Graduate Certificate Programs in Data Science
Data science graduate certificate programs are academic programs that offer training and instruction in the application of advanced mathematics, statistical modeling, and computer programming to sorting, analyzing, and interpreting large amounts of digitally stored data. These programs generally consist of a small cluster of graduate-level courses in the principles and practices of data science, including database and data warehousing systems, algorithm design and programming, data visualization, machine learning, and predictive modeling. They are designed for students who hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree and typically require some prior technical training in mathematics, statistics, and/or computer programming. These programs represent a relatively affordable and efficient option for college graduates and mid-career professionals who are interested in cultivating data science proficiencies without having to invest the time and resources that would be required to complete a full master’s degree in data science.
Data Science Explained
Data science is a relatively new field that grew out of work in computer science, applied mathematics, and statistical analysis. As advances in digital technologies and computing power made it possible to collect, sort, store, and analyze large amounts of data – sometimes referred to as “big data” – mathematicians, statisticians, and computer scientists developed and deployed an array of tools, methodologies, and technical processes to scientifically refine, manipulate, sort, and quantitatively analyze raw data in order to extract useful information or actionable intelligence. These processes form the foundation of data science, an evolving field in which the scientific investigation of data and its meaning is the central concern.
Data scientists utilize sophisticated statistical concepts, complex algorithms, advanced data mining tools, and computer-based machine learning in order to construct descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive models that can inform decision-making, improve efficiency, mitigate risk, and help us to better understand trends, forecast the likelihood of specific events, and identify relevant correlations and causations in complex, dynamic systems. The work that data scientists engage in has applications in business and marketing, government and politics, medicine and healthcare, scientific research and product development, and many other fields, and remains closely tied to computer science and the ongoing exploration of artificial intelligence.
Identifying and Classifying Data Science Graduate Certificate Programs
Data science graduate certificate programs are generally identified as such in their formal designation, although some schools may refer to their programs as post-bachelor’s certificate programs. These programs are typically offered by regionally accredited colleges and universities, typically through schools or departments of computer science, mathematics, statistics, or data science. They are designed for students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree, although a subset of data science graduate certificate programs require students to hold a master’s or doctoral degree and may be designated as post-masters or post-graduate certificate programs. Many data science graduate certificate programs recommend that students have a degree in computer science, mathematics, statistics, or a related technical field, experience with computer programming, and/or one or more college-level courses in advanced mathematics, statistics, and computer science.
Unlike graduate degree programs in data science, which culminate in the conferral of a master’s or doctoral degree and commonly require students to complete a thesis or capstone project, data science graduate certificate programs typically consist of only those courses students need in order to enter the data science profession. For example, while a master’s in data science might require students to complete 30 credits/ten courses over three or four semesters, a data science graduate certificate program generally consists of just four, five, or six required courses that can be completed in roughly one year. As a result, data science certificate programs do not lead to the conferral of a degree or diploma.
The courses students take in many certificate programs may also be part of a master’s program curriculum. In fact, some schools allow students who have completed a certificate program to apply some or all of the credits they have earned to a master’s degree program, should a student opt to pursue a master’s degree in data science at a later date. Finally, as detailed in the section below, a data science graduate certificate generally includes coursework in areas like data mining, data warehousing, statistical programming, and machine learning.
Data Science Graduate Certificate Coursework
Most data science graduate programs require applicants to have completed undergraduate coursework in advanced mathematics (calculus and linear algebra) and statistics, and to have some familiarity with an object-oriented computer programming language (Java, Python, and/or C#), although some programs offer a suite of several preparatory courses that students complete before enrolling in the core graduate-level coursework that comprises a certificate program. It is this latter coursework, generally consisting of four to six graduate courses in core data science proficiencies, that comprise a typical data science graduate certificate program curriculum. These courses vary by program, but they generally cover topics in the following areas:
- Data Mining for Data Science – The process by which data is collected, sorted, stored, and retrieved for analysis by data scientists.
- Database Systems and Information Warehousing – The design and use of large-scale data storage systems for data science operations.
- Design and Analysis of Computer Algorithms – Creating and assessing algorithms that are used to process large amounts of complex data in data science.
- Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence – The use of statistical models and computer algorithms to create smart programs that learn from data inputs.
Note: The names and specific descriptions of courses vary by program, and some certificate programs allow students to choose from electives in specific areas of data science and/or in the application of data science in specific fields.
Online Graduate Certificate Programs in Data Science
Graduate certificate programs are generally designed to accommodate college graduates who have already entered the workforce and who may choose to continue working while going to school. Applicants to these programs are often mid-career professionals in fields like information technology, computer science, and analytics, or students working in other industries who would like to make a career change and enter the field of data science. One of the ways schools are able to maximize the flexibility and convenience of a data science graduate certificate program, especially for working adults, is by utilizing advances in online education.
Programs that leverage online learning technologies generally use a learning management system (LMS), which is a generic term for internet-based platforms that support a variety of distance-based instructional activities and methods. This may include streaming live and prerecorded lectures, hosting interactive online discussion groups, and/or providing students with multi-media rich learning modules that incorporate graded and non-graded assignments. One mode of online instruction, which is termed synchronous instruction, involves instructional activities that take place in real time, such as live-streamed lectures and virtual classroom sessions. For programs that utilize synchronous instruction, students must log on to a program’s LMS at specific times to meet with instructors and classmates in a virtual classroom. In contrast, asynchronous online instruction comprises any instructional activities that do not have a real-time component, such as pre-recorded lectures that can be streamed on demand via a school’s LMS. While asynchronous instruction affords more scheduling flexibility than synchronous instruction, it demands more self-discipline and self-motivation. While less flexible than asynchronous instruction, synchronous instruction provides more structure and may appeal to students who prefer an online learning experience that is more analogous to being in a traditional on-campus classroom. In general, all online programs have asynchronous components, but not all programs incorporate live sessions (although instructors will often meet with online students during live office hours if needed).
Most online certificate programs in data science are offered 100% online and do not require students to attend any campus-based classes. However, some programs may require one or two campus visits for orientations, workshops, seminars, and other learning activities. Programs that require more than two or three campus visits per academic year are generally designated as blended or hybrid online programs. While blended/hybrid online programs may be a convenient option for students who live within commuting range of a school’s campus, they are typically not a practical option for students who would have to travel long distances to reach campus. Students who live near campus or who would like to meet classmates and professors in person while still completing the majority of a certificate program online, should look for a program that has required or optional on-campus sessions. On the other hand, students who prefer to complete their certificate 100% online should look for a program that does not require any face-to-face instruction.
Examples of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
The schools listed below offer online data science graduate certificate programs that provide a representative overview of the types of programs that are currently offered online.
Lewis University, a private, non-profit school located in Illinois, offers a Graduate Certificate in Data Science program that is 100% online and that does not require any campus visits. The program consists of six graduate courses that are also part of an online Master of Science in Data Science (MSDS) program that Lewis offers, and the credits earned in the certificate program can be applied toward the MSDS program, should a student opt to pursue a master’s degree in data science in the future. The graduate certificate program is designed for students who hold a bachelor’s degree and have completed undergraduate coursework in calculus. Visit Lewis University at www.lewisu.edu for more information on the program.
Harvard University in Boston, MA through its Harvard Division of Continuing Education (Harvard Extension School) offers an online Data Science Graduate Certificate that is designed for college graduates who hold a bachelor’s degree and who have prior training in statistics and basic computer programming. It is also recommended that students entering the program have familiarity with the Python programming language. Students in the Harvard program must complete four courses within a three-year window in order to earn the data science graduate certificate, and the program does not require any campus-based sessions. Visit Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education at www.extension.harvard.edu for additional details on the program.
The University of Louisville, a public research university located in Kentucky, offers an online Data Science Certificate through its J.B. Speed School of Engineering that is designed for IT professionals with a background in computer science. Applicants to the program are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in a STEM field and have experience with computing, database systems, and statistical software. The program’s six courses can be completed by qualified candidates in one year. Visit the University of Louisville at louisville.edu/online for more information about the program.
Johns Hopkins University (JHU) offers an online Post-Master’s Certificate in Data Science through the university’s Whiting School of Engineering and its “Engineering for Professionals” initiative. The program requires applicants to hold a master’s or doctoral degree, and graduates from graduate programs in data science, applied statistics, or a related field are preferred. Students can complete the program’s five required courses at their own pace provided their time to completion does not exceed three years. Visit JHU’s Whiting School of Engineering at ep.jhu.edu for more information about the program.
More Graduate Certificates in Data Science
|American University||Washington, DC||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|George Mason University||Fairfax, VA||Data Science Graduate Certificate|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||Online||Graduate Certificate in Data Science for the Chemical Industry|
|Harvard Extension School||Online; Cambridge, MA||Data Science Graduate Certificate|
|Indiana University||Online||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|Johns Hopkins University||Online; Baltimore, MD||Data Science Post-Master's Certificate|
|Lewis University||Online; Romeoville, IL||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|Michigan Technological University||Houghton, MI||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|Missouri State University||Springfield, MO||Data Science Graduate Certificate|
|North Carolina State University||Online||Graduate Certificate in Data Science Foundations|
|Northwestern University||Chicago, IL; Evanston, IL||Advanced Data Science Certificate|
|The George Washington University||Washington, DC||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|The University of Utah||Salt Lake City, UT||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|University of Arkansas at Little Rock||Online; Little Rock, AR||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|University of California, Berkeley||Berkeley, CA||Graduate Certificate in Applied Data Science|
|University of Louisville||Online; Louisville, KY||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|University of Memphis||Online; Memphis, TN||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
|University of Missouri||Online||Graduate Certificate in Data Science and Analytics|
|University of New Hampshire||Online||Graduate Certificate in Data Science|
Additional Graduate Certificates in Analytics
Transparency and accuracy form the foundation of all the resources we create. For more details on our sources of data, program classifications, and other important information, please review our Sources and Disclaimers page.