Wondering if a data science education in Pennsylvania will pay off? Browse our guide to schools, job prospects, online alternatives, graduate scholarships, and networking opportunities! Already have Carnegie Mellon on your shortlist? Skip right ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Pennsylvania.
Studying Data Science in Pennsylvania
When comes to data science, Pennsylvania is in “booster” mode. Philadelphia is moving to rebrand itself as a financially savvy (and affordable) IT town. Pittsburgh is shifting from steel and smoke to a 21st-century economy. Though they can’t rival the big boys and girls, they’re trying very, very hard.
- You’ll find a lot of what’s happening in Philadelphia on Technical.ly Philly, which carries the latest news on the local tech scene. This includes StartUp PHL, which is designed to encourage entrepreneurs, and Code for Philly, which aims to improve the city through hackathons and civic apps.
- Meanwhile, organizations like Pittsburgh DataWorks, the Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC), and Innovation Works (IW) are on a mission to lure big data geeks to the ‘Burgh. IW claims to be the single largest investor in seed-stage companies in the Southwestern region.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Pennsylvania Universities
These groups receive immeasurable help from Pennsylvania’s universities. Carnegie Mellon is the undisputed leader of the pack—the New Ivy is often #1 in U.S. News & World Report rankings for Best Graduate Computer Science Programs—but Penn State and UPenn also attract investment. Here’s why:
- Carnegie Mellon’s $98 million School for Computer Science (SCS) Complex is breaking new ground in machine learning, computational biology, and human-computer interaction. Carnegie is also home to lots of interdisciplinary research centers (e.g. iLab) and the super-powered Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center (PSC), a joint effort with the University of Pittsburgh and Westinghouse Electric Company.
- The University of Pittsburgh has more than just the PSC. As part of the NIH’s Big Data to Knowledge (BD2K) initiative, it was deemed a Center of Excellence for Big Data Computing. In addition, the school’s Intelligent Systems Program (ISP) is a multidisciplinary graduate program that’s expressly dedicated to applied AI.
- Penn State established its Institute for CyberScience (ICS) in 2012 and has been working to expand high-performance computation and storage capacity at its Advanced CyberInfrastructure (ICS-ACI). The School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science also supports a large amount of research into areas like computational biology, cyber security, machine learning, and more.
- Along with research initiatives like the Warren Center for Network and Data Sciences, UPenn is particularly strong in the field of health. Its Institute for Biomedical Informatics (IBI) is affiliated with the Perelman School of Medicine, and its Penn Medicine Data Analytics Center is powered by extensive data warehousing.
You’ll notice that this focus on health cuts across the board. Thanks to strong medical centers and generous NIH funding, many Pennsylvania universities are working independently (and together) on data-driven healthcare. For proof, check out the Pittsburgh Health Data Alliance.
Online Data Science Programs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is ripe with online opportunities. Big names like Carnegie Mellon and Drexel have distance education options, but so do smaller schools like Villanova. UPenn has a well-established partnership with Coursera and Penn State has one of the largest and oldest online campuses in the country.
We cover general things to look for in an online data science program elsewhere, so here we take a closer look at what makes Pennsylvania unique. While we’re at it, we should also note that U.S. News & World Report ranked Penn State-World Campus ranked #4 and Drexel #8 in its list of Best Online Graduate Computer IT Programs in 2016.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
In the Keystone State, online graduate certificates in data science tend to fall into two categories: Penn State and the rest. While Penn State-World Campus has what you might expect—graduate certificates in applied statistics and business analytics—other schools are banking on hospitals.
Those schools include Drexel, which offers a Certificate in Healthcare Informatics, and Misericordia, which has developed a Health Care Informatics Graduate Certificate.
As we’ve mentioned, Pennsylvania has plenty of interest in technology and healthcare, and this field is rapidly becoming popular in distance learning. Look for your options to increase in the next few years.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
The trend in graduate certificates continues in online master’s programs in data science:
- Penn State-World Campus has developed master’s degrees that echo its graduate certificate offerings.
- Both Drexel and Misericordia offer a distance master’s in health informatics (Drexel’s program is supported by its Institute for Healthcare Informatics (IHI)).
Even Carnegie Mellon feels comfortable offering its campus master’s programs in an online format. Students watch video-captured lectures from campus classes and participate in web conferences for guest speakers or student presentations.
To stand apart in this crowded field, smaller schools are trying to differentiate themselves by emphasizing practical applications. For example:
- Harrisburg’s Master of Science in Analytics was created with the advisement of experts from companies such as LinkedIn, IBM, and Versatile. Students are expected to visit campus one weekend every month.
- Saint Joseph’s interdisciplinary Master of Science in Business Intelligence and Analytics lives in the AASCB-accredited Haub Business School. The degree has been endorsed by the SAS Institute.
- Villanova’s Master of Science in Analytics has the backing of its Center for Business Analytics (CBA), which organizes industry projects for students.
If you’re not sure about distance learning, Quora.com and Reddit.com often have feedback and reviews on Pennsylvania distance learning programs (especially from big universities). You might also wish to contact alumni through LinkedIn.
Data Science Scholarships in Pennsylvania
We’ve listed many university scholarship opportunities that will apply to our degree listings, but there are always more! Ask the Graduate Studies Office for info about general scholarships and fellowships (e.g. diversity funding) and advice about alternative financial options (e.g. state grants, loans, etc.).
Carnegie Mellon University
- Heinz College Scholarships: Heinz College administers the MISM and the MSIT degree programs, and it offers a number of merit-based, employment-based, and partnership-based scholarships to aspiring students. These include the Women in Technology Scholarship and the Strategic Partner Scholarship Program.
- MSIT Program Scholarship: MSIT students who are not eligible for any of the other Heinz College scholarships may be eligible for this one. MSIT scholarships are awarded to exceptional applicants based on the strength of their application and demonstrated potential for advancing in their careers.
- Tepper School of Business Scholarships: Tepper runs the MBA in Business Analytics and it has numerous scholarships and fellowships open to full-time MBA candidates.
- Graduate Financial Aid: Drexel has a number of general graduate scholarships open to students in its campus MS in Business Analytics and its online MS in Health Informatics program. These include teaching, research, and graduate assistantships/fellowships.
Pennsylvania State University- Great Valley
- Master’s Degree Campus Scholarships: All graduate students who have completed 12 or more credits in a Great Valley residential master’s degree program are automatically considered for merit scholarships based on their academic performance. No application is necessary. Need-based scholarships are also available.
- School of Graduate Professional Studies (SGPS) Scholarships: Incoming graduate students to the SGPS, including students in the Data Analytics degree program, are eligible for a variety of merit-based scholarships (e.g. Warren V. Musser Fellowship in Entrepreneurial Studies).
Saint Joseph’s University
- Haub School of Business Scholarships: Haub administers the MS in Business Intelligence and Analytics. Each semester, it gives merit scholarships to outstanding students applying to graduate business programs.
University of Pittsburgh-Bradford
- Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBI) Funding: The DBI is able to support some students through National Library of Medicine (NLM) and National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) training grant funds.
- Department of Biostatistics PhD Funding: The Department provides full financial aid for ~55 PhD students per year. Most of these folks become graduate student researchers (GSRs). GSRs receive a monthly stipend, tuition waivers, and medical benefits. A limited number of Teaching Assistantships (TA) are also available. The Department does not provide funding for MS or MPH students except in rare circumstances.
University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh Campus
- Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business Scholarships: The Katz School offers merit-based scholarships to full-time MBA applicants, including U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, and international students. Scholarships are given in various dollar amounts and directly applied to tuition charges.
- School of Information Sciences (SIS) Financial Support: The SIS runs the MSIS degree program and it sometimes offers merit- and need-based financial support to full-time, on-campus students who meet full admission status.
- School of Information Sciences (SIS) Awards, Scholarships & Assistantships: The SIS also has a number of awards specifically available to students in its graduate programs. These awards include the James G. Williams Scholarship, which is given to an outstanding student enrolled in the MSIS Program, and the Scholarship for Service (SFS).
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Assistantships: Graduate assistants receive a stipend and tuition remission. Awards are based on merit. U.S. and international students are eligible.
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Graduate Fellowships: The College offers a limited number of graduate fellowships to students. Fellowships include full tuition remission and a stipend.
- College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Tuition Scholarships: These merit-based scholarships cover the full tuition of a degree. U.S. and international students are eligible.
Data Science Events in Pennsylvania
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has fewer meetups than states like California and Massachusetts, but it’s not completely bereft of networking opportunities. Here are 5 scattered around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh that you may wish to explore:
- ACM Pittsburgh: This meetup is a branch of the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. (ACM) Local Program. Topics cover everything from predictive analytics and ML to data visualization and user research. There are lots of talks from the visiting experts.
- Data Philly: Data Philly is one the largest big data meetups in Philadelphia, and it often works with Code for Philly on Datathon Hack Nights. It’s open to anyone interested in topics like predictive analytics, applied machine learning, big data, data warehousing, and data science.
- Future of Data: Geared towards developers, data scientists, and hands-on data enthusiasts, this meetup explores modern data applications and Apache projects.
- Philadelphia Analytics: Sponsored by IBM, this meetup focuses on big data analytics, predictive analytics, social media analytics, text analytics—the gamut. There are workshops, webinars, and Big Data Happy Hours. If you’re fond of IBM, you may also be interested in Big Data Developers.
- Pittsburgh useR Group: This meetup is open to all levels of R programmers. Most events, including talks and workshops, take place on the Carnegie Mellon campus.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Pennsylvania
If you get lucky, you may find a major data science conference (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, Predictive Analytics World, IEEE ICDM, SIGKDD, etc.) making a pit stop in the Keystone State. Alternatively, you could look at local events such as:
- Big Data & Analytics in Healthcare Summit: The trend we mentioned in healthcare continues when it comes to conferences. Based in Philadelphia, this two-day event aims to bring together senior-level executives to discuss the latest big data challenges facing the industry.
- Big Data & Analytics for Pharma Summit: Run by the same folks who organize the Healthcare Summit, this Philadelphia conference follows a similar pattern. Speakers come from companies like Pfizer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and GlaxoSmithKline.
- I Love It When You Call Me Big Data: This quirky, day-long summit in Pittsburgh focuses on big data trends and best practices. A morning of keynote presentations is typically followed by an afternoon of Tech Talks.
- Philly Tech Week: Sponsored by Technical.ly, this is an annual extravaganza celebrating Philadelphia’s advances in technology and innovation. The week is built on six tracks (Creative, Access, Dev, Civic, Business, and Media), and events include a kick-off festival, conferences, expo, and cocktail reception.
- White House Frontiers Conference: Hosted by Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, this conference appeared in Pittsburgh in 2016. The conference explores five frontiers in science, technology, and innovation: personal (e.g. healthcare), local (e.g. open data), national (e.g. automation), global (e.g. climate change), and interplanetary.
Data Science Jobs in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania lurks somewhere in the murky middle of the data science job market. Exciting opportunities do exist, but they’re nowhere near as plentiful as they are in Silicon Valley, Texas, or New York. Just to take a few examples of this “middleness”:
- In a 2014 report from Gigaom, Pennsylvania was #12 in the list of states with the most data science job postings, behind North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
- Pittsburgh was ranked #9 and Philadelphia was ranked #31 in a 2016 WalletHub report on the Best & Worst Metro Areas for STEM Professionals; CBRE’s 2016 report on Scoring Tech Talent shows a brain drain for both cities.
- An Innovation that Matters 2016 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and 1776 placed Philadelphia #8 and Pittsburgh #14 in its list of cities fostering entrepreneurial growth and innovation.
Having said all that, there’s interesting work happening amidst the university centers and start-ups in Philadelphia (e.g. Curalate, RJMetrics, Biomeme, etc.). Innovation Works has a list of data-based Pittsburgh companies you may wish to explore; kWantera can boast that GE is one of its investors.
Thinking of moving to high octane centers after graduation instead? Name recognition can make a difference. In a 2015 Jobvite survey that looked at universities with the most students hired by Silicon Valley companies, Carnegie Mellon was pegged at #12—the only Pennsylvania school on the list.
Data Scientist Salaries in Pennsylvania
When you start to examine salary figures along the East Coast, you’ll see a lot a variation. For example, Glassdoor reports that average salaries for data scientists in Philadelphia are above Boston figures, but below New York City. (These numbers may be skewed, of course, by the total number of jobs available.)
Average salaries in the ‘Burgh are below both Philadelphia and Boston, but that salary number also comes with an affordable cost of living. It’s interesting to note that the CBRE report recorded significant growth of millennials (14%) in Pittsburgh from 2009-2015.
And then there’s the long-term to consider. Here again, reputation matters. For instance, in Payscale’s College ROI Report, Carnegie Mellon was ranked #10, with graduates generating a 20 Year Net ROI of $811,000. UPenn came in at #19.
We found 17 universities in Pennsylvania 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.