With the explosion in demand for data scientists has come a ton of educational options—from short boot camps to PhD specializations and everything in between. Here are a few things to think about when considering a program:
1. What are you hoping to achieve?
If you’re looking to become a full-time data scientist who can work in any industry, chances are you’ll need an advanced degree from an accredited program and institution. If you just want to add new skills to your toolbox, look for programs tailored to your needs, your industry and your current skill set. But keep in mind that certificate programs can have the advantage of counting toward an advanced degree if you decide to pursue one.
2. How strong is the program?
Because many data science programs are new, it may be difficult to gauge the strength of a program based on its history. Instead, look at where an institution’s expertise is coming from. Does it have an exceptionally strong department of applied mathematics and statistics? Are its computer science faculty world-class?
Consider, too, how well-rounded the program is. Is the curriculum balanced between the statistical and computational aspects of data science?
3. How well does the program work with others?
Data science is an incredibly interdisciplinary field. Will your program show you how data science can be used in your specialization? Can it be tailored to your interests and the problems you’re already grappling with in your current position?
Colorado School of Mines, for example, has a storied history in petroleum and earth resource extraction, so it is well equipped to teach students how to apply data science techniques to those fields, with faculty who have been doing so for some time. Other areas of domain enrichment include electrical engineering, economics and environmental science.
4. Seek out a program that aligns with your resources.
Can’t tackle a master’s program full-time? Find one that offers part-time options, perhaps with the possibility of switching to full-time when you can. Consider whether online classes are right for you. Mines, for example, offers a combination of on-campus and virtual classes. Maybe your company offers tuition assistance for particular institutions—put those at the top of your list.
Does the program or institution have a strong history of working with industry? Academic institutions are required to report the outcomes of their graduates. Are they positive? Are students well prepared for further study or to enter the workforce?