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Is a master’s in data science worth it?

June 23, 2021
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If you’re thinking of pursuing a degree in data science, you’ve made a wise decision. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, data science is one of the top 20 fastest-growing occupations, with a projected growth rate of 31% between 2019-29.1 Keep reading to learn what data science is and to find out if an advanced degree in this growing field is the right choice for you.

What is data science?

Data science combines computer programming skills, domain expertise, and an understanding of mathematics and statistics to extract knowledge and insights from data. Using scientific processes, methods, systems, and machine learning algorithms, data science experts can produce artificial intelligence (AI) systems to perform tasks that usually rely on human intelligence. They work with everything from text and numbers to audio, video, and images. These advanced systems can then generate valuable insights for business users and data analysts.

Is data science difficult?

Since data science requires expertise in several areas, it can be challenging to become proficient in diverse fields. But is data science hard? It may be if you’re not comfortable with computers, highly technical concepts, and mathematics. However, for someone who enjoys technology, it can be professionally and personally rewarding. In addition to being “in-demand” and having a lucrative career—data scientists can earn an average of $115,275 annually—you will be at the forefront of technology and innovation.

Data science professionals are helping to transform industry sectors as diverse as telecommunications, health, agriculture, retail, finance, information technology, and professional services.2,3

Is a master’s in data science worth it?

To determine if a master’s degree in data science is worthwhile for you to pursue, you must weigh the time and cost that’s involved against what it is you’re trying to achieve. Do you have a particular career in mind and are lacking the necessary skills? If that’s the case, the course curriculum may be more important than the degree title.

The most sought-after data skills for today’s job market include data visualization, statistics, machine learning, data extraction and data wrangling, big data processing, and proficiency in a programming language. The most widely used programming languages in data science are Python and R.4

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Master’s in Data Science

If you’re researching a master’s in data science degree, there are various factors to consider before making a choice that can greatly influence your career.


Data science specializations can include business intelligence, data mining and statistical analysis, data visualization, database management, data engineering, cybersecurity data analysis, data analytics, machine learning (ML), and artificial intelligence.


All data science degree programs are not created equal, and a lot has to do with the university you choose. Does the institution have a relationship with local businesses? Do they offer a high faculty-to-student ratio for individualized learning? Do they have a good reputation among business leaders?

Program and Curriculum

When comparing master’s in data science programs, take a close look at the curriculum offered. How well does it match up with the necessary skills for your chosen specialization? Look for a program that provides a solid core curriculum to adequately prepare you for the field, as well as up-and-coming technologies such as AI and ML.


The university you choose for your data science master’s degree should be accredited, to ensure that its programs meet or exceed the quality standards.


The best data science program will be taught by highly skilled faculty with real-life experience in their field. It’s also important that faculty members are available to assist and support you during your studies, and are dedicated to seeing you succeed.

Networking Opportunities

A key part of your advanced degree education is making connections that will serve you well throughout your career and help you achieve your goals. Consider how well connected the university is with the local community as well as global partners in your chosen field. Will you be able to collaborate with teachers, business leaders, and fellow students?


The cost of a data science master’s degree is an important consideration for most people, and it is one that may inspire you to consider other options. A post-graduate degree isn’t cheap. You’ll have to consider if the benefits of having a data science master’s degree are worth the cost.


This is a key consideration if you’re working full time. Will you be able to devote time to attending in-person classes, or would an online program be better suited to your schedule and lifestyle?

What can I do with a data science master’s degree?

From being a business systems analyst to machine learning specialist or applications architect, there’s a wide range of career options for those with a data science master’s degree. There are data scientists who work in AI and robotics, and those who work as data analysts and statisticians. They’re involved in trucking, industrial operations, autonomous vehicles, sophisticated online platforms, and cancer research.

Alternatives to a Data Science Degree

If you want to be a data scientist, there are alternatives to a data science degree. These range from self-directed study and internships to data science boot camps, which usually last for a few months. If you’re working full-time and are unable to attend in-person classes, but you still want a rigorous master’s degree program that will make you more attractive to a prospective employer, consider a data science online master's or online master’s degree in business with a strong data science component.

Harness the power of data science with an Online MBA or MSBA at Seattle University.

The AACSB-accredited Online MBA and Online Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) programs from the Albers School of Business and Economics at Seattle University can empower you to transform your career and help shape the future. These innovative programs feature curricula built around the skills that data scientists need in this exciting, highly competitive field, from R and Python programming and big data analytics to business forecasting and law and ethics.

With a solid foundation that’s ethical and values-driven, highly accomplished and diverse faculty, and a powerful network with graduates at the world’s top technology organizations, Albers has an impressive track record for success. Get in touch with one of our Admissions Advisors today.

  1. Retrieved on May 18, 2021 from www.bls.gov/ooh/fastest-growing.htm
  2. Retrieved on May 18, 2021 from glassdoor.com/Salaries/data-scientist-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm
  3. Retrieved on May 18, 2021 from hbr.org/2018/08/what-data-scientists-really-do-according-to-35-data-scientists
  4. Retrieved on May 18, 2021 from ibm.com/cloud/blog/python-vs-r