Data Science Graduate Certificate or a Master’s Degree? The Difference in Admission Criteria and Costs

Data Science three computersA lot of people want to become a data scientist these days. It is one of the best career options out there because of the high pay and the excitement the job offers. It is a promising career that is much needed in many industries and will prove to be relevant in the years to come.

Since Data Science is becoming a lucrative job, many job seekers would want to have the credentials to become one and are willing to switch careers or to add to their knowledge.

Data Science is all about providing meaningful information based on large amounts of complex data. Generally, to become a Data scientist you must have technical skills in computer science as well as acumen for math and statistics. Personality-wise a good data scientist will have intellectual curiosity, business acumen, good communication skills, and works well in a team.

A data scientist requires you to get training at a higher level. When you check out data science programs in universities, you will be faced with two options. One is to either get a Data Science Graduate Certificate Degree or get the full Master’s Degree. Before making a choice, you have to know the admission requirements and costs, so you will know how a commitment to a postgraduate education will impact you on the months to come.

Why You Should Choose a Data Science Graduate Degree Certificate

If you are an industry shifter you may want to get a Graduate certificate because it generally takes a short amount of time and less money to complete. Another advantage of getting a certificate is it is an opportunity for you to test the waters first before committing to a full master’s degree. Data Science Graduate Certificate can be completed in a short amount of time and will only take you from 10 months to one year. Some Graduate Certificate programs require you to have an undergraduate degree in STEM, business, or related field while some do not state this requirement explicitly and just indicate that you should have proficiency in basic computer programs.

The best thing about Data Science Graduate Certificate is some universities offer them online. You will have more flexibility and freedom to take your classes. Although some schools require you to adhere to a schedule, you still get the benefit of taking classes at any location.

Below Are Some Universities That Offer Graduate Certificate Degree in Data Science

California State University-Fullerton

California State University Fullerton offers an online Certificate in Data Science program. This certificate program includes five courses and consists of 99 hours. They must have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, applied statistics, engineering, math, physics, or natural sciences., and they have at least three years of professional experience in a field such as data analysis, business analytics or intelligence, software engineering or programming.

This program provides both the fundamentals in statistics and computer science, tools, techniques, and practical experience in applied statistical analysis, modeling, machine learning, and computational data science.

Duration of the course: 10 months

Cost: $3,220

Duke University

This course is designed for professionals interested in the field of analytics to develop broad and in-depth expertise in the spectrum of big data and data science related technologies.


  • Possess word processing and internet skills
  • Be fluent in the English language (including reading and writing)
  • Familiarity with computers, how online programs work, and comfortable in using them
  • Possess reliable internet access and a valid email account

Cost: $2,995

Elmhurst College

Elmhurst College offers a Data Science certificate program. This program includes five courses from the college’s Master of Science in Data Science program, with four required courses and one elective. students who want to earn the masters must meet the admission requirements for that degree, including prerequisite courses in statistics and computer science and at least a year of professional experience.

Duration of the course: one year

Cost: $870 per semester

Why You Should Get a Data Science Master’s Degree

The foremost advantage of having a master’s degree is you gain credibility. If you have demonstrated your ability to complete and defend a data science project at the graduate level it will show potential employers that you are capable of solving meaningful and complex problems. However, obtaining a master’s degree in Data Science requires more commitment in time and money. The payoff is a better and more in-depth training and eventual mastery of the field.

Similar to the Graduate Certificate Program, you may be required to have an undergraduate degree in STEM, business, or related field. If you do not have a related undergraduate degree, you may be asked to get a few prerequisite subjects before enrolling in the full master’s course.

Below Are Some Universities and Colleges Offering Master’s in Data Science

University of North Carolina Wilmington- North Carolina

About the Course

The Master of Data Science is a professional interdisciplinary program that emphasizes computational-based applications of traditional data analysis methods and current trends in data mining and machine learning to turn data into information, and information into insight.

Admission Requirements

Admissions decisions are based upon the examination of several factors and, where other indicators of success warrant, individuals who fall below the established criterion in one of the areas may be considered for admission. Such individuals may be required to take additional course work to remove deficiencies or may be required to demonstrate proficiency in certain areas.

Cost: in-state $20,600    out-state $39,100

Northwestern University- Evanston, Illinois

About the Course

The integration of data science and business strategy has created a demand for professionals who can make data-driven decisions that propel their organizations forward. You can build the essential analysis and leadership skills needed for careers in today’s data-driven world in Northwestern’s online Master of Science in Data Science program.

MSDS students gain critical skills for succeeding in today’s data-intensive world. They learn how to utilize relational and document database systems and analytics software built upon open-source systems such as R, Python, and TensorFlow. They learn how to make trustworthy predictions using traditional statistics and machine learning methods.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or its foreign equivalent. A competitive undergraduate record that indicates strong academic ability is required, though applicants need not have extensive academic experience in data science or related fields. Work or research experience in the field of study is desirable but not necessarily a requirement. The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is not required, but strong scores bolster chances for admission. GRE scores and/or new, relevant course work at the undergraduate level are recommended for applicants whose previous academic performance was below a B average.

Tuition per course: $4,309

Stevens Institute of Technology- Hoboken, New Jersey

About the Course

This interdisciplinary program prepares students for careers in fintech, business intelligence and analytics, academia, and database management, as well as government positions requiring strong skills in data analysis. Students will analyze complex data, including large scale databases, and apply state-of-the-art modeling and visualization techniques. They will participate in simulations of cyber-attacks and create effective defense strategies, as well as study, in-depth, the algorithms and optimization schemes underlying the latest business analytics methods.

Admission Requirements

  • Calculus with a level comparable to MA 227 Multivariable Calculus
  • Linear algebra with a level comparable to MA 232 Linear Algebra
  • Probability theory with a level comparable to MA 222 Probability and Statistics
  • Proficiency in programming languages such as Python, R, and MATLAB with a level comparable to CS 385 Algorithms
  • GRE/GMAT is not required for part-time students.

Tuition: $17,980 per semester

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About Sai Valluru

Sai Valluru is an undergraduate student at UMass Boston. He has worked and interned at many technological start-up companies. Sai Valluru is primarily majoring in Computer Science and is minoring in business. With his goal to complete his Bachelor's in Science, Sai Valluru intends to take his Master's in Business Administration in the upcoming future.

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