Wondering what the Ozarks hold for data geeks? Our quick guide to earning an AR data science degree has the answers. Here you’ll find info on everything from research & scholarships to jobs & salary numbers. Already have a university in mind? Skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Arkansas.
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Studying Data Science in Arkansas
Data science in Arkansas is the tale of two regions:
- Northwest Arkansas: The Fayetteville/Bentonville/Springdale area is regarded as a hub of new ideas. The self-title “Startup Capital of the South,” has an active Innovation District, which is home to Startup Junkie Consulting, the NWA Fab Lab, and the Community Venture Foundation. Walmart, J.B. Hunt, and Tyson Foods are funding projects, creating data-driven departments, and hiring tech workers. The healthcare sector is burgeoning. And the University of Arkansas (UARK) is pumping out research.
- Central Arkansas: Known for its strengths in aviation & aerospace, financial technology, and biotech, Little Rock is also the birthplace of Acxiom, one of the largest data marketing companies around. There are hot spots like the Little Rock Technology Park, The Venture Center with its FIS-led VC FinTech Accelerator, and the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub with its co-working spaces for entrepreneurs.
Yet the Land of Opportunity still has a way to go before we’re willing to call it Silicon Ark. Despite the efforts of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and Startup Arkansas, new businesses sometimes find it hard to attract tech talent. Promising ideas have either failed or been sold to firms out-of-state. Startup events have appeared, then vanished. The number of meetups is small. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Arkansas Universities
UARK benefits from its close proximity to Fortune 500 companies and its position as the U of A’s flagship campus. Here you’ll discover:
- The Arkansas Research & Technology Park (ARTP) where you can visit the GENESIS Technology Incubator, the Innovation Center, and the Engineering Research Center (ENRC). ARTP is also the address of the technology venture development firm, VIC Technology Venture, and some fascinating tech/analytics affiliates.
- The Sam Walton College of Business with its close ties to retail & transportation companies and its data-focused centers of interest (e.g. the Information Technology Research Institute (ITRI) and the Center for Business & Economic Research).
But the real thrust for data science appears to be coming from Little Rock. For it’s at the University of Arkansas Little Rock (UALR) where you’ll find initiatives such as:
- The Emerging Analytics Center and its projects on virtual reality, large data visualization, and interactive technologies. EAC is leading the charge for Arkansas in the South Big Data Regional Innovation Hub (South BD Hub).
- The MidSouth Bioinformatics Center (MBC), which provides bioinformatics consulting, training & technical assistance to students & researchers in the region. (UALR has a thriving bioinformatics department.)
- The Institute for Chief Data Officers, created through a partnership with MIT, and committed to the professional development of CDOs.
- And Tech Launch, which is designed to help students & faculty realize the commercial potential of their inventions.
Did we mention the Department of Biomedical Informatics, the Translational Research Institute (TRI), and an innovative technology licensing office & life science business incubator called Bioventures at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS)? We should have!
Online Data Science Programs in Arkansas
Considering its size, Arkansas has a solid number of data science programs for distance learners. UALR and UARK are your obvious bets, but even ATU is putting its hand up. Having trouble choosing between online and campus? Have a look at our advice on what to look for in an online data science program.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
If you want a grounding in big data with no frills attached, UALR’s online Graduate Certificate in Data Science is your best bet. The syllabus covers the fundamentals of database systems, data science skills & concepts (e.g. data mining strategies), information visualization, and data protection & privacy. Course credits can be used toward UALR’s MSIS.
If you’re looking for skills in a specific field:
- UARK’s 75% online Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics from the Walton School of Business will school you in fundamentals of data analytics, management & mining, and prep you for SAS® certification. Credit hours can be applied to UARK’s MIS or MS in Statistics/Analytics.
- UARK’s 100% online Graduate Certificate in Geospatial Technologies can help geoscientists get up-to-speed in areas like programming and spatial databases, as well as core geospatial skills and certifications. Courses are taught by faculty at the Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies.
If none of the above suit your needs, our directory of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science has listings from respected schools around the country.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
Interested in a degree in hard-core data science? UALR is near the top 25 of Best Online Graduate Computer Information Technology Programs and it has two contrasting options for its distance learners (complete with a thesis or project):
- The online Master of Science in Information Science (MSIS) is a data science degree by any other name. The syllabus tackles the same subjects covered in the online graduate certificate (see above), but it also includes 15 credits of coursework in self-selected areas such as AI, Business Intelligence, virtual reality, etc.
- The online Master of Science in Information Quality (MSIQ) prioritizes IQ principles, tools, and strategies. Having said that, the syllabus includes a heavy dose of core courses & electives in data science, including visualization, systems analysis, and databases.
Climbing the career ladder? UARK’s Professional Master of Information Systems is primarily online, with one campus interaction per month. It’s designed to give Arkansas professionals hands-on experience in analytics (e.g. forecasting), data management (e.g. SQL), data mining, and enterprise computing platforms (e.g. Teradata, IBM, SAS®). Students work with real data sets from Tyson, Dillard’s, and Acxiom.
Enamored with health information technology? ATU’s online (or on-campus) Master of Science in Health Informatics might be right up your alley. In addition to exposing students to technical skills (e.g. database management, decision support systems, advanced biostatistics, etc.), the syllabus covers important areas such as privacy & security and leadership & policy.
Data Science Scholarships in Arkansas
We’ve highlighted university scholarships & assistantships (i.e. institutional aid) that apply to the school’s data program. But this isn’t the end of the line! Your Graduate Studies Office will have more info on general & private scholarships (e.g. diversity funding) and alternative financing options (e.g. low-interest loans).
Arkansas Tech University
- Emerging Graduate Scholarship: Any ATU graduate student is eligible for this $1,000 award. Students must be admitted to an ATU graduate program (e.g. health informatics) and earned an undergraduate degree with a cumulative 3.0 GPA or higher. However, students who receive a graduate assistantship are not eligible for the scholarship.
- Graduate Assistantships: If you’re interested in the on-campus MS in Health Informatics, you can look at the openings for graduate assistantships. GA’s receive a tuition waiver for up to 18 graduate credit hours and a stipend.
University of Arkansas at Little Rock
- MSIQ Graduate Assistantships & Scholarships: A limited number of graduate assistantships & scholarships are available to MSIQ and PhD students. Assistantships typically include a partial or full tuition scholarship and a stipend of around $6,450 (20 hours per week for 2 semesters) or $3,225 (10 hours per week for 2 semesters).
University of Arkansas
- Department of Mathematical Sciences Scholarships: Students in the MS in Statistics and Analytics program can apply for scholarships from the department. Most awards range from $1,000 to $3,000 and are awarded annually.
- Department of Mathematical Science Teaching Assistantships: Many students in the department are supported by teaching assistantships, with a basic stipend of $14,500 for a nine-month appointment. These are half-time positions requiring up to 20 hours per week.
- MIS Graduate Assistantships: All UARK graduate programs offer a limited number of assistantships. In exchange for 20 hours of work per week. GAs receive a tuition waiver and a stipend of $4,500 each semester. In addition, the MIS program offers a second level of assistantship which waives out-of-state tuition and provides the same stipend.
Data Science Events in Arkansas
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Arkansas
Pickings for data-focused groups in Arkansas can be pretty slim. The Fayetteville area is probably your best bet, though Little Rock has a few groups organized by The Venture Center.
- Little Rock Entrepreneurs: LRE hopes to attract local entrepreneurs, startup founders, idea generators, and creative business thinkers. It meets weekly; presentations about your business or idea are welcome.
- Little Rock FinTech: To put some juice into its VC FinTech Accelerator, The Venture Center has created a community for financial technology enthusiasts who want to talk startups, accelerators, and business partnerships.
- NWA Business Networking: With 1,100+ members, this is a meetup that might help you make friends and influence people. Meetings are often over beer and members are welcome to share info about their businesses or projects.
- NWA Data Science Meetup: The “big one” in Arkansas. Open to data scientists, software engineers, and business analysts, it tackles everything from AI and machine learning to NLP, Python, R – you name it. Members also belong to the FayettePy Python Meetup.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Arkansas
You’ll have to pack your bags if you want to attend conferences like Strata+Hadoop World, IEEE International Conference in Big Data (IEEE Big Data), and MLconf-Arkansas is still too small to attract much attention. We found it tough to find AR events with a pure data science focus, so we expanded our search to include tech fests and developer conferences. You won’t get much in the way of hard-core skills, but you may make some useful connections.
- Arkansas Digital Government Summit (ADGS): Organized by GovTech, the ADGS is aimed at state & local government reps who want to know more about digital government trends, emerging technologies, data & analytics, cyber security – anything that affects their future.
- Little Rock Tech Fest: LRTF is a two-day conference for gung-ho web & software developers. Talks go heavy on tools & technologies.
- MadebyFew (MxF): This quirky Bentonville conference aims to inspire designers, developers, creatives, and entrepreneurs in the startup space. There are career-focused workshops, fireside chats, and even a craft show. Yep, it showcases handmade crafts.
- NWA Tech Fest: Sponsored by some well-known NWA companies, Fayetteville’s signature tech event is a low-cost, broad-based day of talks for tech geeks.
- Northwest Arkansas Technology (NWA) Summit: Our pick! Held in Bentonville, the NWA Summit covers the latest tech developments in all kinds of AR fields (e.g. retail, healthcare, transportation, agriculture, finance, etc.). Folks from local companies such as Walmart, RevUnit, and Acxiom are often on the panels.
Data Science Jobs in Arkansas
Don’t take our word for it about the Arkansas economy – ATU’s Arkansas Tech Business Index will show you where the most economic activity is happening. For instance, in Northwest Arkansas:
- Retail, logistics, and food are major sectors. We’ve already mentioned Walmart, Tyson, and J.B. Hunt, but we should also point out that a lot of Fortune 500 companies have satellite offices in the area (e.g. Procter & Gamble Distributing) and Walmart is the parent of a number of healthy children (e.g. Sam’s Club).
- On top of this, you have the marketing & tech companies that have sprung up in support. We’re talking about firms such as Acosta Sales & Marketing and Crossmark, as well as RevUnit and Collective Bias.
- In the startup world, there’s a fair amount of crisscrossing between Kansas City, Tulsa, and Austin, with talent & venture capital flowing freely across the state border.
In Little Rock:
- Fintech and marketing are sturdy employers. In addition to Acxiom, Inuvo, and the VC FinTech Accelerator, you have data-driven companies like ABC Financial, Mainstream Technologies, and Insight Ecosystems. After creating Acxiom, Charles Morgan went on to found First Orion.
- The capital is known as the headquarters of Dillard’s (retail) and Windstream (communications), and the proving ground of aviation & aerospace facilities such as Dassault Falcon and General Dynamics.
- Medical institutions such as UAMC, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and Arkansas Heart Hospital are providing work for healthcare analysts and biomedical experts.
Data Scientist Salaries in Arkansas
According to Glassdoor, in 2017 the average estimated salary for a data scientist was $91,297 in Little Rock and $92,723 in Fayetteville. Indeed.com put the salary numbers for Little Rock and Bentonville higher, but it was working off limited data. (Walmart often accounts for Bentonville’s numbers.) Judging by the relevancy of the job listings and estimated salaries, Glassdoor figures are probably more accurate.
We found 2 universities in Arkansas 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.