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Earning an online data science degree prepares students for lucrative careers in a high-demand field. Data science solves problems and makes predictions by analyzing data. Bachelor's in data science programs focus on machine learning, computer programming languages, data mining, and database administration.
Data scientists' daily work includes studying social analytics of consumer trends, using experimental frameworks for product development, and optimizing news headlines with machine learning. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that data scientists earned a median annual salary of $94,280 as of 2019.
See our ranking of the best online data science degree programs for 2021 below. Our guide also explains what to expect from a typical bachelor's in data science, potential career paths for graduates, and how to choose the right program for you.
What Is Data Science?
An interdisciplinary field, data science uses algorithms and principles of machine learning to analyze data for predictions and decision-making. It combines theories and techniques from computer science, mathematics, statistics, and information science. Contemporary notions of data science and data scientists were popularized in the early 2000s.
Consider a career in data science if you enjoy solving problems; analytical thinking; and math, information technology, and computing. Industries that employ data science professionals include computer systems design, management, consulting, and research and development. The BLS reports that over 30,000 people work as data scientists and in other mathematical science occupations.
Why Get an Online Data Science Bachelor's?
An online data science degree develops specialized knowledge and technical skills that qualify students for advanced positions. The data science field typically requires a bachelor's or master's degree. A computer science associate degree, certificate, or coding bootcamp can lay the groundwork for these more advanced degrees. Benefits of earning a data science bachelor's include the chance to develop new skills, qualify for better job opportunities, and earn a higher salary.
- In-Demand Skills: The BLS projects faster-than-average job growth for the computer and information technology field from 2019-2029. Employers in every sector need people with advanced technology skills as information security, cloud computing, and virtual data storage become more common.
- New Job Opportunities: Graduates qualify for a variety of IT and computer jobs with a bachelor's in data science, including computer programmer, computer systems analyst, and information security analyst.
- Competitive Salaries: Many of the jobs you can get with a data science online degree earn high salaries. For example, PayScale reports that data scientists earn a $96,420 average annual salary.
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What To Expect From Bachelor's in Data Science Programs
Bachelor's in data science programs offer an interdisciplinary curriculum that draws from computer science, mathematical modeling, and statistics. Students gain skills in data mining, predictive modeling, visualization techniques, and machine learning. They apply these skills to analyze data, make predictions, and solve problems.
Full-time students who earn their data science degree online usually complete 120 credits and take four years to graduate. Typical classes like foundations of data science, data visualization, data systems administration, and techniques of data science. Below, we explain more about what to expect from your online data science degree. The cost of an online data science degree varies, but in-state public schools typically offer the most affordable tuition.
Some data science programs include concentrations like health data, business, mathematics, or sociology. Schools may offer different types of data science degrees, including a bachelor of science (BS), bachelor of arts (BA), or bachelor of business administration (BBA).
Specific admission requirements for data science degree online programs vary among schools. Online bachelor's in data science programs usually require a high school diploma or GED certificate and satisfactory ACT/SAT scores. Some universities ask for a minimum GPA, typically 2.5-3.0. Other typical requirements include letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and written essays.
Some programs also ask students to submit evidence of leadership experience, community service, and participation in extracurricular activities. Many schools use Common App, which allows students to apply to multiple institutions with one general application.
Data science programs sometimes go by other names, like data management or data analytics. These degrees can be offered in several configurations. Below, we explain the differences among online bachelor's in data science programs:
A BS in data science emphasizes math and science, focusing more on data science than a BA, which explores a greater variety of subjects. Students interested in careers using technical skills or pursuing a graduate degree in the field may prefer the BS.
A BA in data science includes more arts and humanities classes in non-science fields than the BS. It also may offer the opportunity to add a minor in another field, providing a more well-rounded education than a BS. Students who choose a BA in data science may find more career opportunities that explore the social and humanistic aspects of data analytics.
A BBA in data science combines a focus on data science with general business principles. BBA programs typically focus on practical business skills and emphasize career readiness. This may be a good option for someone interested in using their data science skills in a business environment.
Comparing Data Science to General Computer Science Degrees
General computer science and data science bachelor's programs overlap, but computer science is an older, more well-defined discipline, while data science is newer and more interdisciplinary. Computer science degrees usually limit their focus to the theory and practice of computers.
A computer science degree may provide a broader skill set, while a data science degree prepares students for more specialized positions. However, a data science degree also helps develop the skills required for many general computer and information technology jobs. The table below outlines some of the differences between data science and computer science bachelor's programs.
|Bachelor's in Data Science||Bachelor's in Computer Science|
|Program Length||4 years||4 years|
|Course Load||120 credits||120 credits|
|Focus||Mathematics, statistics, computer programming, analysis, data visualization, data ethics||Theories of computer science; practical skills like programming, software development, and engineering; algorithm design; operating systems; mathematics|
|Available Jobs||Data scientist, data analyst, database administrator, computer systems analyst, information security analyst, computer programmer||Computer programmer, computer systems analyst, software developer, information security analyst|
|Types of Classes||Introduction to data science, statistical methods, machine learning, introduction to object-oriented programming||Computer science theory, algorithms, computer architecture, data management|
|Admission Requirements||High school diploma or equivalent; SAT/ACT scores||High school diploma or equivalent; SAT/ACT scores|
Popular Data Science Courses
The curriculum for online bachelor's in data science degrees varies, but most programs focus on issues like machine learning, database and programming languages, data organization, and data analytics. Data science degree online programs require general education, core, and elective/concentration credits. Sometimes students must complete a capstone or practicum. Below, we explain what to expect from popular data science classes.
Introduction to Data Science
This core course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of data science. Topics include data analysis, statistical techniques, and testing hypotheses. Students learn to set up experiments, run data analysis code, and make data sets more accessible.
This class teaches students to examine design principles, color theory, storytelling, and human perception to create better data visualization. Students learn to use visualization tools to present data and share their findings and visually encode data.
Foundations of Data Management
This course introduces learners to data management. Students use structured query language, data definition language, and data manipulation language to process data. The course explores structured, unstructured, and quasi-structured data and introduces concepts of data security.
Data Systems Administration
This class teaches learners how to become database administrators and explains how crucial this position can be to businesses. Topics include account administration, maintenance through migrations and upgrades, database management tools, and recovery procedures.
Students explore the process of analyzing data through machine learning. They learn to extract data, identify data representation features, and evaluate popular machine learning algorithms.
How Much Will a Bachelor's in Data Science Cost?
The cost of a bachelor's in data science varies substantially by school. Factors that affect price include program format (online or in-person), institution type (public or private), and student residency (in-state or out-of-state).
In general, private universities charge higher tuition rates than public institutions. Students looking for affordable ways to earn a data science degree online should find public schools where they can pay in-state tuition. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that the average annual tuition and fees at public, four-year institutions as of the 2018-19 academic year cost $9,212, compared to $31,785 for private, four-year schools.
Many online programs offer in-state or discounted rates to those living out of state. Distance education degrees also provide other opportunities to save money, including faster paths to graduation, free textbooks and other learning materials, and lower fees. Institutions offer financing options to help students pay for school, including scholarships, grants, and loans. Learn more about these options below:
Jobs for Bachelor's in Data Science Graduates
Data science online degree programs prepare graduates for a variety of lucrative computer and information technology jobs, including data scientist, computer programmer, computer systems analyst, and information security analyst.
These careers offer high average salaries, ranging from $86,550 to almost $100,000. Earning a master's degree or industry certification in data science can further increase career advancement and salary opportunities.
Data scientists analyze data and solve problems. Typical job duties include using software tools and programming languages, collecting and cleaning data, and generating algorithms. They create mathematical models that help organizations plan for their future success.
Required Education: Bachelor's degree
Average Annual Salary: $96,420
Computer programmers write code that tells software programs and computer applications to cooperate. They use a variety of programming languages, find coding errors, and simplify writing using code libraries. Top employing industries for programmers include computer systems design, finance and insurance, and manufacturing.
Computer Systems Analysts
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts plan and enact security measures to protect organizations' information security. Job tasks may include detecting security breaches, conducting penetration testing, researching emerging IT trends, and creating disaster recovery plans.
Choosing the Right Data Science Program
Our ranking of the best data science online degrees is a great place to begin your search, but many other factors go into choosing the right school. Below, we cover some additional criteria to consider:
- Any prospective school should hold regional accreditation, which indicates the institution offers high-quality academic programs. Attending a regionally accredited university also makes it easier to get financial aid, transfer credit to another school, and qualify for graduate school and professional certifications. Some bachelor's in data science degrees may also hold programmatic accreditation from ABET.
- Cost/Financial Aid
- Students should determine the estimated cost of attendance for each prospective school, including whether the institution offers lower tuition for out-of-state online learners. Financial aid opportunities for data science majors, including scholarships, grants, and student loans, can lower total program cost.
- Career Services
- The best colleges offer robust career services for students earning a data science online degree. This includes workshops, resume help, networking opportunities, and job search boards.
- Earning Potential
- Many schools publicize the average salaries of their students after graduation as a way for prospective students to estimate their future earning potential.
Why You Should Get Your Data Science Degree Online
Earning a data science degree online offers benefits like a flexible schedule, lower cost, the convenience of learning from home, and the chance to network with students around the country. Most programs let learners complete courses asynchronously and provide 24/7 access to materials. This lets students continue working full time while they earn their degree, potentially saving money. The ability to complete coursework flexibly provides freedom and the chance to develop valuable time management skills.
Because data scientists spend their time working with computers and need a solid understanding of IT practices, distance education can be a great way to develop career skills.
Distance education is increasingly popular across disciplines, but it may especially suit data science majors. Earning an online data science degree gives students the opportunity to gain proficiency in computer and information technology skills while maintaining their jobs. Because data scientists spend their time working with computers and need a solid understanding of IT practices, distance education can be a great way to develop career skills.
For those who prefer in-person learning, many universities also offer on-campus data science degrees.
The Top Online Bachelor's in Data Science Schools
The following list ranks the top five online bachelor's in data science programs for 2021. Schools on this ranking hold either national or regional accreditation.
Accredited educational institutions meet learning and quality standards set by third-party, expert certification bodies. Accreditation ensures that institutions of higher education are credible and provide quality education.
Frequently Asked Questions About Data Science Degrees
Is a degree in data science worth it?
Yes. Earning an online bachelor's in data science prepares students for high-paying, in-demand careers in data science, computing, and information technology.
What can you do with a bachelor's in data science?
Online bachelor's in data science students can apply for graduate school or find work as computer programmers, data scientists, data architects, and data analysts.
Which online degree is best for data science?
The best online degree for data science depends on each student's career goals, academic interests, and budget. Prospective students should find schools that best align with these needs.
Is it possible to learn data science online?
Yes. Many top schools offer online data science degree programs. Data science lends itself particularly well to distance education because students complete much of their coursework on computers.
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