Why a Master’s in Data Science is Worth It

Author: Staff

A woman looks at a document while another person looks at a laptop screen in the foreground.

ith the unprecedented need for skilled data scientists in every industry, there’s no shortage of online courses, boot camps and YouTube videos available.

However, as industry seeks more and more leaders in data science, a higher level of thinking is required.

Is a Data Science Master’s Degree Necessary?

As it turns out:

91% of data scientists have a Master’s degree, according to Burtch Works’ Must-Have Skills You Need to Become a Data Scientist.


Industries are looking for data scientists with leadership competencies.

Companies and organizations are seeking data scientists who can:

  • Apply critical thinking — not just techniques
  • Understand the ethical implications of data usage
  • Communicate actionable insights that can be understood by a non-technical team
  • Remain agile as the data science field evolves

Data Science Boot Camp vs. a Master’s Program

If you are trying to decide between a boot camp or a master’s, consider the perspective of an employer.

If an employer sees that you have a data science master’s degree from a prestigious university, that is an immediate mark of trust. While data science boot camps are still relatively new and their level of credibility may never match that of a university.

This does not mean a boot camp cannot help your career. However, a master’s will help you stand out against other job candidates.

In addition to credibility, it’s essential to think about longevity.

Many master’s programs will teach you technical and quantitative skills and theory and critical thinking.

Boot camps tend to be more focused on just the technical side, such as learning how to code. Data scientists in the making can take a boot camp or MOOC or rely on YouTube videos and perhaps learn enough to get a data science job because of the high demand.

However, if you’re looking for long-term career growth in data science, that’s where a master’s program comes in. A master’s program helps you future-proof your career because you have the theoretical foundation to adapt to changing tools and technologies.

This “future proofing” aligns with the numbers we saw during our information session poll:

69% of respondents said they would like to pursue a data science master’s degree to get the skills and training they need for long-term, future growth.

Why is a Master’s in Data Science from Notre Dame Worth it?

With Notre Dame’s online data science master’s program, you don’t just learn techniques.

You learn thought processes.

“If you’ve just learned how to perform a set of tasks [for example] in a software package, when things change you have to go back and redo that and you don’t really understand why things do what they do,” said Roger Woodard, Program Director for Notre Dame’s online master’s in data science program. 

Woodard further explained:

Data science leaders have to be able to synthesize and go beyond just the repetition of things. It’s higher level learning where you can think about things more deeply. That’s one of those things a master’s degree gives you. You’re not just thinking about topics for a couple of weeks, you’re thinking about them continually and in a synchronized way.”

Notre Dame Builds Courses that Prepare Data Science Leaders

In our recent Facebook Live event, Woodard spoke with the Director of Notre Dame’s Office of Digital Learning Director and Senior Learning Designer, Laurie Kirkner, about how we developed our data science online platform and courses with these leadership competencies in mind.

“We assembled a team of experts in content, learning design, and video presentation and brought their individual expertise together to develop an extremely effective instructional design that lays the groundwork for students to put forth their best effort and to learn well and to learn deeply,” said Kirkner. “It also delivers engaging, beautiful, thought-provoking, interesting content that makes them want to do more.”

Notre Dame’s online data science master’s program gives students a strong grounding in the quantitative and technical skills essential for career success in data science. Through a multi-disciplinary curriculum, our students develop broad analytical and quantitative thinking skills, expertise in storytelling with data, and a deep understanding of the ethical complexities of the field.

“Our data science master’s curriculum is a lock-step program designed to promote the best student experience for online learning and to create opportunities for interaction with faculty and students,” said Woodard. “Students can build the thought processes to think about data from a conceptual point of view and adapt and be agile in an environment where new tools and methods arrive almost daily.”

Watch our Facebook Live video to discover how our distinctive data science master’s curriculum prepares students with the high-demand skills employers are urgently seeking in data scientists.