North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Piedmont Triad areas are home to some of the world’s top universities for data science. Read on to learn all about the state’s schools, online degree options, scholarships and professional development activities. Or if you want to get straight to the nitty-gritty, jump to our list of all the data science programs in the state.
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Studying Data Science in North Carolina
North Carolina is synonymous with research and development. Practically everywhere you turn, you’ll stumble onto a massive research park, usually connected to multiple universities. That makes the state an ideal place to study the trending discipline of data science. If you don’t believe us, just look at the ZIP code for the National Consortium for Data Science (NCDS), a group of academic institutions and high-tech corporations like IBM.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at North Carolina Universities
North Carolina’s universities act as a funnel to tech startups and global firms alike. In the data science sphere, you should keep an eye on at least the following school initiatives:
- North Carolina State University’s Institute for Advanced Analytics literally launched its Master of Science in Analytics before the term “big data” was invented, making it the oldest program in the U.S. A decade later, that still counted for something: In 2016, 95 percent of graduates had jobs lined up before they graduated — with an average salary of over $93,000.
- In 2015 UNC-Charlotte won $2.1 million for data science research. And the school’s Data Science Initiative is set up to win plenty more awards. Part of that DSI money has gone to the System for Observation of Populous and Heterogeneous Information (SOPHI), which DSI calls “a data lake repository that allows for cloud-based, collaborative research to bring promising ideas to market.”
- The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has its hands in multiple projects, including iRODS, “open-source data management software” used by the government and research institutions.
Online Data Science Programs in North Carolina
If you’re talking about online tech degrees in North Carolina, two schools float to the top of the conversation: North Carolina State University and UNC-Greensboro, both of which notch impressive spots on U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs. Not coincidentally, both schools are big players in big data as well. And if you want to use data to improve healthcare results, you’ll likely alight upon East Carolina University’s Health Informatics programs.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
Three very different graduate certificates are available from the trio of publicly funded colleges mentioned above:
- The four-course Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics and Data Management from NC State, which introduces students to statistical methods and programming techniques.
- The four-course Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics from UNC Greensboro, which is tailored to meet the needs of corporate employers.
- The five-course Graduate Certificate in Health Informatics from East Carolina University, which accommodates both healthcare providers without IT skills and IT specialists with no healthcare knowledge.
For options outside of the state or outside of these certificate types, see our national listing of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
You’re really only looking at one option in the Tar Heel State for a fully online master’s degree in data science: East Carolina University’s MS in Health Informatics and Information Management, an extension of the certificate program.
Data Science Scholarships in North Carolina
Plenty of scholarships are out there, both for master’s degree seekers in general and IT students in particular. But what about those awards specifically for aspiring data scientists? Here are a few;
- Informatics Scholarship: $20,000. That’s what you could get toward your MSN Health Informatics degree over two years. The scholarship goes to high-performing students who are able to clearly articulate a problem they want to solve in the field.
East Carolina University
- College of Allied Health Sciences Scholarships: Six scholarships are available to all students within the College of Allied Health Sciences, including the Department of Health Services and Information Management, which houses the informatics degrees and certificates.
- HealthPort Scholarship in Health Information Management: Certificate seekers and master’s students in the Health Informatics field are eligible for this award if they hold a 3.0 GPA.
- Peggy H. Wood Scholarship: Apply for this award if you pursue the Health Information Management concentration in the Health Informatics and Information Management master’s program. You’ll need a 3.0 to qualify.
University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- DRReaM Graduate Fellowship: Continuing graduate students in the Health Informatics program are one of a handful of groups eligible for the DRReaM Fellowship, which is worth around $1,000. Applicants must have a 3.2 and show financial need.
- Fisher Family Fund Fellowship: You’ll need to clear a high threshold for this $2,000 award earmarked for Data Science and Business Analytics students: a 3.75 GPA, demonstrable financial need and a Charlotte residence.
- Ross Perot Doctoral Fellow in Mathematics: If you decide to transition to a PhD after completing your master’s program, $2,500 from Ross Perot will help. It’s specifically for candidates pursuing Applied Mathematics, Applied Statistics, or General Mathematics doctorates.
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
- Bryan School of Business & Economics Scholarships: Complete a single application. The Bryan School, which facilitates the Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics, will then determine which of its many scholarships you’re eligible for.
Data Science Events in North Carolina
Data Science Meetups & Communities in North Carolina
Remember how we mentioned that North Carolina’s universities are magnets for researchers? That means the state is on the cutting edge of the newest technologies. But to get in on the action, you’ll have to go outside. Here are six data science communities to consider joining:
- Analytics.CLUB: 400+ members in the Raleigh area meet regularly for partner events and skill sessions. The group focuses on preparing members for the annual Analytics Fair, a worldwide job fair for analytics gurus.
- Big Data Developers in Raleigh: Sponsored by IBM and its Big Data University (a site with free courses in the discipline), this group meets throughout the year for hourlong presentations on new technologies and then sticks around for a few hours afterward to try them out.
- Charlotte Data Visualization & Data Science Meetup: This group of self-proclaimed “Data Wizards” explores 15 different data visualization tools, pulling from their members’ specialized knowledge to give the entire group a broader understanding of available techniques.
- Charlotte Hadoop Users Group (CHUG): Big data company Tresata, which hosts CHUG, is trying to grow a local talent pool. With 800+ members signed up for invites to its monthly discussion series, it’s chugging right along toward that goal.
- NC Women in Machine Learning and Data Science: Female data scientists in the Research Triangle meet bimonthly for research presentations, lightning talks and even just to socialize with peers without getting bombarded by vendors.
- Research Triangle Analysts (RTA): The 1,300+ strong RTA throws around the word “math” willy-nilly, using it to predict everything from NCAA Tournament results to the gratuity after one of its bar-based socials.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in North Carolina
Does the idea of community give you a headache? You can condense Meetup presentations and workshops into just a few days if that suits your needs. We found five North Carolina conferences for big data lovers:
- Analytics Frontiers: In 2017, participants spent three days in Charlotte listening to quant god Nate Silver deliver the keynote presentation and then attending breakout sessions with top data gurus. If that’s your ideal way to spend your weekdays, save $700 and register for the next annual conference.
- Data4Decisions Conference & Exposition: Business analytics takes the mic for three days at Raleigh’s Data4Decisions. While tickets for the breakout sessions, networking events and keynote speakers generally run $300 and up, students can get in for less than 10 percent of that rate.
- Elon Business Analytics Conference: In the same vein as Data4Decisions, Elon University hosts a smaller one-day event for students and professionals who want to network while learning from industry leaders.
- SPEIA Basketball Analytics Summit: Who said quants don’t have fun? Teams of students meet on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus for two days every fall to hear research on sports analytics and compete in basketball-themed competitions, using their data analysis skills to answer questions like “Is the three-point shot undervalued?”
- Weekend Immersion in Nursing Informatics Conference: Up to 50 students gather in Charlotte with the North Carolina chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) each year to look at prevailing theories and trending models that can be used for nursing informatics.
Data Science Jobs in North Carolina
North Carolina accommodates three major markets for data scientists:
- Charlotte and its neighboring areas across the border with South Carolina ranked #4 for STEM employment growth on WalletHub’s 2017 list of Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals. And CBRE Research named it #1 among smaller talent markets in its report, 2016 Scoring Tech Talent. Tresata, Fuzzy Logix and Steeful are three small but vibrant data analytics companies operating out of Charlotte, but anywhere there are big companies, you can be sure big data jobs will follow. And they don’t come much bigger than Charlotte-based Bank of America.
- Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill make up the Research Triangle, where IBM is king, having invested over $300 million in R&D in the state between 2011 and 2016. It’s always on the lookout for postdoc researchers at its Raleigh facility. But really, you could just as easily stick to working for the area’s two major universities, UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, which are both members of the Chapel Hill-based National Consortium for Data Science along with IBM. Tour the Research Triangle Park to find analytics jobs with companies like Intel, Lenovo and SAS Institute — or drive down I-40 to Morrisville, where you’ll find the headquarters for MaxPoint, one of the state’s largest data science companies.
- Greensboro-Winston-Salem-High Point, aka the Piedmont Triad, features two massive research parks: Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and Gateway University Research Park. The former is home to data analytics companies like commerce-centric Inmar and Lucent Health, dubbed a “healthcare risk management company.” Gateway University Research Park is more focused on biosciences for now, but with the involvement of UNC-Greensboro, more opportunities may be available for health informatics professionals hoping to stay in the area.
Data Scientist Salaries in North Carolina
Unfortunately, data scientist salaries in North Carolina lag behind the national average. Still, it’s hard to get angry with an average salary of $119,000 (based on statistics from Indeed.com). Touring around the state, you’ll actually see a wide variation in wages, with Raleigh-based scientists pulling in an ample $131,000. Keep in mind, too, that North Carolina has a low overall cost of living, and even tech hotspots like Raleigh are just a bit more expensive than the national average.
We found 5 universities in North Carolina 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.