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Best Bachelor's Degrees in Data Science

Apr 01, 2021

Data Science Degrees

Data science is the profession of analyzing information in order to come to meaningful conclusions about it. Data science can be applied to professions that require pattern recognition in data, including general analyst positions as well as artificial intelligence development. A recent paper from Harvard Data Science Review projects that statistics will become more important to data science, and, in general, the field itself will continue becoming more important to society in the near future.

What Kinds of Data Science Degrees Are There?

There are several educational opportunities available to students who are interested in this field. Students may choose to pursue an associate degree, a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, or a doctoral degree. Different degree levels may help support the pursuit of different job opportunities, and, as such students might want to consider their career goals when choosing a program.

Associate Degrees in Data Science

An associate degree in data science typically consists of around 60 credits spread over two full-time years. Students may choose to pursue this degree to help prepare them for some entry-level positions. They may also choose to use it to earn credits for transfer to a bachelor's program, though it is important to note that credits are not always universally transferable to any university. The degree will most likely be an Associate of Science in Data Science, given the subject matter, as opposed to an Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Art.

Bachelor's Degrees in Data Science

A bachelor's degree in data science typically consists of 120 credits spread over four years of full-time enrollment. It requires more dedicated time and finances to attend than an associate degree, but the higher number of classes also offers students the opportunity to learn more about data science. They may also be presented with the opportunity to complete an internship to solidify their skills. Students who acquire a bachelor's degree can reflect that they have completed this more robust education to future employers, potentially making them more qualified for jobs that require a certain level of education. Given the degree's curriculum that consists largely of math and science courses, this degree will likely be a Bachelor of Science rather than a Bachelor of Art. However, there are programs that offer a Bachelor of Art in Data Science. This will differ from a Bachelor of Science in that there may be more credit options for humanities-based classes. A student who is interested in applying data science to the legal industry, for example, might benefit from this degree since it will allow them to take legal classes to round out their education.

Master's Degrees in Data Science

A master's in data science will probably take students anywhere from 1 to 2.5 years to complete, depending on both the chosen program as well as full-time or part-time status. This may be a Master of Science or a Master of Arts degree. Master's degrees in this field offer students the opportunity to pursue specialized, in-depth education on a certain data science concentration. Additionally, professionals in entry-level positions may choose to attain a master's degree as a possible way to demonstrate proficiency in their work. Most master's programs will require a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission and may also require some previous experience with certain coursework or programming language depending on the concentration.

Doctoral Degrees in Data Science

A Ph.D. in Data Science will most likely include several taught classes as well as individual research in the form of dissertations. Earning a Ph.D. in this area often includes extensive and intense work that can take anywhere from 4-8 years to earn, depending on the program. They are typically competitive programs that require a bachelor's degree for consideration. However, the opportunity for individual research can offer students a way to become well-versed in specific parts of the field and may qualify them for more senior positions.

Certificates in Data Science

Students who earn a certificate in data science are demonstrating that they have specialized knowledge in a certain aspect of the field. They are available on several levels. They range from non-credit courses with no education prerequisites to certificates that can be completed simultaneously with bachelor's degrees. There are also graduate study add-ons available. Certificates may be of interest to students who wish to demonstrate specific knowledge.

Best Data Science Bachelor's Degrees

1. Pennsylvania State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$18,450 76% 71% 73% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

2. University of Nevada-Las Vegas

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,171 81% 45% 92% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

3. Arkansas State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,900 80% 53% 97% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Data Science Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Concentrations give students the opportunity to focus on a certain area of their chosen field. While obtaining a data science bachelor's, there are a few concentration options available, such as:

  • Environmental management, which gives students the opportunity to study natural resource use with data science.
  • Economic organization, where students might explore the data behind financial markets and social constructs associated with them.
  • Cognition, a subject that might help students learn about applying data science to the human thought process.

Concentrations can be helpful for students to learn more specific skills that could be useful in certain careers. For example, a data scientist and a business intelligence analyst will have similar but distinct responsibilities, so students may find it helpful to choose a concentration that better fits their desired career path. The widely applicable nature of data science might make concentrations especially helpful.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Data Science

While exact classes will vary from program to program, the curriculum for a bachelor's degree in data science will likely focus heavily on math and science to support the necessary skills for the field. A few examples of classes that students may find on their required course lists include:

  • Statistical data analysis, in which students have the opportunity to learn about the application of mathematical statistics to the interpretation of information.
  • Calculus, an advanced branch of mathematics that analyses the relationships between value changes.
  • Machine learning, where students may be able to learn how artificial intelligence can be programmed to automatically adapt to changing environments.

In addition to these classes, bachelor's degrees typically also have general education requirements. These often include courses unrelated to the student's major but intended to make them more well-rounded. These can include basic writing composition courses or artistic pursuits. Additionally, students pursuing a data science bachelor's degree might have elective options as well. Depending on the program these electives may or may not be directly related to data science.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Data Science?

A bachelor's degree in data science will usually take four years to complete when done full-time. As the credit requirement is typically around 120 credits, this might translate into around 15 credits taken each semester. However, different programs have different suggestions of course load. Some programs allow students to take up to 26 credits in a single semester.

Of these credits, students might expect around a third of them to be dedicated to fulfilling general education requirements, with around 12 credits being allotted for electives. The remaining credits, usually a little over half, are typically reserved for the major classes. As many curriculums stipulate that the required courses have prerequisites that they build from, this may pose a challenge for students interested in pursuing an accelerated track. Students who are curious about this option might want to reach out to academic advisors to inquire about possible early graduation plans.

Prerequisites for a Data Science Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree in any program will most likely require students to hold a high school diploma or equivalent G.E.D., if applicable. There are not any typical courses that are required, but students might find that choosing high school classes that focus on math and science could help them later in their studies. For example, while there are differences between a data scientist and a statistician, taking available statistics courses might still help with future college coursework. Similarly, experience via internships in the field may be helpful for future studies and demonstrate interest to admission boards but is rarely explicitly required. Additionally, many schools may require an ACT or SAT score for admission, so students might want to think about taking these standardized tests.

How to Choose a Data Science School & Bachelor's Program

Students might want to consider their career goals when selecting a school and program to study data science. While many schools offer similar courses and concentrations, some will not be available everywhere. For example, students who want to work with healthcare data might want to select a program that offers healthcare infrastructure concentrations so that they may get specialized education in their chosen industry. A similar consideration might be given to bachelor's degrees that offer certificates as a part of their program. Students should also examine where they will have opportunities to grow their careers with options like internships or research programs. School-sponsored alumni programs could be a good resource for students who are curious about what past students have been able to achieve with their degrees.

Students should also be careful to differentiate between data science programs and data analytics programs. While data science is the practice of creating models from information in order to come to conclusions about that information, data analytics is more concerned with trends and visual presentation of the information itself. There is understandably overlap in these focuses however different schools may provide different courses depending on the degree title.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Data Science Degrees

If a school has been accredited, that means that it has been officially approved by a regional private organization that has itself been approved by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education, or both. This recognition typically conveys that a school has been examined by an official body that has determined it is providing an education of acceptable quality. Accreditation not only helps to inform students of well-performing schools but also acts as a prerequisite for students who are interested in applying for federal aid.

Programs themselves are not accredited by the same body, but instead from field-specific bodies. For data science, students interested in programmatic accreditation might want to look for approval from the Computing Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET). Similar to regional accreditation, this can serve as evidence to employers that the student's chosen program has been vetted and endorsed by a respected institution in the field. Therefore, students may want to consider this before selecting a program.

Data Science Licensure & Certification

Data scientists do not typically require a license or certification. However, students who are considering becoming a certified data analyst might find that obtaining certification in their specific field could increase their possible job prospects as it can demonstrate ability.

One group offering certification is Data Management International (DAMA). This group offers four levels of certification, with each level requiring more experience, tests, and higher grades to pass. The associate certification recommends at least six months of experience before attempting the 100-question exam; however, students can attempt it earlier as DAMA states this amount is a guideline. There is a fee to take the exam which can be put towards membership fees upon successful completion. This certification will last three years before it must be renewed.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Data Science?

Data science is a broad field that gives students the opportunity to pursue several professions requiring large-scale interpretation of information. A few of the opportunities available for students include becoming an infrastructure architect, a machine learning engineer, an enterprise statistician, a data steward, and a data modeler.

How to Become a Data Steward

A data steward is a professional responsible for maintaining a company's secure information. Daily duties may include establishing security guidelines for data management, documenting metadata, and reviewing best data science practices within an organization. This job is typically done full-time in an office setting. A bachelor's degree is typically necessary. Industry experience and certification, while not always required, might be helpful in securing a job opportunity. Professionals in this field should have strong analytical skills, as well as familiarity with relevant programming languages and industry standards.

PayScale reports that the average salary for a data steward is around $67,569 per year, with the most experienced and senior individuals earning up to $96,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a growth rate of 10% during 2019-2029 for the closely related profession of a database administrator. As this projected increase is partially a result of the predicted increase of data needs across most industries, the position of data steward will likely experience similar growth.

Students interested in becoming a data steward should first consider obtaining a bachelor's degree in data science and may want to take classes related to business administration as well. After that, they might want to gain a few years of experience in their industry and consider testing for certification with Data Management International. Finally, they might start sending applications out to companies in their chosen industry that need a data steward.

How to Become a Data Modeler

A data modeler is a professional that structures data in a way that serves both technological interpretations and its practical use. Some duties that a data modeler might be responsible for include creating formulas, compiling reports, and cutting down on data redundancies. These are typically full-time, office-based positions. Although there are typically no licenses or certifications required, certifications paired with years of relevant experience can possibly increase an applicant's chances of employment. Additionally, entry-level jobs in this field often require bachelor's degrees, although more senior positions may request a master's degree. Data modelers should have strong logical and problem-solving skills, with an open-minded approach to creating solutions.

Glassdoor estimates the average annual data modeler salary to be $78,548. The BLS projects that an increase in companies using sophisticated technology will lead to a 7% growth rate from 2019-2029 for computer systems analysts, a career field that also includes data modelers.

Students who are interested in becoming a data modeler should consider obtaining a bachelor's degree in data science. They should then think about obtaining certification and experience, as well as consider the possibility of continuing their education to obtain a master's degree. After that, they will likely be able to start a job search for companies in need of a data modeler.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Data Science Degrees

For students attending accredited schools, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) may be a useful resource. Those who apply will receive information regarding how much federal aid they are eligible for in the form of scholarships, loans, and work-study opportunities provided by the government.

Additionally, there are scholarships available specifically for data science programs. One option is the Visto Bill Caspare scholarship. This scholarship awards $10,000 to an undergraduate student who maintains a 3.25 GPA while pursuing a career in new media, digital advertising, and/or data science. The student must also be a racial minority or identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community to qualify.

Another scholarship option for female students is the Women in Data Science Scholarship. Female undergraduate students pursuing data science, business analytics, statistics, computer science, or computer information systems are eligible for an award of $1,000 dollars.

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