If you have an analytical mind and a passion for problem-solving, a data science degree might be a great fit for you. Data scientists explore a range of information to discover insights and guide organizations as they make data-driven decisions. Not only do data scientists need to be critical thinkers, but they must also have strong communication skills and be willing to work as part of a team.

Data science is a major part of daily operations at most businesses and organizations. From corporate board rooms to social good startups, data scientists are increasingly in demand, and careers within the field are projected to grow steadily.

In an online data science program, you can earn a degree from the comfort of your home. In the following guide, you will learn more about online data science degrees and the many careers available in the field. Read on to explore your options, and take the first step towards launching a new and rewarding career.

Meet our expert

W. Randolph Ford, Ph.D. Read More

W. Randolph Ford, Ph.D. Data Science

“I like that the online format is that the students are running under their own motivation.”

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Online Data Science Degree Overview

Degree Avg Degree Cost Avg Loan Default Rate Time Commitment Early Career Pay Mid-Career Pay Unemployment Rate
Associate N/A 12.4% 2 years N/A N/A 8.3%
Bachelor's $17,873 8.7% 4 years $48,000 $85,000 4.3%
Master's $14,377 8.5% 1+ years $79,000 $104,000 2.9%
Whether you are new to the field, or looking to advance in your current career, you should weigh the costs and time of getting a new degree against its benefits. There is no one-size-fits-all degree. The best choice for you will depend on your current educational background, financial standing, employment history, and area of interest. For instance, those with no experience may want to consider an associate degree, due to its shorter time commitment and lower cost. If finances are tight for you, then you should prioritize the student loan debt and default categories, as you will want to choose a degree that offers you the best chance of improving your financial standing with minimal risk. If your employer or someone else is paying for your education, then you might want to consider the degree that will offer you the highest salary. All salary information is sourced from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and/or PayScale

Completing an online data science program will prepare you for a range of professional opportunities. The first step is to find the right degree for you. Students can pursue an associate degree as they learn about the field, and an online bachelor’s in data science can open up doors to careers in market research analysis, database administration, and operations research analysis. Eventually, in order to advance professionally and augment your income, a master’s in data science may be useful as well. Those interested in disciplinary research or a career as an educator can pursue a doctorate in the field.

Online Data Science Degrees


Online Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science

An online bachelor’s in data science can provide solid foundation for those looking to move into careers such as database programming and market research analysis. The course load for a data analytics degree focuses primarily on statistics, analysis, and mathematics. Given the high average salary found among careers in the field and the increasing demand for employees with data science degrees, most students are able to repay the cost of the degree within a few years.


    Linear Algebra, Statistics, Introduction to Data Science, Data Analysis


    Business analytics, computational and data sciences, data analytics


    Computer programmer, market research analyst, and database administrator


    $79,530 for computer programmers, $62,150 for market research analysts, and $81,710 for database administrators


    For 2014-2024: 8% decline for computer programmers, 19% increase for market research analysts, and 11% for database administrators

Online Master’s Degree in Data Science

While many jobs are available to those with a bachelor’s degree is data science, advanced degrees in data analytics are quickly becoming the norm in the field. By earning an online master’s degree in data science, students can increase their future salaries and explore careers as data analysts, statisticians, and data engineers. Although time commitment and cost tend to be issues for those pursuing advanced degrees, the flexibility and low cost of an online master’s in data science can help students keep their schedules and finances in check as they make their way into a lucrative field.


    Data Mining, Data Visualization, Big Data, Statistics


    Information and data science, business intelligence and analytics, information management


    Statistician, computer systems analyst


    $80,110 for statisticians and $85,800 for computer systems analysts


    From 2014-2024: 34% increase for statisticians and 21% increase for computer systems analysts

Online Doctorate Degree in Data Science

Whether looking for work as a professor or a top data analyst in private practice, an online doctorate degree in data science will provide the type of advanced education and research opportunities necessary to succeed as a leader in the field. The curriculum for these programs merge advanced studies of core areas with directed and individualized research courses, allowing you to explore a specific area of interest.


    Integrative Data Science, Directed Research, Advanced Topics in Database Systems


    Computational and data sciences, analytics and data science, information sciences


    Research scientist, postsecondary educator


    $110,620 for research scientists and $72,470 for postsecondary educators


    From 2014-2024: 11% increase for research scientists and 13% increase for postsecondary educators

Online Data Science Choose Your Career

Average Data Science Salaries


Data Programmer

Salary: $61,000
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
-8% 328,600 Bachelor's N/A

Data programmers are responsible for programming and maintaining databases for a variety of organizations. They increase the functionality of databases through the development of scripts and coding that optimize network performance as well as update, troubleshoot, and oversee database function and design. A minimum of an online bachelor’s in data science is required for most data programmer positions, and strong communication and critical thinking skills are key to success in the field.

Market Research Analyst

Salary: $62,150
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
19% 495,500 Bachelor's N/A

Market research analysts gather and analyze data to help organizations discover the best ways to market their products and services to consumers. Those interested in becoming market research analysts should earn a bachelor’s in data analytics, computer science, math, statistics, or other related majors.

Operations Research Analyst

Salary: $78,630
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
30% 27,600 Bachelor's N/A

Operations research analysts use advanced forms of computer software to analyze and solve problems for organizations. Aside from using software, they also collect data through conversations with members of organizations and observe operations in the field to better understand the best methods for solving problems. They often work with and advise managers on how to carry out various operations, including developing production schedules, allocating resources, and setting prices. Those interested in operations research analysis will need at least a bachelor’s degree in data analytics and they should have both analytical and interpersonal skills.

Database Administrator

Salary: $81,710
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 120,000 Bachelor's N/A

Database administrators work to ensure that organizational databases are functional, easy to use, and secure. They design and test modifications to database structures when appropriate, and they merge old databases with new ones. Two common areas of specialization within the field are system administrators and application administrators. The typical degree required for this job is a bachelor’s in data science and necessary skills include problem-solving, communication, and logical thinking.

Research Scientist

Salary: $110,620
Growth Rate 2014-2024 Number of Jobs: 2014 Degree Certifications
11% 25,600 Doctorate N/A

Research scientists design new ways to use computer technology and solve complex issues within computing that affect how people use computers. They carry out and analyze results of experiments that test software system operations and create new and innovative computing methods. Many research scientists also become postsecondary teachers and contribute to research in computer theory. In order to succeed in the field, research scientists need to have sharp analytical and critical thinking skills. They also need to be detail-oriented, have strong math skills, and communicate effectively with others.

Online Data Science Degree in Action

W. Randolph Ford, Ph.D. Data Science

Rand Ford comes to us from the University of Maryland University College where he worked as Director and Professor for the Data Analytics Program. Prior to that, he served as Chair of the Computer Science Department at Hood College and as President of their faculty. Additionally, throughout his career, he has held C-level positions at 6 different companies. Dr. Ford earned his Ph.D. in Artificial Intelligence, along with a master’s and bachelor’s, from the Johns Hopkins University. He holds two patents and is active in both academic and applied research. Rand’s areas of expertise are in the analysis of unstructured data, natural language processing, and machine learning.

What do you like most about teaching in the online format?

I think it stresses student independence. I like that the online format is that the students are running under their own motivation. The studies have shown that people do a little bit better retention wise with what they comprehend in an online format. It traces back to the fact that the students are relying on their own motivation. My favorite format is an executive format, where I’m mostly lecturing online, and then three times a semester I see students for about 3-4 hours. A student takes mostly online classes and shows up for a few face to face classes. Students still have all of the benefits of online education, and get an interactive experiential learning scenario in a flip format. I do a lot of lecturing, but we also try to push for the flip format.

What is the biggest challenge for you as an online professor?

The feedback is hard, you can’t tell if you’re getting through on difficult subject matter. You can’t read people’s faces. I assume that is also difficult for the student. They can’t non-verbally project their lack of understanding.

What would you like to improve about online delivery?

I think that there’s a whole world of virtual reality teaching supported by research. There’s a couple of thing we know from education psychology, about repetition and interactive leading. We need to capitalize on this in the online format more. We need to look more at helping students retain more. In an online format you have the opportunity to re-introduce information, to bring it from short term to long term memory. I’d like to see us deploy that principle of education psychology into the online format more. Technology can help us do that.

What advice would you give an online student just about to start classes?

If you’ve got your energy up, the amount of learning or the speed with which you learn and the amount you retain is dramatically increased. I would tell students to tend to your engagement. Your responsibility is to come with the right mindset. Think how you can enhance your learning experience. This isn’t entertainment, this is education.

Online Data Science Professional Requirements

Certified Analytics Professional

The Certified Analytics Professional (CAP) credential is an excellent way to advance and remain competitive in data science. To receive the CAP credential, candidates must pass an exam centered around seven areas of analytics responsibility. These include business problem framing, data, analytics problem framing, methodology selection, model building, life cycle management, and deployment. In order to qualify for the exam, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and five years of professional experience or a master’s degree with three years of professional experience.

Is it required?


How long will it take?

3 hours

Cloudera Certified Professional: Data Scientist (CCP:DS)

The CCP:DS certification consists of three exams, including Descriptive and Analytical Statistics on Big Data, Advanced Analytical Techniques on Big Data, and Machine Learning at Scale. Each exam covers real-life scenarios in the field that data scientists must be able to solve in order to earn their certification. While there are no prerequisites for the exams, candidates should have experience with big data tools and extensive knowledge of data science topics. Candidates have eight hours to complete each exam and must complete all three required exams within 365 days.

Is it required?


How long will it take?

8 hours

Microsoft SQL Certification

The Microsoft SQL Certification will help demonstrate the skill level and knowledge of those looking to work in database analysis and database development. This certification is considered a key credential for those working in mission-critical database environments. The program consists of three exams and, while there are no prerequisites, training courses are recommended to help prepare candidates.

Is it required?


How long will it take?

2 hours

Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert

Becoming an Oracle Database SQL Certified Expert allows potential or current employers to recognize your advanced SQL abilities. In order to earn this certification, candidates must take a 75-question exam that measures expertise and the applicability of your knowledge. There are no prerequisites for this exam.

Is it required?


How long will it take?

2 hours