Thinking about UW or Marquette for data science? Here’s a quick guide on everything you need to know—from research and scholarships to job prospects and salary numbers. Ready to send in your application? Skip ahead to our list of all the data science programs in Wisconsin.
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Studying Data Science in Wisconsin
Traditionally, Wisconsin has relied on manufacturing, agriculture, and tourism for economic growth. Those engines are still there, but you can now add areas like health IT, biotech, water science, and Internet of Things (IoT). Think healthcare data software, food delivery, and mobile apps.
Like Cambridge, MA, or Boulder, CO, Madison is known as the “innovation kid.” Data start-ups are often sprouting from university research and organizations such as Madworks—a seed accelerator for Madison-based companies and University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) projects.
Meanwhile, eighty miles to the east, a number of Milwaukee-based groups are fostering homegrown innovation. These include:
- gener8tor, a for-profit start-up accelerator investing in high-growth start-ups, and gBeta, its free growth accelerator for early-stage companies with Wisconsin roots.
- Bridge to Cures, which has partnered with southeast Wisconsin research institutions to support inventors who wish to turn their discoveries into healthcare products.
- BREW (Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin) Accelerator, which funds water technology start-ups with commercialization potential.
Don’t get us wrong—Wisconsin still has a long way to go before it becomes a top-tier hub for tech. But institutions like the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) and the Wisconsin Technology Council (WTC) are doing their darndest to promote progress.
Data Science Research & Initiatives at Wisconsin Universities
When it comes to data science, the name you’ll hear most often is UW-Madison. It’s the school that U.S. News & World Report ranked #11 in Best Graduate Computer Science Programs (#18 in AI and #8 in Systems) in 2017, and its Department of Computer Science has a long and illustrious history.
UW-Madison has multiple research centers devoted to health (e.g. biotechnology, urban population health, etc.) and agriculture (e.g. dairy, water resources, bioenergy, etc.). It has also pumped funds and expertise into projects such as:
- The Internet of Things (IoT) Systems Research Center, which allows multidisciplinary researchers to collaborate with leading industry partners.
- The Center for Corporate Innovation, a Business School initiative that aims to help corporations access talent and university resources in order to tackle growth & innovation.
This work is being funneled into business enterprises via:
- Discovery to Product (D2P), a campus-based commercialization program which helps UW entrepreneurs develop ideas to the stage of licensing technologies or establishing a company.
- Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), which speeds commercialization of UW-Madison discoveries developed in university labs and patented by WARF.
Although it doesn’t have as large a stake in computer science as its sibling, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) is still making strides. Its initiatives include the App Brewery (Mobile Innovation Lab), the Decision Systems and Artificial Intelligence Lab (DSAIL), and the Lubar School of Business Center for Technology Innovation (CTI).
Over at Marquette, researchers are exploring all kinds of areas such as bioinformatics & pervasive/ubiquitous computing systems and debating the ethics of big data.
Online Data Science Programs in Wisconsin
There aren’t many online programs in data science in Wisconsin, but the ones that do exist are offered by—you guessed it—UW campuses. Since we cover general things to look for in an online data science program elsewhere, here we focus on what’s specifically available in the Badger State.
Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science
UWM’s Lubar School of Business has developed an online Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics. This is a pretty comprehensive qualification, with a focus on analytics tools, applications, and Business Intelligence (BI) solutions. What’s more, it can be applied to the Lubar School’s MBA or MS in Management degree program.
Have another field of interest? Check out our comprehensive directory of Online Graduate Certificates in Data Science. This has a list of distance learning certificates in every area of big data (e.g. data mining, analytics, healthcare informatics, etc.) from major universities across the country.
Online Master’s Degrees in Data Science
UW’s online Master of Science in Data Science is offered through the UW Extension School. That means faculty teaching is pulled from six UW System campuses (but not UW-Madison).
The program begins with foundations in data science, before progressing to areas like data mining, prescriptive analytics, and visualization. It’s deliberately focused on IT professionals who are trying to work their way up the job ladder. Ideal candidates already have a BS in math, statistics, analytics, computer science, or marketing and/or 3-5 years of experience.
Data Science Scholarships in Wisconsin
This section deals primarily with university scholarships & assistantships (i.e. institutional aid) that would cover your data science program. But don’t take this as the end! The Graduate Studies Office will have more info on general aid (e.g. diversity scholarships) and alternative financing options (e.g. low-interest loans).
- MSCS Graduate Assistantships: The Department of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (MSCS) offers a range of merit-based teaching & research assistantships to incoming graduate students.
- MSCS Fellowships: Outstanding MSCS students are eligible for Schmitt or Raynor Fellowships, which are awarded in a competition within the Graduate School. Fellows are expecting to devote their time to study and research; no undergraduate teaching is required.
University of Wisconsin Colleges (UW Extension)
- Financial Aid for Returning Adult Students: Although UW does not offer any direct scholarships for its online Master in Data Science, financial aid & scholarships may be available to returning adult students (part-time or full-time) through the home campus. See the website for details.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Statistics Graduate Assistantships: The Department of Statistics offers guaranteed financial support to a number of high-achieving MS applicants. Graduate students who receive this support typically act as teaching assistants in their first year and as teaching, research or project assistants in their second year. (Outstanding applicants are also considered for university fellowships.)
Data Science Events in Wisconsin
Data Science Meetups & Communities in Wisconsin
Thanks to activity at UW-Madison, Madison has got a bit more going on than Milwaukee. But you’ll find plenty of community support and big data groups in both cities:
- Big Data Madison: This is a huge meetup in Madison, with 1,600+ members and an enormously active base. It hosts frequent talks, case studies, and demos on all kinds of big data tools (e.g. Hadoop, MapReduce, Spark, etc.) and tactics (machine learning, data visualization, analytics, etc.).
- Data Science Madison: Like Big Data Madison, this meetup has a strong membership of professionals, students, consultants, enthusiasts, and entrepreneurs. Talks cover everything from new technologies and applications to broader issues (e.g. data science for social good).
- MadR – Madison R Programming UseRs Group: Love R and all its applications? MadR hosts a variety of tutorials and hack nights throughout the year. Milwaukee has a similar Milwaukee R Meetup, but it’s not as active.
- MKE Big Data (MKEBD): MKEBD is the major meetup in Milwaukee (650+ members) tackling big data and advanced analytics. Meetings include presentations on all aspects of data science, including the latest tools and tricks.
- Milwaukee Data Science: It’s not as a large or active as MKEBD, but this group still hosts occasional talks for data science enthusiasts and IT professionals.
Data Science Conferences & Workshops in Wisconsin
Major data science conferences (e.g. Strata+Hadoop World, Predictive Analytics World, IEEE ICDM, SIGKDD, etc.) tend to fly right by Wisconsin. Fortunately, they sometimes land in Detroit or Chicago. You might also want to consider:
- BigDataWisconsin Conference: This half-day conference was first held in 2016 as part of Madison’s Forward Fest. It included expert speakers from both UW-Madison and data-focused companies (e.g. RedHat, Cloudera, etc.).
- The Forward Festival: Held every year, Forward Fest is billed as “Madison’s flagship technology and entrepreneurship festival.” Over 8 days, tech lovers can attend conferences, happy hours, start-up summits, pitch nights—the list goes on.
- Technology Hub Conference (TechHub): TechHub is a one-day conference aimed at IT professionals in Northeastern Wisconsin. There are relevant data science sessions on IoT & Big Data, the Cloud, AI, mobile, etc.
- UW-Madison Department of Statistics Conferences: The Department periodically hosts research conferences with a stats-heavy focus (e.g. IMS New Researchers Conference in Statistics and Probability; Midwest Statistics Research Colloquium).
- Wisconsin Technology Council (WTC) Conferences: WTC organizes a number of critical events for tech entrepreneurs each year, including the Wisconsin Tech Summit, the Early Stage Symposium, and the Entrepreneurs’ Conference.
Data Science Jobs in Wisconsin
In terms of employment opportunities, Madison is leading the pack.
Supported by UW-Madison research, Madison companies are doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things with medical big data. For example, the city is home to Epic Systems (electronic health records); Propeller Health (mobile platform for respiratory health management); EnsoData (healthcare data software); and Redox (healthcare interoperability)
But to say Madison is all about health would be doing it a disservice. It also plays host to:
- Data-focused companies like Export Abroad (logistics and export consulting), Earthling Interactive (web and mobile applications), and PerBlue (mobile gaming)
- Grocery e-commerce ventures like Fetch Rewards, GrocerKey Inc., and Pinpoint Software Inc.
- The headquarters of American Family Insurance and regional offshoots of big companies such as Thermo Fisher Scientific (biotech).
- MIOsoft, which is specifically focused on data quality and big data analytics.
In your job search, you’re also likely to come across established entities in Milwaukee (e.g. Johnson Controls, Miller Coors, Aurora Health Care, etc.) that are investing in big data solutions and smart manufacturing. Johnson Controls, for example, has a deep and abiding interest in the Internet of Things (IoT).
Data Scientist Salaries in Wisconsin
According to Glassdoor, in 2017 the estimated average salary for a data scientist in Milwaukee was $96,058 and $97,340 in Madison. Milwaukee has lower housing costs compared to the more expensive Madison, which helps explain the difference in numbers.
If you need some perspective, these figures are well below the national average, which is skewed by high salaries in areas like Seattle and Silicon Valley. However, you’ll find comparable salary offers in cities like Detroit.
We found 4 universities in Wisconsin 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.