Massachusetts is one of the top destinations for aspiring data scientists. But is it right for you? To help answer your questions, we’ve created a short guide to schools, online degrees, scholarships, meetups, and more. Already made your decision? Skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Massachusetts.
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Studying Data Science in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has a huge amount of capital invested in data science. Under the auspices of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and its Innovation Institute, the state has been pumping money into big data, e-commerce, advanced manufacturing, and R&D centers.
For example, big data geeks have access to the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) in Holyoke and the hack/reduce community in Cambridge. The ultimate goal of MassTech and its many partners is to make the Bay State a global hub for big data innovation and technology.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Massachusetts Universities
This makes sense, because Massachusetts is home to two of the most famous names in the world. In U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Global Universities in Computer Science and Best Graduate Computer Science Programs, you’ll often find MIT in the #1 spot, with Harvard not far behind. These are joined by a number of high-ranked public and private research universities.
Just to take a few examples of what’s happening on campus:
- MIT has too many research interests to list! One example of data excellence is the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), which is at the cutting edge of AI research—in 2015, it gave birth to the Data Science Machine. MIT’s Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS) is another. It spans all five schools and is deeply invested in solving complex societal challenges.
- Among other things, Harvard has the Institute for Applied Computational Science (IACS); the interdisciplinary Center for Research in Computation and Society (CRCS); and the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences (IQSS), which produces projects like the Data Privacy Lab. In 2016, the university signed a six-year, $8.4 million research/commercialization deal with the Tata Group to tackle big data, robotics, and the Internet of Things.
- In 2015, UMass Amherst launched its Center for Data Science (CDS), with funding from the NSF, Google, Amazon, Booz Allen, and other major players. This move was bolstered by a 10-year, $15 million grant from MassMutual to support the CDS and the school’s Cybersecurity Institute and a $5 million grant from MassTech.
- Boston University kicked off its Data Science Initiative (DSI) in 2014, pulling on expertise from the Hariri Institute, the Center for Information & Systems Engineering (CISE), and the Center for Reliable Information Systems and Cyber Security. The Hariri Institute has been involved in all kinds of research projects, including collaborations with MIT’s Lincoln Lab and the NSF.
And we’ve only touched the surface. There’s Northeastern, which has pioneered research into game analytics; Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which is the first school to offer a PhD in data science program in the country; and smaller schools like Bentley and Babson, which have chosen to focus on business applications.
Online Data Science Programs in Massachusetts
Choices for online data science programs in Massachusetts are school-dependent. For example, although Harvard has invested considerable effort into distance learning, it only has one graduate certificate in data science. MIT limits itself to courses through MITProfessionalX.
Boston University, on the other hand, has gone full throttle. It opened its Office of Distance Education (ODE) in 2001 and has been actively developing its reputation for online learning. In 2016, Boston University was ranked #3 in U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
When it comes to online graduate certificates in data science, many Massachusetts schools try to appeal to corporate types. Northeastern, Boston University, UMass Amherst, and UMass Boston all offer graduate certificates in data analytics and/or business analytics. Typically, these programs cover standard areas like data mining, visualization, and strategic decision-making.
A more unusual approach is Northeastern’s Hybrid Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics. This is an emerging field in data science, and the university is jumping all over it. For example, academics at Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs Research Labs have been exploring the intersection of government data and behavioral and social dynamics.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
Online master’s degree offerings are dominated by large private research universities:
- Boston University has an MS in Applied Business Analytics Management and a more technical MS in Computer Information Systems with a Data Analytics Concentration.
- Northeastern has all kinds of informatics-themed options, including the Hybrid MS in Urban Informatics and MS in Health Informatics.
But that’s not to ignore the efforts of smaller schools. For example, Bay Path has assembled an online MS in Applied Data Science and Brandeis has an online MS in Strategic Analytics.
Whatever name the degree is under, read up on the course descriptions and the faculty profiles. Some master’s degrees may be more for business types than data lovers.
If you’re worried about quality control, you can consider advice from outside sources. Quora.com and Reddit.com often have feedback and reviews on Massachusetts distance learning programs (especially from big universities). You might also wish to contact alumni through LinkedIn.
Data Science Scholarships in Massachusetts
Financial aid for Massachusetts data science programs is available, even—in certain cases—from MIT and Harvard. We’ve listed scholarships and fellowships that would cover degrees in our school listings, but this is only the beginning. Your Graduate Studies Office will have lots of info on general scholarships (e.g. diversity funding), outside sources (e.g. state grants), and alternative financing options.
- MBA Graduate Assistantships: Babson gives merit-based graduate assistantships to highly qualified applicants to its full-time MBA programs.
- MBA Graduate Awards: Thinking about the MBA with a Business Analytics Concentration? You’ll be pleased to know that there are scores of MBA scholarships available at Babson. For example, the Price Babson MBA Fellowship and Hamilton MBA Scholarship reward entrepreneurial achievements.
- Dean’s Leadership Award: Full-tuition scholarships are for applicants to the full-time Emerging Leaders MBA program and the 11-Month MBA (one award for each program); one half-tuition scholarship is made available for qualified part-time students. Applicants must have an excellent academic record and a demonstrated commitment to leadership and social responsibility.
- Graduate School of Business (GSB) Assistantships and Scholarships: The GSB administers all kinds of data-focused MBA and MS programs, and it offers a limited number of merit-based assistantships and scholarships to deserving candidates.
- Metropolitan College Graduate Scholarships: BU’s Metropolitan College runs a number of analytics-focused MS programs. There are no graduate scholarships focused solely on computer science, but you may qualify for a number of other scholarships and assistantships.
- Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) Master’s Scholarships & Fellowships: GSAS, which administers the MA in Computational Linguistics, gives merit-based and need-based awards to various graduate students. These scholarships are often awarded at the time of admission and do not require a separate application.
- T.H. Chan School of Public Health (SPH) Grants: The SPH, which administers the MS in Computational Biology and Quantitative Genetics, offers grant aid (in varying amounts) to some graduate students in resident master’s programs. Grants can cover tuition, fees, and cost of living.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Master of Business Analytics Fellowships: MIT offers a limited number of fellowships to students in this master’s program. Fellowships are extremely competitive.
- ALIGN Scholarships: Students in the ALIGN program, which runs the MS in Bioinformatics and the MS in Health Informatics, are eligible for the same awards as other Northeastern graduate students (e.g. Yellow Ribbon Scholarship).
- College of Professional Studies (CPS) Scholarships: If you’re a Northeastern alum and considering the MPS in Informatics from the CPS, you may be eligible for the Double Husky Alumni Scholarship.
- School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs Scholarships: The School of Public Policy administers the MS in Urban Informatics and it has a few awards open to students. For the MS, you may also wish to investigate Northeastern’s College of Social Sciences and Humanities (CSSH) Scholarships (e.g Dean’s Scholarship).
University of Massachusetts-Boston
- PhD Assistantships: Candidates admitted to the PhD in Business Administration are eligible for assistantships that cover full tuition and fee waivers and include an annual stipend of $25,000 for the first three years.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
- Data Science Assistantships: Graduate students in WPI’s data science programs are eligible for Graduate Student Assistantships (GSAs), Teaching Assistantships, and Research Assistantships. TAs receive a monthly stipend, tuition support for a maximum of 9 credits hours per semester, and health insurance.
- GAANN PhD Fellowships in Big Data Computing Research: In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education, WPI gives doctoral fellowships to U.S. citizens who wish to study data-driven computing research in “Areas of National Need” (AANN).
Data Science Events in Massachusetts
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Massachusetts
The Greater Boston area has many things: universities, bars, students, and data science meetups. There are groups centered on specific tools (e.g. Apache Spark), foci (e.g. Machine Learning, AI, Cognitive Computing, etc.), and fields (e.g. Bio-Entrepreneurs). As well as those just mentioned, here are 5 more to explore:
- Big Data Developers (BDD): BDD was formed with the backing of IBM. The free meetups are intended to give developers & data scientists the chance to work on solutions and tools in IBM’s Big Data portfolio.
- Boston Data Mining (BDM): Home to 3,500+ members, BDM is sponsored by Strata + Hadoop World, WeWork, and Open Data Science. It’s based in Cambridge and hosts talks & events on all kinds of topics related to data mining/science. A similar group is The Data Scientist.
- Boston Predictive Analytics: Founded in 2010, BPA organizes a number of lectures, tutorials, and workshops (especially in R). Topics can cover everything from machine learning to social media.
- Western Mass Statistics and Data Science: Targeted towards folks in the Pioneer Valley and Five College Area, this group has evolved into an all-purpose meetup, hosting and cross-listing public talks and events.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Massachusetts
Thanks to its position on the coast, major data science conferences (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, IEEE ICDM & DSAA, SIGKDD, JSM, etc.) and focused forums (e.g. PAPIs.io) often stop in Boston. Check KDNuggets for info on upcoming events. If you’re pursuing a master’s degree or PhD in the Bay State, you may also be interested in:
- Big Data Innovation Summit: The BDIS is just what you might think—a place to meet other experts interested in product innovation, data science & machine learning, big data strategy, and BI. Speakers come from big names like MIT, Facebook, and TripAdvisor and there are plenty of interactive workshops and networking sessions.
- Boston Data Festival: Sponsored by ODSC (see below), this event is packed with training sessions and geared towards encouraging new talent. One of BDF’s aims is to help attendees achieve their career goals—whether that’s developing a big data start-up or getting hired by a major firm.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Big Data Conference: This annual conference gives attendees the chance to hang out with HPE engineers and meet a lot of other industry practitioners interested in technical developments.
- MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference: If you’re into analytics and sports science, this is the place to be. Along with workshops and talks, there’s a Startup Trade Show, a First Pitch Case Competition, a Hackathon, and a whole lot more.
- Open Data Science Conference (ODSC) East: ODSC regularly alights in Boston for its annual weekend conference. There are talks, in-depth workshops, tutorial sessions, and lots of networking opportunities, as well as a popular Saturday Afterparty.
Data Science Jobs in Massachusetts
Because of all the state encouragement and university research we’ve mentioned, Massachusetts is fertile ground for data science jobs. A 2016 WalletHub report on the Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals ranked the Boston-Cambridge area #6—behind names like San Jose, Austin, and Seattle.
Those jobs are being generated by a number of employers, both large and small:
- MIT and Harvard form the nuclei of a major technology hub in Cambridge. Google and Amazon have offices here, right down the road from the Microsoft N.E.R.D Center.
- Universities are also fueling start-ups and data science businesses. An Innovation that Matters 2016 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and 1776, a start-up incubator, ranked Boston #1 for fostering entrepreneurial growth and innovation.
- GE moved its headquarters to Boston in 2016, and it’s deeply invested in big data. Stitchdata’s 2015 study on The State of Data Science noted that the company had 50+ data scientists on staff.
In addition, Massachusetts is world-renowned for its medical institutions. If you’re intrigued by the intersection of data science and biotechnology/healthcare, you’re in the right place. According to Research America, Massachusetts ranks #2 in states that receive the most NIH funding and #1 in funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Data Scientist Salaries in Massachusetts
For most data geeks, Massachusetts is a high income, high cost of living state (there’s a reason they call it Taxachusetts). This is especially true for folks in Cambridge or Boston.
Glassdoor puts the typical salary of a Boston data scientist below the national average, but it’s worthwhile remembering that these figures are skewed by Silicon Valley. A 2016 Burtch Works Study on the Salaries of Data Scientists notes that median salaries for Northeast data scientists were $5,000 below their West Coast counterparts.
When you’re considering schools and salary prospects, you may also wish to look at your long-term return on investment (ROI). You won’t be surprised to hear that MIT ranked #2 on Payscale’s College ROI Report in 2016, generating a 20 Year Net ROI of $972,000, but you may be intrigued by the other big players.
Top producing colleges in Massachusetts also included Babson College (#12), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (#17), and Harvard (#22). All of these offer data science degrees.
We found 12 universities in Massachusetts 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.