UW-Eau Claire to offer new master's degree in data science

Students and working professionals will be able to prepare themselves for the fast-growing field of data science thanks to a new UW-Eau Claire master of science degree in data science. Courses will start in September. 

The online degree is a collaborative partnership, coordinated by the UW-Extension with instructors from six UW campuses including Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Stevens Point and Superior. Upon completion of the 12-course, 36-credit online program, students will earn a master of science degree from their home institution. 

"The MSDS was designed with significant input from business and industry leaders," said Dr. Alex Smith, chair of the math department and academic director of MSDS at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "The program is about learning to mine data sets, find patterns, and communicate ways to make use of the findings. 

Big data is all around us, Smith said. 

"It is found as financial records, medical records, consumer patterns, internet searches and in many other real world situations," Smith said. "A data scientist must also understand privacy and security policies so the curriculum for the data science master degree also pays attention to that aspect."

The degree program was approved this spring by the UW System board of regents; Higher Learning Commission approval is expected June 15.

"Today's world is generating data at an explosive and accelerating rate," David Schejbal, dean of UW-Extension's division of Continuing Education, Outreach and E-Learning, said in a prepared statement. "In Wisconsin and across the country, employers in most industries are in great need of skilled professionals with the ability to transform big data into actionable insights. We are excited to offer an online professional degree program aimed at creating tomorrow's data science leaders today."

A report from McKinsey Global Institute predicts demand for deep analytical talent in the U.S. could be 50-60 percent greater than its projected supply by 2018. The result, the report states, may be a shortfall of "140,000 to 190,000 people with deep analytical skills, as well as 1.5 million managers and analysts to analyze big data and make decisions based on their findings." 

Data-science professionals work in a variety of businesses and industries, including manufacturing, construction, transportation, warehousing, communication, science, health care, computer science, information technology, retail, sales, marketing, finance, insurance, education, government, law enforcement and security. 

UW System's new master of science in data science degree will be grounded in computer science, mathematics, statistics, management and communication. 

Students will learn how to clean, organize, analyze and interpret large and complex data sets using the latest tools and analytical methods.

"The online format is a great choice for busy adults," Schejbal said. "All course content will be provided by distinguished UW faculty. Their expertise, combined with UW Extension CEOEL's award-winning instructional and media design, will ensure a rich, flexible and engaging educational experience that prepares students for success in data science and analytics careers." 

The program is intended for students who already have earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics, statistics, analytics, computer science or marketing; or have three to five years of professional experience as a business intelligence analyst, data analyst, financial analyst, information technology analyst, database administrator, computer programmer, statistician or other related position. 

Tuition for the new program will compare favorably to competing graduate programs from other institutions, according to UW officials. Like other collaborative online UW programs, students will pay the same tuition whether they live in Wisconsin or out of state. 

The UW master of science in data science joins a growing list of degree and certificate programs offered in collaboration with UW Extension and UW System campus partners, including bachelor's, master's and certificate programs in sustainable management; a bachelor's degree in health information management and technology; a bachelor's degree in health and wellness management; a bachelor of professional studies in organizational leadership and communication; bachelor of science in nursing programs for Wisconsin and out-of-state residents; and seven additional degree and certificate programs offered in the self-paced, competency-based UW flexible option format. 

Prospective students seeking more information about the master of science in data science program should visit the program website, call 1-877-895-3276 or email learn@uwex.edu.