options
Certificates are a good way to demonstrate that professionals have the skills necessary to pursue a different career path without the time commitment toward a full degree. Many are offered online or in a hybrid format of on-campus lectures and online coursework to allow for maximum flexibility for those that want to continue working while obtaining a certificate. Typically, course credit from certificates can be applied toward a Master's degree in the future.
Software Specific vs. Program Specific Certifications
Data science certificates are becoming more common with high demand for workers in the tech industry. People are able to quickly become proficient in the field, and most certificate programs allow for customizability with elective options alongside a group of core courses.
Along with universities, there are companies and organizations that offer certification processes that show the skills needed to use their program tools. For example, SAS has various levels of certification, Cloudera has certifications for data analysts and data engineers, and Dell Technologies has options for Data Scientist Associate and Data Scientist Advance Analytics Specialist.
Featured Online Data Science Programs
Johns Hopkins AAP
|MS in Data Science and Policy||Website|
|Master of Science in Applied Data Science||Website|
George Mason University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics Engineering||Website|
Northern Illinois University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics||Website|
University of Denver
|Master of Science in Data Science||Website|
Undergraduate Certificate vs. Graduate Certificate
Undergraduate Data Science Certificates
Undergraduate certificates are course specializations that can be taken alongside a traditional, full degree. The completion of these courses will signify credentials in the specific topic chosen.
For example, completing an Undergraduate Certificate in Data Science would feature courses like data analysis, data mining, and data visualization, and that would be on top of a Bachelor's degree in Data Science. These skills would be paramount for those looking to become a business analyst.
Some colleges and universities offer standalone undergraduate programs, usually in the technical field, to gain an advantage in employment opportunities. It is not uncommon to have the ability to customize the certificate with electives to showcase a wide range of skills and knowledge in the data science field. For example, the data science undergraduate certificate could have electives such as bioinformatics, artificial intelligence, predictive modeling, or theory of linear regression.
Graduate Certificates in Data Science
Graduate certificates are for those seeking continuing education or a slight career change after obtaining an undergraduate degree. These are truncated programs when compared to a full Master's degree in Data Science or in a similar subject. Some certificates will have a set of courses to complete without any flexibility, but many programs provide elective options to customize the experience. Unlike undergraduate certificates, students do not have to be enrolled to a full Master program, but they are typically ineligible for any scholarships or fellowship the schools offer.
Those obtaining a standalone graduate certificate will likely need some fundamental knowledge before pursuing the certificate, such as calculus, linear algebra, and programming in Python and R. In some instances, these schools will provide prerequisite courses that can be taken before entering into the certification process. Many programs will require the completion of a Bachelor's degree with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Data Science Certificate Concentrations
Here are examples of data science certificates that can be earned at various institutions across the United States:
- Data Science
- Statistical and Computational Data Science
- Business Analytics
- Computational Modeling
- Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing
- Applied Business Data Analytics
- Applied Statistics
Online Graduate Certificates
There are a growing number of data science certificates that are offered online. Every organization, like Amazon, Cloudera, and Microsoft, provide resources and testing opportunities online to complete a certificate. Many colleges and universities offer this convenience as well. Instead of moving to an institution's location, students can simply view lectures and complete assignments and projects from the convenience of their own home.
Deliver-ability of Coursework
Schools vary on distributing classes in a live or asynchronous format, and sometimes coursework, group projects, and exams will need to be completed by certain dates. Proctored exams will be taken at a testing center in an college-approved location. It is important for students to have the right technology before pursuing a graduate certificate. Understand what computer devices and operating systems are needed to complete the program. Data science courses typically require Windows or Mac computers for compatibility with various programs like Python, R, and SQL.
Benefits of obtaining a graduate certificate online is the quick ability to change skill set. As technology changes over time, there will be new skills needed to adapt. For example, social media marketing has become an increasingly popular role over the past decade. In this position, it is important to understand how various social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and LinkedIn, can be used to sell a company's goods and/or services. All of these programs are interacted with differently, and it is the marketer's job to determine what content should be posted where, and which platforms work best to pay more attention to.
Graduate Certificate vs. Master in Data Science
Graduate certificates are essentially a truncated version of a full Master’s degree. There are a handful of courses, typically four to six of them (or 12 to 16 credit hours), that are needed to complete the program. The curriculum generally consists of the core courses in the subject matter, or a mixture of a few core courses and elective options that students can select to customize the certification. Sometimes, the entire process can be customized by selecting a variety of courses straight from the Master’s degree curriculum.
In comparison, a Master’s degree is full version of these programs. They expand on the various subjects with core courses, elective options, and usually a capstone project that culminates the degree, where students showcase what they have learned in their education. Generally, these programs take twice as long to complete, but many of them are geared toward professionals. There are plenty of online courses across the country with asynchronous courses that can be completed at the student’s pace, or on-campus opportunities that have courses in the evening or weekends. Some colleges will have a mixture of both options.
Graduate certificates are also much cheaper to obtain than a Master’s degree. Even a prestigious school like Harvard University that offers a Data Science Certificate, and all four courses are able to be completed online, costs just over $11,300 for the full program. Staying in the Ivy League, a Master of Science in Data Science at Columbia University would cost approximately $46,000 on an annual basis. Even cheaper options, such as Colorado State University’s in-state tuition in one year, hovers at the rate of Harvard University’s entire certificate.
Professionals that do not have the time to complete a full Master’s degree program can opt for a graduate certificate. These will take around 6 to 12 months to finish compared to a Master program that takes around two years or longer. Certification is best suited for those that may have some work experience and are looking to advance their career, or make a job position change in a related field. They are significantly cheaper than the alternative.
There are benefits to completing a Master’s degree, however. Many high-level and well-paying job opportunities require the full degree. This is best suited for professionals looking to gain an advantage over the competition and rapidly move up in their career. Most universities provide flexibility for graduate students to study at their own pace, and those options are continuing to grow across the country.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificates
California State University-Fullerton
Certificate in Data Science
One of the university’s Extension and International Programs is a graduate certificate that is geared toward data analysts and computer scientists who are looking advance in their careers, or graduates that are ready to enter the data science field. Upon completion of the program, students will understand how businesses are using big data to optimize their processes and to gain an advantage, be comfortable with software tools that can mine, store, and process data, and they will be able to present their findings to managers and other employees through data visualization techniques.
These courses will look beyond the basic knowledge of data analysis and business intelligence, so the college recommends that students have a Bachelor’s degree and/or at least three years of working experience in a related field. Cost for the certification is approximately $3,420 and is completed in 10 months. The following coursework is needed to complete the program, which equates to 117 educational hours of lecture and class discussion:
- Foundational Data Science I
- Foundational Data Science II
- Statistical Analysis, Modeling, and Data Mining
- Computational Data Sciences and Machine Learning
- Applied Data Science Capstone Project
Graduate Certificate in Data Science
The School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering offers graduate certificates in Cybersecurity, Information Architecture, and Data Science. The Data Science program can be completed fully online in two semesters, which equates to less than a calendar year. Students will need to complete the program within two years after enrollment, and there is an opportunity to transfer credits to complete a Master of Science in Data Science at the university. Tuition for the certificate is at approximately $1,380.
12 graduate credit hours are needed to complete the certification, and it can be fully customized to the student’s needs. Any four courses in the Master of Science in Data Science program can be taken. Course categories include statistics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics and visualization, intelligent systems engineering, precision health, and cybersecurity. It is recommended that students have prior coursework in Python and R programming, probability, linear algebra, and calculus. There is an optional Data Science Essentials class that can be taken to fulfill this need.
Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics
The Khoury College of Computer Sciences offers a graduate certificate in foundational big data categories, like data management, data visualization, and statistics. It provides an opportunity to professionals to advance their career or they can use these credits toward a full Master of Science program, such as Bioinformatics, Health Informatics, and more. Part-time students are able to complete the program within 8 to 12 months. Tuition for the program is set approximately at $26,100.
In order to get into the program, prospective students are required to submit an application with fee and hold an undergraduate cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and prior coursework in statistics. Other submissions when applying to the college include a statement of purpose, three letters of recommendation, resume, and unofficial or official transcripts. The following courses are needed to complete the certification:
- Collecting, Storing, and Retrieving Data
- Introduction to Data Mining and Machine Learning
- Introduction to Computational Statistics
- Information Design and Visual Analytics