Fancy earning a data science degree in Rocky Mountain territory? Here’s everything you need to know about Colorado schools, job prospects, online alternatives, graduate scholarships, and networking opportunities! If you’ve already packed your snowboard, feel free to skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Colorado.
Studying Data Science in Colorado
Colorado may be data science’s worst-kept secret. Nicknamed “Silicon Mountain,” the Centennial State was ranked #5 in Kauffman’s Index of Startup Activity for Larger States in 2016 and it’s featuring in a lot of big data conversations.
- Refugees from Silicon Valley and folks looking for a better balance to life are creating new markets in software development, aerospace, biotech, and green/sustainable business.
- Booster organizations like the Colorado Technology Association are seeking to drive investment into areas like the Denver Tech Center (DTC).
- The Colorado government is supporting activity with its open data portal, Colorado Information Marketplace (CIM), and the related app challenge, Go Code Colorado.
Thanks in part to General Assemb.ly and Galvanize, Denver is a well-known data hot spot, but it’s not the only player. Famous for its fizzing energy (this is the town where Gnip was born), Boulder is home to Techstars Boulder and the Boomtown Accelerator. Visitors to Rocky Mountain high will also discover the NSF-funded National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and its Mesa Lab Computing Facility.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Colorado Universities
Some of this growth is fueled by Colorado’s university system, particularly the University of Colorado (CU) Boulder. Though Colorado schools can’t compete with names like UCLA and MIT in terms of reputation and ranking, they are doing their best to excel in specialty areas. Just to take a few examples:
- Supported by its Research Computing resources, CU Boulder’s Department of Computer Science has fingers in many research pies. In 2015, the university also created the Earth Lab, which pulls on massive amounts of high-resolution satellite data from DigitalGlobe. Meanwhile, over at the Computational Bioscience Program, graduates are applying unusual computational approaches to significant biomedical questions.
- CU Denver has a dedicated Big Data Management and Mining Lab (BDLab), with projects funded by industry (e.g. Google) and government (NSF, NASA, etc.), and an active Mobile and Networked Systems (MNS) Lab. To encourage start-ups, the Business School has also built the Center for Information Technology Innovation and the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship, which serves as a networking hub for new business.
- The University of Denver’s Department of Computer Science is particularly interested in information security/privacy and humane gaming. DU regularly hosts a statewide Analytics Challenge at the Daniels College of Business.
- The Department of Computer Science at Colorado State University (CSU) has $15 million invested in active research projects in areas like big data, AI, bioinformatics, etc. One of its big data specialists, Sangmi Pallickara, was the recipient of an NSF CAREER Award.
Online Data Science Programs in Colorado
Colorado’s non-profit universities make a respectable showing on U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs and schools seem committed to improving distance education. For example, the regionally accredited and 100% online CSU-Global releases its university data, including graduation rates, to the public.
We cover general things to look for in an online data science program elsewhere, so here we decided to examine what makes programs in Colorado unique.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
Online graduate certificates in data science in Colorado allow you to prioritize career goals. Depending on your level of knowledge, you might be interested in:
- The “groundwork” Graduate Certificate in Data Analysis from CSU-Fort Collins.
- The “more advanced skills” Graduate Certificate in Data Science from Regis University.
- The “industry-focused” Certificate in Business Intelligence from CSU-Global.
If you’re trying to develop a particular set of skills, have a look at our master list of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science. Here you’ll find solid programs in everything from data mining to health informatics.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
When it comes to online master’s degrees in data science, Colorado’s offerings can be divided into two categories: non-profits and for-profits. The non-profit category includes CSU-Fort Collins and CU Denver:
- CSU-Fort Collins is the flagship university of the CSU system, and its Master of Applied Statistics (MAS) echoes the campus experience. Students are taught by the same faculty and must complete a six-week capstone consulting course before graduating.
- CU Denver’s MS in Information Systems-Business Intelligence has the same requirements as the on-campus program, with the same faculty. Out-of-state students may be eligible for discounted tuition.
The for-profit category includes American Sentinel University (ASU), Aspen University, and Colorado Technical University (CTU), which offers a doctorate program.
Whatever choice you make, do your research first. Many students post reviews of degrees online, and Quora.com and Reddit.com often have feedback on Colorado distance learning programs. You can also contact alumni through LinkedIn.
Data Science Scholarships in Colorado
We chose to focus on institutional aid that would cover the school’s data science programs, but don’t take this as the end! The Graduate Studies Office can refer you to general scholarships and fellowships (e.g. diversity funding) and other sources of financial aid (e.g. state grants, low-interest loans, etc.).
American Sentinel University (For-Profit)
- Expertise in IT Scholarship: New business students, including those in the MS Business Intelligence and Analytics program, are eligible to receive $150 off each course if they receive this award. Applicants must have five or more years work experience in information technology or information management OR hold any one of the IT industry certifications recognized for transfer credit by American Sentinel University or any non-expired Microsoft, CISCO or ESRI certification.
Colorado State University-Fort Collins
- Department of Statistics Awards & Scholarships: This department administers the data-focused MAS degree and its offers a variety of awards to current statistics students, including the Elmer E. Remmenga Scholarship in Applied Statistics.
Colorado Technical University (For-Profit)
- Lifelong Learning Grant: The LLG is given to Colorado Technical University alumni who have achieved their degree and wish to pursue their next level degree at CTU (e.g. a master’s degree to the Doctor of Computer Science – Big Data Analytics).
- Other Grants & Scholarships: Depending on your background, you may also be eligible for some of CTU’s other institutional grants and scholarships. Check the webpage for details.
University of Colorado-Boulder
- Department of Computer Science Assistantships: The department offers Teaching Assistantships (TAs) and Research Assistantships (RAs) to its MS students, including those pursuing the Data Science and Engineering Sub-plan. For MS students, RA positions cover the full tuition; TA positions may only cover part of the tuition.
- Leeds School of Business MS Scholarships: Merit-based scholarship awards are available for MS candidates, including MSBA in Business Analytics students, who apply by the April 1 priority deadline. Applicants who apply later will be considered if funding is available.
University of Colorado-Denver
- Big Data Science and Engineering (BDSE) PhD Fellowship: This generous PhD fellowship award covers both tuition & fees for the doctoral program and provides students with an annual stipend of up to $34,000 (depending on the level of student’s financial need).
- Business School Scholarships: The Business School has a large number of graduate scholarships on offer, including an MS in Business Analytics Scholarship. Most awards allow students to apply for scholarships through the UCDAccess Student Portal.
University of Denver
- Graduate Women in Business: The Daniels College of Business awards scholarships to women enrolled in its graduate business programs. Please check with the program coordinator to see if the MS in Business Analytics applies.
Data Science Events in Colorado
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Colorado
Colorado is littered with meetups devoted to specific technologies (Mobile Monday Colorado), tools (e.g. Denver R User Group (RUG)), and industries (e.g. Energy Tech Mashup). Here are some of the bigger ones:
- Analyze Boulder (AB): AB is a very active community of data geeks who live, work, and play in Boulder, Colorado. Members give short, TED-style talks once a month on data topics that they’re focusing on.
- Boulder/Denver Big Data (BDBDUG): This massive and popular meetup is geared towards educating the Boulder/Denver community about emerging big data technologies. Members are encouraged to share their experiences and expertise in NoSQL & big data technologies.
- Colorado Data Science (CDS): Organized by Galvanize, CDS has a lot of members (1,200+) and a number of meetups, including happy hours and fireside chats with start-up entrepreneurs.
- Data Science and Business Analytics: Sponsored by scores of big names, including Cloudera and Tableau, this meetup hosts a lot of tech-heavy talks and live classes.
- New Tech Colorado: New Tech is a meetup of 12,000 of tech lovers and the largest community-run group in the state. It hosts monthly events in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, and Longmont.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Colorado
Major data science conferences (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, Predictive Analytics World, IEEE ICDM, SIGKDD, etc.) don’t often stop off in Colorado, but this may change if the state’s tech sector continues to grow. International Data Week was in Denver in 2016 and ISCB holds an annual Rocky Mountain Meeting in Bioinformatics. Here are other homegrown events worth considering:
- Boulder Startup Week and Denver Startup Week: Both cities host separate start-up weeks: Denver in September and Boulder in May. There are talks, trips, and networking opportunities all over town.
- Big Boulder: The Big Boulder Initiative is the first trade association devoted to the social data industry, and it hosts an annual two-day conference with educational sessions, networking events, and outdoor activities.
- Colorado Tech Summit: Championed by the Colorado Technology Association (CTA), this one-day summit includes keynotes from prominent tech leaders and hands-on workshops in areas like virtual reality, cybersecurity, Internet of Things, smart cities, etc.
- Ignite Boulder: Every 2-3 months, a bunch of Boulder geeks get together to share 5-minute talks about their geeky passions. It’s like speed dating for data lovers.
- Rocky Mountain DataCon (RMDC): Sponsored by MapR and hosted by the Boulder/Denver Big Data Users Group, RMDC is Colorado’s first annual conference focused on data engineering and data science.
Data Science Jobs in Colorado
Looking to kick-start your data science career in Colorado? Let’s talk about Denver.
- In 2016, the city was ranked #4 on WalletHub’s list of Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals and #3 in the nation for fostering entrepreneurial growth in an Innovation that Matters report.
- CBRE’s 2016 report on Scoring Tech Talent noted that total tech occupations in Denver saw a 15.1% growth from 2010-2015, and the population of millennials in their 20s grew by 5,900 (5.2%) from 2009-2014.
The headquarters of MapQuest and Photobucket are here. So too are the offices of Oracle-owned Datalogix (i.e. Oracle Data Cloud) and ZenPayroll’s Gusto. Over in the River North (RiNo) district, the Catalyst Health-Tech Innovation is pumping new blood into the digital health arena.
And then there’s Boulder. Often regarded as the cooler sibling, Boulder has companies like Rally Softwar, SendGrid, SolidFire, an IBM campus, and the research we mentioned at CU Boulder. People often talk about the small-town feel and the excitement around new projects.
But if you’re thinking of working in Colorado, you don’t have to be limited by geography. The state’s start-up attitude—creating data science companies where once there were rocks—has spread itself beyond the major metropolitan areas. Heck, even GitPrime was founded at a coworking facility in Durango.
Data Scientist Salaries in Colorado
Data scientist salaries in Colorado tend to be 10-15% lower than those on the West and East Coasts. Having said that, you’re not paying through the nose for a San Francisco apartment and you can ski in the afternoon.
According to Glassdoor, average salaries for data scientists in Denver and Boulder were about equal (~$101,000); Galvanize estimates that data scientists in the Denver metro can command starting salaries of $85,000-$100,000.
When you’re looking at schools and programs, you may also wish to consider your long-term return on investment (ROI). Data science is a new field, so these figures won’t be 100% accurate for your degree, but Payscale’s 2016 College ROI Report noted that the best-performing school in Colorado was… the Colorado School of Mines (#7 for 20 year net ROI). CU Boulder is the next on the list, down at #168.
We found 9 universities in Colorado 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.