In 2016, I came across an article published in the Harvard Business Review, “Data Scientist: The Sexiest Job of the 21st Century.” When I began to think about pursuing a master’s degree, my first thought was to look into a master’s in computer science. But after reading the article from HBR, I decided to consider a new direction.
Although I didn’t know a lot about data science at the time, I felt excited about this emerging, fast-growing field.
What particularly appealed to me was how the article described the unique skill set that data scientists possess and how that skill set really sets them apart from other computer science and technical professionals. One of the key takeaways is how meaningful the data scientist role is within businesses and organizations.
Shortly after, I learned Notre Dame, my alma mater, was launching an online master’s in data science. I felt like their online program would be a good fit for me for several reasons.
1. The Student-Centered Approach
As a working professional with a family, the program format was ideal. Going back to school after many years as a working professional, I wanted a small program that would nurture me as a student. Other programs I looked at had much larger class sizes, and I didn’t want to feel like just a number.
In this program, I feel like we are part of the Notre Dame family.
I find the synchronous sessions allow the students and professors to make real connections. The professors and staff are very responsive and helpful, and they really care about the students and strive to make sure we will be successful data scientists.
My cohort gathered on campus in August when we started the program, and many of us traveled to Palo Alto to participate in the February immersion, which really facilitated connections between the faculty and students.
The format of the twice-weekly online sessions has also allowed us to build meaningful connections with our classmates. In fact, my cohort established a Facebook group so we can easily chat among ourselves about the program. In addition, my AT&T classmates and I set-up an internal chat room where we also share ideas.
2. Notre Dame’s Reputation for Academic Rigor and a Mission to Do Good
Another reason I chose Notre Dame’s online master’s in data science program is the university’s reputation for providing a world-class education, as well as its mission to do good for the world. From my experience as a Notre Dame undergraduate, I believed that the program would be academically rigorous and grounded in a strong ethical framework.
I was right.
Our classes are challenging and prepare us well with the skills we will need to be talented data scientists, including a solid foundation in math and statistics, and they place an emphasis on the ethical issues of data and developing strong oral and visual presentation skills throughout the program.
When I was looking at master’s programs in data science, Notre Dame’s overarching mission to do good in the world was also a big draw for me because I have a strong interest in a career that will have more opportunities to do good and make a difference.
3. My Need for Work/Life Balance
When I was an undergraduate student at Notre Dame, I enjoyed my time on campus. But today, I have a family and a demanding professional job. The online master’s in data science program aligns well with my current lifestyle.
It allows me to work at my own pace, as I balance my family and work responsibilities; yet, it’s online format is designed to build close connections between the faculty and my fellow classmates. This means I feel a sense of camaraderie and engagement, similar to what I felt as an undergraduate on campus.
Participating in Notre Dame’s master’s in data science program will allow me to set myself apart and pivot my career in a whole new direction that capitalizes on an important, new and exciting field, where I can make a significant difference and be a data science leader.
When I applied to be admitted to the master’s program, I wrote in my essay that I already loved Notre Dame, but that I hoped to develop a love for data science. I think I’m well on my way — I’m even dreaming about data science now.
I encourage you to watch Notre Dame’s information session, hosted by faculty members Professors Jennifer Cronin, PhD, Alan Huebner, PhD, and Program Director Roger Woodard, to learn about what a data scientist does, the industry demand, and details on the program.