Guide To A Master’s In Data Science

Data Science is an umbrella term that encompasses fields like data mining, machine learning, big data, data visualization, business analytics, bioinformatics, and statistics. Used in almost every industry big and small, data science comes in three main flavors:

  1. Inquiry – This form of data science is used widely by academia, governments, and research institutions to gain better understanding of both human and natural phenomena. One mission critical example can be found in the World Health Organization Collaborating Centers for Reference and Research on Influenza. Year round, the WHO coordinates with over 100 national influenza centers in over 100 countries to monitor the spread of influenza (Source: CDC).
  2. Analytics – This form of data science revolves around decision making, and is the most common form of data science found in the business world. On the customer facing side, data science is used to drive sales by determining, for example, where in a store to place a product, what keywords to target in a search, or what features to include in a product to target particular customers. Behind the scenes, data science is used to improve process quality, evaluate cost saving measures, and evaluate employee performance.
  3. Intelligent Machines – While analytics allows a user to make data driven decisions, intelligent machines take it a step a further, and make these decisions themselves. These tools play a huge role in automation, especially in the IT industry where intelligent machines are battling each other for ad space and user attention. A new up and coming intelligent machine is the self-driving car. Who knows where else in our lives we will soon find intelligent machines?

A career in data science will often entail taking part in two or all three forms of data science. To use weather forecasting as an example. First, researchers try to understand weather phenomena by refining theories and models with more and more data. While phenomena like rain are mostly understood, other phenomena like tornadoes are still at research stage (Source: PBS NOVA). Once a theoretical framework is established, they may next build a forecasting model to predict future phenomena, an intelligent machine. They may then be asked by governments to serve as analysts as officials try to balance the cost and risk associated with a mass evacuation against the risk and cost of partial evacuations or shelter in place orders.

The possibilities available for data scientists are endless.


“Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job Of The 21st Century”

– Harvard Business Review


Job Prospects


The field of data science is expected to grow 28% by 2020 according to IBM (Source: Forbes). Companies from different industries need data scientists and analysts to make sense of big data and to create a business strategy from that information.

Job Prospects
Job Growth1 2016 Median Salary1
Actuaries 18% $100,610
Computer Systems Analysts 21% $87,220
Economists 6% $101,050
Financial Analysts 18% $81,760
Market Research Analysts 19% $62,560
Mathematicians 21% $105,810
Operations Research Analysts 30% $79,200
Statisticians 34% $80,500
1Data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.Return to footnote reference

Featured Schools for Data Science


UC Berkeley

The Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) is an online degree program for professionals looking to advance in the field of data science. Drawing upon the social sciences, computer science, statistics, management and law, the programs prepare students to solve real-world problems by deriving insights from complex and unstructured data. Students in the program benefit from UC Berkeley’s strong ties to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

Syracuse University

Syracuse University’s online Master of Science in Applied Data Science is designed for professionals who want to gain specialization skills to excel in their evolving field. Featuring live online classes, interactive coursework and opportunities to network, the online learning format facilitates collaboration, problem-solving and in-depth analysis within an interdisciplinary curriculum. Students focus on pulling insights to drive business decision-making and operational processes using applications of data.

Another program offered by Syracuse is the Master of Science in Business Analytics. Delivered online by the Martin J. Whitman School of Management at Syracuse University, BusinessAnalytics@Syracuse helps data-driven thinkers develop or sharpen their ability to interpret complex data and guide their organizations in making more informed and actionable decisions. Through an action-oriented online learning format, students develop and hone their expertise in areas such as predictive analytics, data modeling, and information systems.

Southern Methodist University

Designed for working professionals looking to advance their careers, DataScience@SMU is an online Master of Science in Data Science from Southern Methodist University. DataScience@SMU’s interdisciplinary curriculum draws from SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, Lyle School of Engineering and Meadows School of the Arts. Classes and coursework focus on statistics, computer science, strategic behavior and data visualization skills so students can drive decision-making and advance in careers across industries.

The program blends live online classes, self-paced coursework and in-person learning experiences with classmates and faculty.

American University

Analytics@American is the online Master of Science in Analytics (MSAn) from American University’s Kogod School of Business. Through a combination of collaborative online classes, self-paced coursework, and hands-on learning experiences, students become experts in evidence-based data gathering, data modeling, and quantitative analysis. Analytics@American classes are designed by Kogod faculty members who take a student-centered, team-based approach to delivering a world-class business education.

Sponsored Programs

Top Companies for Data Science


Top Companies for Data Science
Company Company Rating2 Median Salary2
Opendoor 4.7 $137,500
Facebook 4.6 $134,715
Google 4.4 $152,856
LinkedIn 4.3 $132,196
Zillow 4.3 $114,643
Salesforce 4.2 $117,913
Uber 4.2 $122,432
Microsoft 4.0 $123,011
Cisco Systems 3.9 $116,913
Twitter 3.9 $135,360
Airbnb 3.8 $127,852
Capital One 3.8 $107,760
Booz Allen Hamilton 3.7 $85,260
eBay 3.7 $114,335
Nielson 3.6 $73,667
IBM 3.5 $109,597
Oracle 3.4 $107,061
Walmart 3.3 $118,662
2Data obtained from Glassdoor.comReturn to footnote reference

Leading Researchers


Leading Researchers
Researcher Affiliation Total Publications3
Andrew McCallum Universiy of Massachusetts, Amherst 256
Christos Faloutsos Carnegie Mellon University 484
Eamonn J. Keogh Universiy of California, Riverside 196
George Karypis Universiy of Minnesota 330
Hans-Peter Kriegel Universiy of Munich 452
Heikki Mannila Aalto University 283
Jiawei Han Universiy of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 655
Philip S. Yu Universiy of Illinois, Chicago 788
Rakesh Agrawal Microsoft 359
3Information obtained from KDnuggets.comReturn to footnote reference

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