If you’ve heard rumors about the Silicon Desert, you’re in the right place. Our short guide to Arizona schools has info on big data initiatives, scholarships, job prospects, and much more. Already have a university in mind? Feel free to skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Arizona.
Studying Data Science in Arizona
Arizona wants to be the little tech engine that could. Anchored by university research, the Grand Canyon State is attracting young talent fleeing high costs on the coasts. Organizations like Invest Southwest and the Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (NACET) are supporting start-ups, and the Arizona Commerce Authority hands out $3 million each year to the world’s most promising technology ventures through the Arizona Innovation Challenge (AIC).
Phoenix (a.k.a. Silicon Desert) has the biggest stake in all this activity—like Salt Lake City, Portland, and Denver, it has become a fast-growing satellite city for data scientists and entrepreneurs. According to a New York Times Moody’s Report, the city saw a 18.6% increase in technology jobs from 2010-2015.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Arizona Universities
This growth is made possible by data science projects at Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arizona (UA). To begin with ASU:
- The university is a partner with UCLA and UC San Diego on the NSF-funded MetroInsights Spokes Project, which aims to make smart cities even smarter.
- Its Network for Computational Modeling in Social and Ecological Sciences (CoMSES Net) is a spoke in NSF’s new national Big Data network.
- Its Complex Adaptive Systems Initiative (CASI) tackles global challenges in health, sustainability, security, and education through quantitative methods and computational thinking
Not only that, but ASU has two incubators on campus—the ASU Startup Accelerator (ASA) and the Arizona Furnace Technology Transfer Accelerator, as well as the lucrative Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative.
Meanwhile, over in Tucson, UA data scientists are working on a massive $50 million, multi-institution project headquartered at UA’s BIO5 Institute and funded by the NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences. Originally called iPlant, CyVerse is dedicated to developing a national cyberinfrastructure for life sciences research.
This energy is matched by folks in the Department of Management Information Systems (MIS) in Eller College. MIS generates over $85 million in research funding, with a good chunk of that money coming from INSITE (MIS’s big data analytics research center) and the Artificial Intelligence Lab. This helps account for why Eller is often ranked in the top 5 of Best Business Schools (Information Systems) by U.S. News & World Report.
Online Data Science Programs in Arizona
You’ll find a moderate number of online data science programs in Arizona, especially if you’re considering ASU. The university is one of the lead players in distance learning, and its W.P. Carey School of Business has a strong nationwide reputation. You’ll usually see it in the top 3 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Business Programs (Excluding MBA).
We cover general things to look for in an online data science program elsewhere, so here we profile your choices in the Grand Canyon State.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
When it comes to graduate certificates in data science, your Arizona choices are limited to the online Business Intelligence & Analytics (Certificate NDP) from UA. This is a broad-based qualification designed for IT professionals, project managers, business analysts, and marketing analysts and researchers. It’s offered through the Department of MIS, so you can be pretty sure the quality will be high.
Need something more specific? Check out our directory of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science. It has a rundown of graduate certificates in all kinds of fields from many respected schools (e.g. Stanford, Boston University, etc.) across the country.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
Business is the name of the game when you’re looking at online master’s degrees in data science. Both UA and ASU offer graduate degrees in management information systems, and both are designed for mid-level business professionals with IT experience. The curriculum for UA’s degree includes two graduate certificates—the Enterprise Security Certificate and the Business Intelligence and Analytics Certificate. ASU also has a separate online MS in Business Analytics.
If you’re interested in healthcare, you also have the option to consider ASU’s online Master of Advanced Study in Health Informatics. This is administered by the Department of Biomedical Informatics, which does a lot of data research with organizations such as the Mayo Clinic, Banner Health, and Barrow Neurological Institute.
Data Science Scholarships in Arizona
For this section, we looked at university scholarships and non-profit funding that would cover data science programs in each school. But this is just the beginning. The Graduate Studies Office will have more info on general aid (e.g. diversity scholarships), work-study programs, and alternative financing options (e.g. outside awards or low-interest loans).
Arizona State University
- AFCEA Educational Fund: The AFCEA is dedicated to supporting the development of engineers and technical personnel—especially in “hard sciences”—through selective training, scholarships, awards, prizes, and grants. It also actively promotes opportunities for persons from groups under-represented in the fields of its interests. Award amounts vary.
- ANA Annual Scholarship Program: Offered by A Neumann & Associates, LLC (ANA), this $1,000 business scholarship is awarded to talented students who wish to pursue a career in business. Graduate students are eligible, but they must be full-time.
- Chakery Internet Marketing Scholarship: This $500 scholarship is intended to offset the costs of education for high school and college students who have demonstrated an interest in Internet marketing. Graduate students are eligible.
- Corporate Financial Institute Annual Scholarship: This $500 scholarship is available to U.S. business school students enrolled in a degree program. Applicants should demonstrate financial need and a passion for the field of finance.
- Laser Spine Institute Scholarship: If you’re considering healthcare informatics, the Institute offers a $1,500 scholarship to one full-time undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in a health- or science-related program. Applicants need to show how they will address the most critical issues facing the healthcare industry today.
- MS-BA Need-Based Scholarships: The W. P. Carey School of Business awards scholarships to business analytics students based on financial need. You will need to complete a FAFSA and your program application in ordered to be considered for these funds.
University of Arizona
- Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics Scholarships: This department administers masters’ degrees in fields like Applied Econometrics and Data Analytics, and there are a small number of scholarships available. Students who are offered an assistantship and have a GPA above 3.4 may be eligible for in-state tuition waivers.
- MIS Doctoral Awards and Scholarships: Taking it one step beyond an MS? The Department of Management Information Systems (MIS) offers a number of awards and scholarships to PhD students.
Data Science Events in Arizona
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Arizona
Both cities have meetups for every kind of data lover. There are groups centered on specific tools (e.g. Phoenix R User Group), skill levels (e.g. Learn Data Science Phoenix), and fields (e.g. Tucson Computer Forensics and Information Security, Phoenix Biomedical Informatics, etc.). Here are 5 you may wish to investigate:
- Big Data Developers Phoenix: Sponsored by IBM, this free meetup is designed to allow data scientists and developers the chance to work hands-on with solutions and tools in IBM’s Big Data portfolio. Topics include Hadoop, data visualization, NoSQL, big data app development and more. There’s a similar group for Big Data Developers Tucson.
- Data Science Phoenix: Members of this meetup get together monthly to discuss everything to do with big data and data science. There are a lot of talks from industrial, academic, and government speakers, including ASU researchers describing their latest findings.
- GeekMeet Tucson: If you’re looking for something a little more casual, GeekMeet has a lot of happy hours and speaker events for geeks of all ages.
- Startup Grind Phoenix: Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, this meetup organizes presentations by local founders, innovators, and investors. Most of these events require you to pay for a ticket.
- Tucson Data Science Meetup: This is open to anyone interested in machine learning and data science, with presentations devoted to all kinds of weird and wonderful applications. Most meetups take place at UA.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Arizona
Arizona may not be the most popular state for data events—major data science conferences (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, Predictive Analytics World, IEEE ICDM, SIGKDD, etc.) tend to stick to large cities—but UA and ASU have a lot going on around campus. Phoenix is also deeply invested in supporting tech start-ups. Some options for networking include:
- ASU Events: A number of ASU’s schools and departments host events and talks centered around big data and data science applications. Search the calendar for the most recent listings.
- Big Data Symposium: Run by UA’s Department of MIS and INSITE, this is a one-day symposium focused on applications of big data (e.g. predictive analytics, healthcare, etc.). It’s held at UA in Tucson.
- PHX Data Conference (PDC): PDC is probably the most popular big data conference in Arizona, with 350+ attendees and speakers from companies like Cloudera, SAP, Amazon, MapR, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, etc. It has close ties with the Phoenix Hadoop User Group meet-up.
- PHX Startup Week: Every winter, the Phoenix Valley plays host to a free, five-day celebration of the local startup ecosystem. Events include 1-on-1 mentor sessions, competitions, debates, and expert panels.
- Venture Madness: In the spirit of “March Madness,” this is a bracket-style competition sponsored by Invest Southwest and the Arizona Commerce Authority. 64 start-ups compete for a lucrative investment pool from regional investors.
Data Science Jobs in Arizona
You may be sensing that Phoenix is the place to be after graduation. Along with the growth in tech employment that we mentioned in the introduction, the Valley of the Sun is nurturing a wide variety of start-ups, including data-hungry companies like CampusLogic and ClearVoice. Silicon Valley has set up outposts here—Yelp has an office in Scottsdale and Uber has rented space in the heart of downtown—and you’ll find plenty of major corporations with a Phoenix presence.
In Tucson, UA is using Tech Launch Arizona to help students and researchers move ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace, and its Tech Parks are home to a wide variety of emerging businesses. The university is the top employer by numbers, along with companies such as Raytheon Missile Systems, Citi, and a number of healthcare systems. Entrepreneurs should definitely pay a visit to Startup Tucson.
Thinking about your prospects elsewhere? It’s worth mentioning that ASU was #18 in a 2015 Jobvite survey that ranked universities with the most students hired by Silicon Valley companies.
Data Scientist Salaries in Arizona
According to Glassdoor, salaries for data scientists in Phoenix are higher than in Tucson (but not by much). In 2017, the estimated average salary in Phoenix was $97,133; in Tucson, it was $91,964. Thanks to a relatively affordable cost of living, salaries in both cities are below the U.S. average—about 14-18% lower than the national median salary for data scientists—but comparable to figures in cities like Boston and Salt Lake City.
We found 3 universities in Arizona offering Masters of Data Science programs (and/or closely related programs, like MS in Analytics / Masters in Business Analytics).
If you represent a university and would like to contact us about editing any of our listings, or adding new programs, please send an email to info (at) mastersindatascience.org.