Complete Guide to Online Data Science Degrees

By OnlineU Staff | Updated August 28, 2020

There are many accredited online colleges offering data science degrees. Data science is the combination of scientific methods used to dissect and understand data. Online programs in the field of data science range from computer-related data to business data analysis, and all are math-focused. From bachelor's degrees to doctoral degrees, data science has a place for online students at all education levels.

Prospective data science students should make sure to enroll in an accredited online college or university. Accreditation helps to ensure that students are receiving an education that meets national standards. In addition to institutional accreditation, data science students may want to pursue degrees that have received programmatic accreditation from the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET, the predominant accrediting organization for science, engineering, and computer technology programs across the country. 

Most Popular Accredited Online Schools for Data Science Degrees

Online Data Science Degree Overview & Career Information

Data science is a broad field that allows for more specific concentrations in more advanced degrees. Online bachelor’s degrees in the field take one of two primary orientations: information technology and data management or data analysis. The former is more computer data and technology oriented, while the latter is more business data and analyzing oriented. Core courses are statistics-based with an introduction to IT included. Both degrees can help students with future careers in the technology industry analyzing and managing data as well as computer network systems.

Students wishing to pursue an online Master’s of Data Science will take core courses such as introduction to data science, and data engineering. Students have a choice in specialty areas and can study online at their own pace. A Master’s of Data Science is usually around 36 credits and may provide an educational foundation upon which graduates can achieve higher level positions within their employment or seek positions as senior data analysts or business intelligence analysts.

Online doctoral degrees in data science are available to students who have obtained their master’s. A Ph.D in data science usually takes 50 months to complete, or 90-95 credits. Professionals with doctoral degrees in data science qualifications are most likely to be promoted to leaders within the industry and must demonstrate the ability to analyze large quantities of data.

Data science certificates at both graduate and undergraduate levels are also available online. Online graduate certificates are best for professionals who do not have the time available to complete a full master’s degree, but would like to further their education. An online undergraduate certificate in data science requires a student to already be enrolled in an undergraduate program, but the program doesn't necessarily need to be data-related. Students in may enroll in an online undergraduate certificate program as a way to stand out amongst their peers and be ready for a career in a data-heavy world.

Online Associate Degrees in Data Science

In the professional world, data science is a broad term that can refer to a variety of information technology and math-based specializations. As such, an online associate degree program that falls under the data science umbrella may be called an online associate degree in data science, but very similar programs may also go by other names, such as data analytics, business analytics, or information technology with an emphasis on data analysis. However, every associate degree in data science is designated as an Associate of Science (AS).

The core data science skill set is a combination of data gathering and analysis, statistics, visualization, projection, and programming. Data scientists are generally capable of writing programs and algorithms to extract insights from large databases. For example, data science can be applied in the healthcare sector to analyze large numbers of patient records and extract patterns that help doctors improve treatment recommendations. Data scientists are also involved in building and improving machine-learning algorithms that perform a variety of tasks, such as optimization of shipping routes.

Admission to an online associate degree program typically requires documentation of high school graduation with a transcript, or proof of having passed a General Education Development (GED) test. Following admission, an online associate degree in data science typically takes two years to complete. Coursework generally emphasizes computer programming (especially in Python), data warehousing, and data analysis. By taking these courses, students obtain the necessary skills to earn IT certificates in areas such as programming, SQL, and database administration. They can then pursue careers on IT teams and/or data analysis teams in various industries, including (but not exclusively) software.

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Data Science

Online bachelor’s degrees in the field of data science have different titles depending on the specific area of study. A selection of programs specialize in computer technology data, such as a Bachelor’s of Information Technology and Data Management while other programs, like a Bachelor’s of Data Analytics, focus on business data. Students can also pursue a Bachelor’s of Information Technology online specializing in Data Analytics. Most programs consist of an equivalent of 120 semester credit hours to obtain the degree and are offered at state universities and some vocational colleges.

Students enrolled in an online  data science related program will take core courses such as introductory statistics, fundamentals for information technology, cyber law and ethics, as well as fundamentals of database systems and an introduction to IT course. Again, core courses vary depending on the direction of the degree. Students graduating from these programs may find work in entry-level data related jobs such as clinical data manager, computer network analyst, computer database architect, or information security analyst.

Prior to enrolling in a bachelor's program in data-related and IT fields, students must have earned a high school diploma. As well, some programs require demonstrated success in mathematics, strong English, and an above 3.0 average to be accepted. In addition, depending on the school, students may be required to submit qualifying SAT scores.

Online Master's Degrees in Data Science

Online master's programs in data science are offered at a handful of universities across the country. These programs are good options for individuals hoping to work with data as analysts or data architects, among other career tracks. Prospective students looking for degrees with the best ROI should check out our list of the best online data science master's programs.

Online Doctoral Degrees in Data Science

Graduates of a master's program in data science may pursue an online doctoral program in the field. Typically a 90-95 credit hour program, data science doctoral students have to be ready to face online-heavy courses, rigorous mathematics studies, and a dissertation. Core courses in the doctoral curriculum include tools for big data analytics, advanced topics in database systems, and business intelligence.

Students with a Ph.D in data science may become leaders within the data science industry and will most often be referred to as data scientists or data engineers. Data scientists learn the ability to analyze large amounts of data —an important skill in a data dependent world.

Online Certificates in Data Science

Online data science certifications are available through graduate departments at several universities. Typically, these certificates are composed of four to six courses, or 12-18 credits, that take approximately 12 months to complete. Online graduate certificates require a bachelor’s degree at minimum, and often require a 3.0 or higher GPA. Additionally, some require undergraduate calculus coursework. Students can expect the course load to include an introduction to data science class, data analytics, and statistical programming, as well as mathematics geared toward data science.

Graduate certificates are intended for professionals looking to increase their education without the time needed for a master’s degree. Obtaining a graduate certificate assists professionals in obtaining positions in areas like risk management, software development, financial analysis, or marketing analysis.

Online undergraduate certificates in data science also exist. These online programs are approximately 18 credit hours in length. Students may sign up for an undergraduate certificate while enrolled in any undergraduate program, as long as proof of a high school diploma or equivalent is presented. This type of certificate may give students a competitive edge over their peers upon graduating in a data-driven society.

The Importance of an Accredited Online Data Science Degrees

Accreditation is an important consideration for all students pursuing higher education for four primary reasons. First, it guarantees programs are modern, efficient, and high quality. Secondly, employers often seek students who have obtained degrees from accredited programs. Therefore, students have a greater chance of being hired if they have attended an accredited school. Thirdly, regional accreditation allows students to transfer credits from one college to the next in an easier process. Lastly, only students who attend accredited institutions are eligible for federal financial aid.

In addition to institutional accreditation, students pursuing online degrees in data science may look for programmatically accredited degrees. Programmatic accreditation helps to ensure that the specific degree program a student is enrolled in meets national standards for the field they are pursuing. Degrees from programmatically accredited institutions often garner more respect from employers. One highly respected programmatic accreditation for data science programs is the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET. ABET is a program-based accreditation commission focusing on high quality applied science, computer technology, and engineering programs. Prospective students should include this in their criteria for deciding where to attend.

Careers in Data Science

Through their studies, online data science students will learn computer analytics, software development, statistics, risk management, and other technology skills. Graduates of data science programs possess the ability to analyze existing data, predict data patterns, and create programs, plans, and products using information gleaned from data analysis. A collection of skills that proves useful in marketing, information technology, and computer programming as well as within data-heavy environments like hospitals, military bases, television networks, and financial institutions.

Data and technology are important to a wide range of industries and professions. Within these industries, data science leaders are responsible for analyzing big data and projecting future data-related information and outcomes. The market is wide open for data scientists to work in a plethora of fields with job titles ranging from data analysis to data engineer and clinical data manager to senior tech specialist.

Day to day life in the data science field may not require as much screen time as one might think. School graduates are prepared to forecast and analyze data for all kinds of reasons. Depending on employment, careers entail developing strategies, communicating ideas, and attending brainstorming meetings. Of course, computer tasks play a large role, but data science employment requires a great deal of human interaction, too.

Data plays a huge role in every business, and this role is only growing. Entry level employees obtain positions as computer network analysts or data analysts earning salaries of $50,000-70,000 whereas students boasting online master’s and doctoral degrees may see salaries clearing six figures. These students may be future data engineers or data scientists.


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