Thinking of California for your data science education? Here’s everything you need to know about schools, job prospects, online alternatives, graduate scholarships, and networking opportunities! If you’ve already decided this is the state for you, feel free to skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in California.
Start your search with respected programs recruiting students from around the US.
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Studying Data Science in California
Welcome to Tech Town, USA. Despite recessions, California continues to be the epicenter of data science innovation. Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco, A9.com, eBay—the list of famous names (and soon-to-be famous start-ups) never ends.
Many of these companies are staffed by graduates from California schools. That’s because the presence of Stanford, Caltech, and the juggernaut known as the University of California (UC) system has led to a huge amount of research and government investment into new technology. For example:
- Along with NYU and the University of Washington, UC Berkeley is part of a $37.8 million, five-year Data-Driven Discovery Initiative funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
- As part of the NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, UCLA, USC, UC Santa Cruz, and Stanford have been deemed Centers of Excellence for Big Data Computing. These centers play a major part in advances in biomedical discovery.
- On a similar note, the NSF has set up its own Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC) with UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz, and UC San Diego. These centers support projects in science, engineering, and technology that have direct relevance to the U.S. economy.
- A long-term partnership between the state, industry, and UC has resulted in four Governor Gray Davis Institutes for Science and Innovation: QB3 (quantitative biosciences), Calit2 (telecommunications and IT), CNSI (nanosystems), and CITRIS (social and environmental issues). Practically every UC school is involved in one way or another.
And did we mention Caltech’s work with the Center for Data Science and Technology at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), UC Riverside’s efforts with NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP), and UC San Diego’s investment in the San Diego Supercomputer Center (SDSC)? Whichever school you choose, be sure to find out where the research money is going.
Online Data Science Programs in California
It makes sense that California, land of Coursera and Udacity, would be among the first states to offer online data science programs. Distance learning has had its up and downs—California State University, the UC system, and San Jose State have all experienced hiccups—but there are still plenty of schools who are committed to flexible education. In 2016, USC was ranked #1 in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs.
We cover general things to look for in an online data science program elsewhere, so here we decided to concentrate on what makes programs in California unique.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
Graduate certificates are the most popular online offering in California. UC system schools and state universities seem happy to provide short, skills-focused programs through their extension schools. Even the venerable Stanford feels comfortable with online certificates. That’s good news if you want a California name to burnish your résumé.
As you might expect, these programs are often targeted at data analysts and newbie data scientists. But California schools are also aware that their state is full of entrepreneurs, researchers, and marketers who need transferable skills (cf. Stanford’s online Data Mining and Applications Graduate Certificate). For example, San Jose State offers its online Certificate in Business Analytics through its business school. Look for your options to increase as distance technology improves.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
Choices for online degrees in data science in California are more limited. UC Berkeley’s Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) has been around since 2013; UC Riverside added the data science specialization to its online Master of Science in Engineering in 2016.
University of California-Berkeley: UC Berkeley’s online platform is powered by 2U—the university provides the faculty and course content and 2U provides the tools and technology. 2U supplies similar data/analytics-focused infrastructures to SMU, George Washington University, Syracuse, and American University. These programs have a history of doing better in graduation rates than MOOCs.
University of California-Riverside: UC Riverside’s online specialization was supported by MUREP’s Fellowships and Internships in Extremely Large Data Sets (FIELDS) grant and jointly developed by UCR faculty and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory science staff. To that end, planners deliberately chose to focus on technical skills rather than research.
As always, we recommend you look at a range of opinions to decide whether an online master’s in data science justifies the investment. Quora.com has some excellent feedback and reviews on distance learning programs, including UC Berkeley.
Data Science Scholarships in California
We chose to focus on university funding (i.e. institutional aid) that covers data science degrees, but don’t take this as the end! Your school’s Graduate Studies Office will have information on general scholarships and fellowships (e.g. diversity funding) and info on financial options.
California State University-Fullerton
- Michael A. Reagan Scholarship: This merit-based scholarship is given to newly admitted graduate business students in their first semester at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. Along with the MBA, the COB offers a data-driven MS in Information Systems.
- The University Extended Education (UEE) Scholarship: If you’re interested in CSUF’s online certificate in analytics or data science, you may wish to apply for this scholarship. It’s given to continuing learning of students in any UEE certificate program. The maximum award is $400.
California State University-San Bernadino
- Graduate Business Grant (GBG): Graduate students in MBA programs, which includes the MBA with a Business Intelligence and Information Technology focus, are eligible for a GBG award. Students must demonstrate financial need and meet eligibility criteria applied to other CSU students who are considered for a State University Grant, including classification as a California resident for tuition & fee paying purposes.
- Janice Tillema Memorial Scholarship: This scholarship is open to full-time undergraduates or graduates. Students must be living within a Citizens Business Bank service area (e.g. Inland Empire, San Gabriel Valley, or Orange County) and be enrolled in a business major (e.g. the MBA with a Business Intelligence and Information Technology focus).
- Noel and Amanda Massie Scholarship: Open to undergraduates and graduates in the College of Business and Public Administration, this scholarship is awarded to students who are making progress toward their degree. Graduate students must have a minimum 3.25 GPA.
Claremont Graduate University
- Fletcher Jones Information Science Fellowship: This fellowship is given to students in the School of Information Systems and Technology who demonstrate the pioneering spirit, vision, and dedication of the late Fletcher Jones (co-founder of Computer Sciences Corporation).
- Kay Center for e-Health Research Fellowship: If you’re thinking of going past a master’s degree, this PhD Fellowship is awarded to incoming doctoral students in the School of Information Systems and Technology with an academic interest and/or professional experience in e-health.
Santa Clara University
- Leavey School of Business Scholarships: The Leavey School, which has a number of analytics and data science degree options, offers both merit-based (e.g. Advisory Board Merit Scholarship) and need-based aid to graduate students. You’ll find financial aid information listed under each degree description.
- PhD Fellowships: If you’re thinking about a PhD down the line, Stanford has a number of fellowships for doctoral students, including the Stanford Graduate Fellowship in Science and Engineering (SGF). However, ICME does not offer guaranteed financial support for MS students.
University of California-Berkeley
- Graduate Fellowships: UC Berkeley offers a large number of graduate fellowships, including fellowships that are open to students focusing on research in science (e.g. biotechnology) and data (e.g. second year fellowships for PhD trainees in Data Sciences for the 21st Century (DS421).
- Jack Larson Data for Good Fellowship: This generous fellowship is designed to support MIDS students in pursuit of a career that will allow them to use data science to improve human life and benefit society as a whole.
- School of Information (I School) Fellowships: The I School awards a limited number of merit-based fellowships to domestic and international students in the MIMS and PhD programs. MIMS fellowships cover all or part of the registration fees for the first year of study.
University of California-Davis
- Graduate School of Management (GSM) Scholarships: The GSM, which offers an MBA with a business analytics concentration and an MSBA, distributes a number of awards each year, including the UC Davis Technology Scholarship. International students receive full consideration for GSM scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.
University of California-San Diego
- Rady School of Management Fellowships: Rady, which offers the MSBA degree, provides a limited number of merit-based fellowships to exceptional students (domestic and international). Students can request the Fellowship Application from the Graduate Admissions office after they receive their official offer of admission.
- Sloan Scholars Fellowship: UCSD also awards PhD fellowships to incoming graduate students in a variety of STEM disciplines, including computer science and engineering.
University of Southern California
- Marshall School of Business PhD Fellowships: Marshall, which administers the PhD in Data Sciences & Operations, offers full financial support (fellowship or assistantship) to selected PhD students for four to five years.
- Viterbi School of Engineering Scholarships: Viterbi, which offers the MSCS in Data Science, offers merit-based scholarships in a number of categories.
University of San Francisco
- MS in Analytics Scholarships: Through the College of Arts & Sciences, the MS in Analytics program awards a limited number of merit-based partial scholarships to incoming students. These scholarships do not require a separate application.
University of the Pacific
- School of Engineering & Computer Science (SoECS) Scholarships: SoECS lists all its internal scholarships on its website, but you should contact the school directly to see if your MS in Analytics applies to any of the categories.
Data Science Events in California
Data Science Meetups & Communities in California
- Bay Area Women in Machine Learning & Data Science: Founded in 2013, this meetup welcomes anyone who identifies as female, genderqueer, or non-binary. Meetups can range from workshops and hack nights to discussions on the state of wage inequality.
- Big Data Science (Fremont, CA): BDS has been around since 2012 and has an active roster of webinars and monthly meetups.
- DataScience.LA (Los Angeles, CA): This website is a basecamp for several well-known LA meetups (e.g. Data Science/Machine Learning, LA R Users, DataVis, etc.) and a convenient home for all their content.
- SF Data Mining (San Francisco, CA): Organized by Todd Holloway and boasting more than 10,000 members, SF Data Mining may well be the longest-running data meetup in San Francisco. People talk data science, big data, and data visualization.
- SF Data Science (San Francisco, CA): Backed by Galvanize, this meetup has almost as many members as SF Data Mining. There are regular events and training workshops at Galvanize offices; members can also receive conference discounts.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in California
Major data science conferences (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, Predictive Analytics World, IEEE ICDM & DSAA, SIGKDD, etc.) tend to migrate around the world, but plenty alight in Silicon Valley or Los Angeles. Strata often comes to San Jose. Along with those just mentioned, here are a few that make a regular appearance in California:
- Data Science Innovation Summit: Run by Innovation Enterprise, this San Diego summit features speakers from major California tech companies, including Google, LinkedIn, eBay, and Facebook. Most attendees are at the Director level (or above); over half work at companies with 1,000+ employees.
- MLconf San Francisco: MLconf events are devoted to machine learning and data science, with no bias toward tools, platforms, or companies. There is always a November event in San Francisco, often with young and upcoming speakers from companies like A9.com and Airbnb.
- Open Data Science Conference (ODSC) West: ODSC is known for having an industry/business focus. Along with training sessions and skills workshops, the conference includes a career fair with a job lounge and plenty of opportunities to network.
- Startup.ML: Startup.ML hosts small & intense machine learning conferences in San Francisco locations. There are hands-on workshops, open source contributors (e.g. TensorFlow, Spearmint, Apache Spark, Keras, etc.), and chances to network with industry practitioners from companies like Facebook, Kaggle, and Bloomberg.
- Women in Data Science (WIDS): Stanford hosts this one-day technical conference. With around 400 attendees from 30 universities and 80 companies (1/3 students and 2/3s industry and academics), it’s an ideal place for networking opportunities.
Data Science Jobs in California
You’re in a prime position for job hunting with a degree in data science from a California school. In a 2015 Jobvite survey that looked at universities with the most students hired by Silicon Valley companies, a whopping 13 out of the top 20 institutions were based in California. San Jose State was #1 on the list, followed by UC Berkeley (#2), San Francisco State (#3), and Stanford (#4).
You don’t have to apply for jobs in the Golden State, but it’s worthwhile remembering who’s hiring. In 2015, there were 53 Fortune 500 companies in California, many of them with headquarters in Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach. For instance, Stitchdata’s 2015 study on The State of Data Science notes that California companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple, and Hewlett Packard were each employing 50-100+ data scientists.
Data Scientist Salaries in California
If you hang around in California after graduation, you’re also likely to be paid well.
- According to a 2016 Burtch Works Study on the Salaries of Data Scientists, 43% of data scientists in the U.S. are employed on the West Coast. In 5 out of 6 categories, the highest base salaries were there, too.
- Glassdoor reports that average salaries for data scientists in Silicon Valley cities consistently trounce the national average. Just remember this equates to a very high cost of living!
The news gets even better when you consider your return on investment (ROI). Year after year, California schools appear in the top 20 of Payscale’s College ROI Report. Graduates of Caltech, Harvey Mudd College, Stanford, and UC Berkeley regularly see a 20 Year Net ROI exceeding $800,000 (on campus). Even California State University system schools like CalPoly-San Luis Obispo crack the top 40.
We found 24 universities in California 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.