It’s an exciting time to consider working in data science, but where do you start? Requirements have shifted – a study from IBM in 2017 reported that 39% of data scientists and advanced analysts roles require a master’s degree. Some universities have started offering online masters in data science programs with curriculums that take as little as 18 months to complete, and many online programs focus on skills and techniques data scientists need on the job now. Check out these six reasons to learn data science online – it’s time to level up!
Data Science Is an Exciting Career
At their core, data scientists are problem solvers. Although there are no right answers, data scientists follow an iterative process, refining business questions and gathering data to determine the best possible solutions for both small and large companies. Valuable analytics skills data scientists possess across industries are experience with Python, SQL, data wrangling, and mathematics. Learning these skills may demonstrate “grit” and perseverance to an employer and could potentially lead to a promotion. Reskilling may also lead to more opportunities to switch careers entirely.
There are plenty of new career opportunities and specializations to explore, such as natural language processing, deep learning, and the one everyone is talking about: big data. One of the most exciting parts of becoming a data scientist, is that there’s no industry a data scientist can’t tackle. Some work in finance, mitigating risk and identifying anomalies in data with models that can predict fraud. Others work in marketing and sales, helping their teams understand their audiences and personalize customer experiences. According to IBM’s 2017 study, the high demand for data scientists who can accomplish these tasks has driven up the average salary to $105,000 per year.
Interactive Online Learning Experience Powered by Technology
Universities are continuing to broaden their online offerings and some universities are beginning to offer online data science programs. Although opinions vary, employers are more comfortable accepting applicants with online degrees than before since well-respected, accredited universities are offering these programs. The number of students enrolled in exclusively online courses rose to over 3,000,000 in 2016 according to a study from Babson Survey Research Group in 2018.
Technology is driving innovation in university online programming and in some cases increasing access to content and allows educators to personalize the educational experience based on students’ understanding and pace. Students can also communicate with professors quickly and in real time or set up a time to chat online during office hours. Since many online programs have more frequent assessments, students receive more feedback on their progress, which may help them evaluate their performances, target concepts they have difficulty understanding, and stay on track.
Benefits of Learning Data Science Skills Online
As data science becomes more popular, online masters programs have allowed curious minds to demystify concepts and jumpstart their educational journey. Milad Divalo, a graduate from one of our partner schools, UC Berkeley, pointed out, “Although the MIDs program is a relatively young program, it has already provided me with a lot of exposure, as several top companies I have interacted with over the past year are aware of and think very highly of the program and its graduates” on UC Berkeley’s MIDs program boosting careers of alumni. But what’s the online data science education experience really like?
Most online data science programs consist of both asynchronous and synchronous teaching methods. Asynchronous programs give students more flexibility and are self-paced, but students may receive less hands-on instruction. Synchronous programs are more interactive and some synchronous versions of in-person programs boast experiences similar to being on campus. Students can interact with their peers in virtual break-out rooms, take notes and screenshots easily, and access previous recordings of lectures.
More Flexibility and Lower Total Cost
Some online data science programs have certain conveniences that on-campus programs do not. For working professionals, having the flexibility to balance their education with work or family may matter more. Programs that are self-paced can blend into the student’s daily routine, allowing them to prioritize their responsibilities, get through material at a pace that works for them without the added pressure of attending classes at specific times. These students may prefer to keep their current jobs so they don’t have to worry about lost income that may occur if they put their life on hold. They also avoid creating a gap in their work experience.
Some universities are now offering online programs year-round and certain degrees may have accelerated learning paths, which could help students complete their programs faster. Getting a master’s degree online may also reduce a student’s transportation costs since commuting to a brick and mortar campus isn’t necessary. To lower the cost even further, students should ask the university about credit transfer policies and check their employer’s policy for tuition reimbursement.
Career Changing Opportunities and Networking
Networking is a vital component of academic development and career success. Some students may feel more comfortable connecting with their classmates and instructors online rather than in person and feel less inhibited to participate in forum discussions or live Q&As. This may help students make stronger connections with their classmates as well as their instructor. In some virtual learning environments, students are assigned break out groups at random giving them the opportunity to network with most of their peers throughout the course. These convenient networking options could potentially lead to career changing opportunities if a student chats with the right classmate. They can also share tips and tricks for learning course materials and help each other succeed.
If students are taking a data science course online and live close to campus, they may visit instructors or participate in job fairs, networking events, social clubs, or meet with career counselors. If campus is farther away, students should consider going to meetups or events with industry experts to make these connections. They should also tap into their peers’ social or career networks and ask for introductions to connections to working professionals in fields they’re interested in. Students should also consider developing their Linkedin profile and cold connecting with people and companies on LinkedIn on their own.
More Online Degree Options in Data Science
Bootcamps and master’s degree programs have sprung up over the past decade to help meet the demand for qualified data scientists. Online master’s in data science programs are evolving and many schools have created engaging and interactive online curriculums to attract a global audience and keep students on track regardless of their location. A Forbes article in 2018 claimed that there’s been a shift to requiring a data science master’s degree rather than a PhD, which has increased the number of available programs. With an improved student experience, flexibility and opportunities to lower overall cost, it’s an exciting time to consider pursuing a master’s in data science online.