Last Reviewed/Updated: February 14, 2020
Data science sounds fairly complicated at an initial glance with the discussion of big data and the development of algorithms that leads to data-driven decisions. However, there are many ways that raw data can be gathered and interpreted, and data science is the study of those methods to give us information that is easily presentable.
The goal is to study data and optimize processes in an organization, such as prescribing the best medication to a patient, or efficient delivering goods and services to the locations that need them. Part of the higher educational process is receiving the skills needed to mine data, determine what is useful regardless of the type of data, and what tools are needed in certain situations.
Why Study Data Science Online?
Gaining an online education is becoming easier and more popular around the world. Being comfortable in a virtual setting and working with various programs and applications creates a seamless transition to a career in data science, as all careers in the industry will require competence with computer work.
Working with programming software is almost a requirement in every position. Even if the job does not call for building applications and coding, scientists and analysts should have familiarity with programming and the various tools needed to work with it, such as SQL, Hadoop, and SAS.
For those that do not live near an institution that offers data science education, pursuing an online degree adds convenience for those looking to step into a career.
Featured Online Data Science Programs
Johns Hopkins AAP
|MS in Data Science and Policy||Website|
George Mason University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics Engineering||Website|
Northern Illinois University
|Master of Science in Data Analytics||Website|
University of California Berkeley
|Master of Information and Data Science||Website|
|BS in Data Analytics||Website|
Why Consider Studying Online?
Since data science is an emerging career trend, there are many working professionals that are interested in pursuing job opportunities, but lack the skills and education necessary to do so.
Multiple Online Bachelor and Master of Data Science Programs
There are many colleges and universities that offer a Bachelor's degree within the computer science field that can be specialized into data science or a related category for those that lack an undergraduate diploma. Otherwise, those that have already succeeded in getting a degree can look toward a Master's program or graduate certification in data science.
Flexible Learning with Asynchronous and Synchronous Formats
Gaining an online undergraduate or graduate degree in data science can be tailored to a student's unique schedule. Courses will either be offered in an asynchronous or synchronous format. This means that students will either need to attend classes virtually when they are live on campus, and there is typically an interactive feature that needs to be completed in order to prove attendance.
In many cases, there is an option to view the lecture live or it can be accessed on-demand at the students' convenience. Assignments and quizzes will need to be completed in a timely fashion in order to keep up with the long curriculum, and there is a usually a limit set on the amount of years a degree can be pursued.
Graduate Certificate Program Options
A graduate certificate is an alternative way of gaining higher education without the time commitment to the university and students are able to spend less money.
These can be a general overview of data science or a concentration in the field, such as applied statistics, big data management, business analytics, computer engineering, data mining, and healthcare informatics. Many institutions have graduate certificates available across the country, and most students that complete a certification are able to transfer that credit into the Master's degree program the school offers if they pursue a full education at a later time.
Emergence of Online Data Science Programs
Many institutions around the world offer full data science programs for students to pursue. Some universities will require a physical meeting for orientation or the capstone project, but frequently, there are no requirements for any on-campus residencies and the application process is very streamlined with few requirements.
Some Programs Wave the GMAT or GRE
Students with academic merit can have some requirements waived. This is due to the fact that there are plenty of openings in data science, but organizations are looking for educated and experienced workers to fill these positions. Gaining a higher education would fulfill this need, and it is becoming easier to access with online opportunities.
Many High Quality Online Data Science Programs at Reputable Universities
Some examples of major universities offering online programs include the University of Notre Dame. They have a Master of Science in Data Science, a 30-credit hour program that includes topics in probability and statistics, data security, linear models, data visualization, time series and forecasting, and more. There are 14 total courses in the program with no electives, providing students a uniform path that can be completed within two years.
Other popular institutions offering an online program include UCLA, Oklahoma State University, University of North Carolina Wilmington, and University of Maryland at College Park.
Online-based universities will often have a more self-paced format, giving students the ability to pick up and study on their own time. These are best geared toward students that need plenty of flexibility in their schedule to complete the program, but are disciplined enough to finish the program within the allotted time given. Many colleges offer the ability for students to study at any time, but there are deadlines for assignments, class projects, and exams.
Why an Online Masters in Data Science?
Gaining a Master’s degree in data science or a related field will enhance a professional’s resume regardless of the discipline they studied in the past. Higher education showcases the graduate’s ability to understand big data with a managerial vision.
They generally will have the skills needed to lead a team that gathers and processes various sources of data and turns it into relatable information for other departments within the organization, or for the clients they work with. There are many concentrations to customize a data science program and enter the health care industry, public policy, computer engineering, cyber security, accounting, and much more. In some cases, Master’s degrees will have a discipline directly in these categories.
Flexible Quicker Program Lengths or Longer for Part Time Students
Most programs require between one to two years to complete, but some can be spread over a longer time period for part-time students. Many options will allow students to take a hiatus, like stepping away for a semester, but there is usually a time limit set on when the program can be completed.
Multiple Programs with No GRE Entry Requirements or Waivers
Some universities will not require Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, or similar testing scores, or they offer a way for students to bypass this requirement if their academics were exceptional in the undergraduate program. Holding a Bachelor’s degree or a similar four-year degree is usually required before entering a Master’s program.
Online Data Science Courses
There are many options for online data science courses or other tech related courses. Below are a few of the most popular ones.
Online Data Engineering Courses
Often mixed together with data science itself, courses that specifically have topics in data engineering explore the development and maintenance of systems that work with data. This includes building the platform and applications used to work with data, making the process more efficient, and handling any issues that arise in the process. Not only is computer science and programming skills learned in these courses, but it adds database design and management, and software engineering. Specific applications used include Hadoop MapReduce, Spark, Python, and SQL.
Online Data Analysis Courses
There are a wide variety of topics explored in these courses, and opportunities are frequently available to get a graduate certification or Master’s degree in the discipline of data analytics. Courses include learning programming languages such as Python, R, and SAS; mining and cleaning data sources, how to analyze and interpret various forms of data, querying information with a tool like SQL, and more. In some cases, there will be courses that add in the skills needed to present this information, but that will be a separate course entirely most of the time.
Online Data Visualization Courses
Creating the platform to gather data and using the tools needed to extract and analyze it are all very important, but another aspect in this process is how to communicate these findings to others. Data visualization courses focus on how students can tell a story from the data to other organizational departments or higher-level executives. Creating information that is understandable is how decisions are made, and it can also go back to analysts for further interpretation. These courses will help students gain the skills needed to bridge the gap from an analytical point of view to a common audience.
Online Business Intelligence Courses
These courses will explore converting raw data into information that can be used directly toward improving the business aspect of the organization. Types of data can be financial transactions in an acquisition, how efficient employees are operating at, sales volume, marketing impact on goods and services – this is all information on what has taken place. In a similar fashion, exploring business-driven decisions with data science will look at quantitative analysis and simulated forecasts on what could happen in the future if certain changes are made.
Online Machine Learning Courses
A more complex topic is artificial intelligence and machine learning, which is an automatic process for a computer to use an algorithm to determine patterns and trends instead of an analyst. This is especially helpful with rapid amounts of unstructured data that humans would be unable to keep up with and analyze. Examples of inputs of data include search queries on the internet, filtering spam web sites and e-mails, product recommendations, credit card swiping, and even facial recognition. Many subjects in this category will be divided up in their own courses, like Naive Bayes methods, regression methods, neural networks, and clustering.
Online Statistics Courses
These subjects will come up frequently in a broad data science curriculum, or degrees that are tailored toward statistical analytics. Probability skills are needed to analyze data, determining specific characteristics of the information received, or inferring certain things based on the results. Students will discover various distribution methods, like binomial and categorical, regression methods, correlation, uni-variate and multivariate methods to determine outliers, and patterns in time-series analysis.
Benefits of Studying Online
There are plenty of benefits when it comes to pursuing an online education.
1. Flexible Scheduling
Without question, the ability for students to study at their own pace is a top feature. Creating a flexible schedule helps build specific time to dedicate toward learning and it can be moved around work shifts. There is no need to take extended time off or quit an opportunity to learn data science. Students should be aware of any deadlines for assignments and tests, especially in accelerated courses that take seven or eight weeks to complete instead of the whole semester.
2. Excellent for Rural Locations
Even for states and rural locations that are not near a college or university, an online program provides a way for anybody to study. There is no need to commute long distances or temporarily live in housing that is around campus. Aside from specific program entry or admissions requirements, all that is required to pursue a degree is an updated computer that is running Windows or Mac operating systems and a broadband internet connection. In some cases, using a Windows OS or an emulation is needed to run certain applications, and courses will need various requirements for plug-ins and browsers.
3. Same Curriculum as Campus Based Programs
Online students will typically pursue the same curriculum with the same faculty that is offered on campus. There will discussion boards and chat rooms to discuss course material with other students in the course and directly with the faculty, and expect office hours routinely each week. Resources that are available in a virtual setting also can be used by online students. An added benefit for those that live close to campus is that in many instances, on-campus resources are open to online students. One of the few downsides is that some institutions will not have all data science electives available online.
4. It Can be Cheaper
Studying online is potentially cheaper than the alternative, and that is not just because of the elimination of travel costs or living accommodations. Universities will offer these programs at a discount online because not as many resources are being used, and there is demand in the job market to fill the growing industry.
Working on assignments online will also prepare eventual graduates toward a seamless transition into their career, especially if they are working on the same programs and applications they have been using during their studies. Sharing electronic portfolios that demonstrate what the graduate has done during their studies will also give them an upper hand when finding a job opportunity.