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Thanks to the digital revolution, the field of Data Science has been sky-rocketed to the prestigious position of “Sexiest Job of the 21st Century”. A Data Scientist is essentially the miners of the digital age in a field that merges math, statistics, and computer science to tackle, manipulate, and explain great bundles of information. A certificate in Data Science could be the next step in propelling your career forward and getting you in on the action. Keep reading below to find everything you need to know about online Data Science certification programs!

Is an online data science certificate worth it?

Getting a certificate in Data Science is an investment both in terms of time and money, so some of the questions you’ll be wanting to ask are: is it worth it? What should I expect, and what should I be paying attention to as I evaluate and consider various programs and their return benefits to my career?

Curriculum

The first aspect of a program you’ll want to wrap your head around is the program curriculum and instructors. How is the course structured? Does it feature a foundational introductory course and provide elective options, or is it just geared towards one specialization? What methods are they using to convey useful information and skills to you? Pay attention to who is teaching the course, what their credentials are, and how they will go about assessing your work. Online data science certification programs can range from highly interactive with the instructors, to virtually hands off. In addition to this, things like project requirements, pre-requisite courses, and required courses all will play a huge role in how prepared you will be going in, and how much you’ll benefit from it coming out.

Pedagogy

Online data science certification programs offer a lot of flexibility in how they allow students to engage with the material, so it’s important to consider your learning style when selecting a data science program. The pedagogy of online programs can range between featuring live seminars and teaching sessions, to relying on case studies and reading research. When it comes to Data Science, usually there must be some sort of hands on component requiring the students to use programming languages and software to interact with the concepts they’re learning.

Value/Return of Investment

The next aspect of a data science certificate to evaluate is the return investment you’ll get in acquiring it. Pursuing a data science certificate can be a substantial financial investment with some programs costing tens of thousands of dollars. And while a Data Scientist can sometimes be expected to make an annual salary of $100K or more, consideration should be given to the time it could take to gain employment upon completing the program to offset the initial financial investment.

Technology

One obvious factor concerning getting an online certificate in data science is that you will be very dependent on technology throughout the process. Always peruse the technological requirements before enrolling in a course as some require specific coding software, computer specifications, and access to a strong and reliable internet connection. In addition to this, you’ll also want to see how the program leverages technology to stimulate and add to the learning experience. For instance, many programs offer live video lectures, web peer meetings, as well as options to complete a course on a self-paced schedule with open access to course content.

Program Length

If you’re after taking a data science certification course online, odds are you’re following a tight schedule and are trying to make every minute count. As such, you’ll definitely want to consider the time expected to complete the course, as well as how big a window the institution allows for you to complete the material, when deciding if it’s for you or not. Depending on the prestige of the certificate as well as the institution, courses can take anywhere between 3 months to years to complete.

Pre-requisites

The best online programs for data science aren’t a walk in the park, and as such often come with requirements they expect the student to meet prior to coming on scene. Many courses require that the student already have an undergrad degree, provide letters of recommendation, and college transcripts. Depending on the level of the program, you may also find that you’re expected to already have a grasp of certain programming languages or IT skills as well. Pay close attention to these details to keep your ducks in a row when undergoing the application process.

Paying for an online data science certificate program?

Once you’ve waded through the nuts and bolts of how to evaluate an online data science certification program, the next obvious step to take is financing your educational investment. Luckily, there are plenty of options to consider besides just emptying out your wallet all at once.

Scholarships

Scholarships can be hard to come by for certification programs, and it will often depend on if the certificate is part of a greater master’s degree or not. This shouldn’t discourage you from searching, as scholarships are still out there!

Discounts

Discounts can also be a handy bargain to keep in mind when financing a data science certification program, and the most common one you’ll come across is for active or retired military personnel. Even if you can’t find specific discounts on the courses themselves, you may still have access to various student discounts that can be applied to purchasing software, programs, and technology that you will use to continue your program.

Employment Reimbursement

Looking into employment reimbursement as a means to finance your education is an absolute must, especially if you’re coming in from the post-graduate workforce. Talk to your HR department and open up the conversation with your current boss about whether or not the company is willing to invest in your education. Many companies are able to provide a huge, if not full, percentage of the tuition funds to better their employees.

Payment Plans

Obviously, with the cost of quality online data science certifications creeping upwards into the range of costing thousands of dollars, it isn’t necessarily expected, or advisable, to put all of that down at once. Going the payment plan route through either your institution or independent lenders like Climb, Pave, or Skills Fund provides a lot of flexibility not only in how to acquire funds, but how you go about paying them off in a timely and affordable manner.

Income Share Agreements

A final, and far less known, method for financing your data science certification program is Income Share Agreements. These are usually set up in conjunction with your institution or private investment firms. Instead of borrowing and paying back interest after you graduate, as practiced in a typical loan, Income Share Agreements essentially pledge a fixed percentage of your post-graduate income for a certain amount of time after you graduate.

Self-Financing

If looking into the above and below suggestions isn’t turning up enough for you, you can always go the route of self-financing your education by essentially saving up what you need and continuing to work to pay tuition costs. It isn’t entirely unfeasible as courses can cost as low as $2,000; however, don’t be surprised to see them range into the $20,000 range for prestigious, longer varieties.

Data Science Certification Program Reviews

The next step now is to begin evaluating and weeding through the programs keeping the above criteria in mind. You’ll find, in terms of financing and curriculum, there really is a lot of variety among online data science certification programs. Here are a few of the best programs to consider when starting your search:

The University of New Hampshire Data Science Graduate Certificate

The University of New Hampshire offers an online Graduate Certificate in Data Science geared towards professionals already in the analytics or other tech related fields. This course seeks to equip organizations to better tackle data and analytical related tasks and challenges by equipping its employees to leverage big data in a way to support better decision making. The ideal student for this course is likely already familiar with the field of business analysis, marketing, or computer science and looking to advance their career or better equip their company.

The University of New Hampshire’s Data Science certificate is structured around 4 required courses that the student tackles at their own pace, and it is usually expected to take around 3 months or longer. Students will interact with guided, online instruction as they delve into case studies and utilize the Python programming language to explore statistics, mine data, and build models.

Admission into UNH’s data science certification program requires submitting an application to UNH’s Graduate School, and accordingly requires the student to already have a baccalaureate degree (in any field) with a 3.0 GPA or higher. Letters of recommendation, resumes, and transcripts are all required in addition to a $25 application fee.

The tuition fees for this program vary according to in or out of state residence, but generally range from $9,000-$10,000 for the whole course with a very limited amount of financial assistance coming from the university itself, though there are sources outside the institution like payment plans and loans.

However, applying to UNH’s graduate school does provide access to Career Placement services through various networking, recruiting, and counseling services. All of this couples with the certificate you will earn in the program that adds a great boost to your resume as well as income potential.

Columbia University Certification of Professional Achievement in Data Sciences

Colombia University in New York offers a fully online, non-degree certification programming for data science aimed towards students wanting to expand their careers or make an entire career switch. As such, prior professional experience in Data Science isn’t required, but exposure to mathematical course work and computer programming is expected.

Colombia’s Certification of Personal Achievement in Data Science centers around 4 required courses, with some involving prerequisites in calculus and a basic knowledge of programming. The 4 courses can usually be completed within a year, and offer students a mix of theory based learning as well as hands on programming and data manipulations.

Admission into the program requires students to apply to either the on-campus or online program by February 15th (Fall offerings only), and provide transcripts, resumes, and letters of recommendation. A $150 application fee and $395 technology fee are also required in addition to tuition costs for the course which amount to $1,936 per credit. Financial Aid is tricky, as the certification itself is a non-degree program so the government FAFSA does not apply. However, this does not rule out the previously mentioned options like payment plans or employer funding.

Given that this course is connected to the prestigious Data Science Institute at Columbia, students have access to a wealth of industry resources including Job Search Resources specifically tailored to Data Science. These resources could be very valuable for putting the highly valued certification this course provides to good use.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute Graduate Data Science Certificate

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) offers a highly flexible, yet thoroughly involved and engaging certificate in Data Science. The student body for this certificate is composed of a mix of students preparing to pursue a master’s degree in Data Science or simply looking to better compliment their current data analytics background by familiarizing themselves with computer science and finance.

The curriculum of this program involves a core requirement of 5 courses with an additional elective course. An academic advisor guides the student through the selection process, and throughout the course students will work at their own pace while still having access to student interaction, virtual chats, and discussion boards. While the program is self-paced, you can expect to spend anywhere for 1-2 years going through the courses which range on everything from Data Mining to Mathematical Analytics.

Admission into the program is run through the graduate admissions department, and requires a bachelor’s degree (preferably in a related field) in addition to the plan of study formulated by you and your advisor, transcripts, and recommendations. Tuition for WPI graduate school comes in at $26,226 for all 18 required credits. Financial aid is available, but may depend on your course load amounting to a full or part-time status. In addition to this, WPI also accepts Employer Tuition Assistance and Direct Payment.

WPI strives to maintain a personal and helpful relationship with online students, including providing an academic advisor to help at the start of and throughout the process. Students also have access to the Career Development Center’s ‘Handshake’ resource to get career advice, view job listings, and post your resume. At the end of the day, this graduate certificate offers a very valuable standalone credential, but can also be used to advance towards a master’s degree in Data Science.

Indiana University Graduate Certificate in Data Science Online

Indiana’s Online Data Science Certificate works in conjunction with the university’s already existing Data Science graduate program and essentially gives students the freedom to choose 12 credit hours’ worth of study over the course of 2 years tailored to fields and concepts that fit their interests. Students that go the route of this certificate are typically technology-oriented working professionals or recent undergrads transitioning into doing their Master’s Degree.

This program offers a lot of flexibility in course selection, and as such the admission standards aren’t incredibly rigid. A Bachelor’s degree is expected but not from a specific field, and apart from that the admissions process requires the standard letters of recommendation, resume, and official transcripts from your undergrad.

Indiana’s Online Data Science Certificate costs $1,330 per credit hour, totaling the program at around $15,960, and while Financial Aid for Data Science programs is available, it is fairly limited and applied on a strict merit and need basis. The end goal of this program is to provide a certification to students wishing to expand their career through engaging in flexible higher education to suit their needs. Throughout the course, and upon graduation, students will have access to career and job resources through the Indiana University Career Services center in the School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering.

Harvard Extension School Data Science Graduate Certificate

Harvard is no small name in education, so you can expect a similar reputation to follow their Data Science Certificate from their extension school. This course is designed for the educationally curious and professionally developing students wishing to expand their horizons by gaining foundational knowledge in how to analyze data to cultivate business plans.

The good thing is, the Harvard Extension School features an open registration process, so no application involved. All you have to do is simply register for your desired courses for the Fall or Spring terms. Once you’re set on this certificate, you’ll be able to register for up to 4 certificate courses and have up to 3 years to complete them. The curriculum is incredibly flexible to meet your goals and desires. For instance, if you are feeling ill acquainted with programming or statistics, you can select appropriate electives to fill the gaps accordingly. Besides the electives, it’s required that you take at least one Statistics course and one Data Science course, but even within those requirements you have a lot of flexibility and options to choose from.

Class style ranges from completely online and theory based to live seminar lectures and occasionally on campus weekends, so choose wisely according to your schedule. Tuition for the program in its entirety averages around $10,800, and The Harvard Extension School has specific scholarship options for certificate students under their Non Admitted Students options in addition to their Tuition Assistance Plans and Veteran benefits. Along with the provision of both digital and physical certificates upon completing the program, the Harvard Extension School likewise offers a variety of career services to assist with placement after receiving your degree. These include “call-in” services to receive instant, personal help with everything from resume writing to inquiring about job opportunities.

Cornell University Data Science Certificate

Cornell University takes a slightly different approach to their Data Science certificate in that they offer a choice to specialize the certificate between two different programs: Data Analytics or Data-Driven Marketing. The student body for each course tends to be those already previously exposed to various aspects of statistics, technology, and business, and is geared towards further developing and expanding these skills.

Both the programs within the certificate are 100% online, instructed by Ivy League faculty, and combine both lecture based learning as well as hands-on, project centered assignments. The two options vary in length, but are expected to take anywhere from 2-3 months and are comprised of 3-5 courses aimed at equipping students with skills pertaining to predictive data analysis, using data in branding, and more.

Both courses cost $3,600, and financial aid is not available. Instead the institution offers payment programs to disperse the tuition across monthly payments, as well as offers 30% discounts to active military and veterans. Upon finishing the material with a B or higher, students receive a verified, Cornell University certificate to recognize the achievement, boost the student resume, and potentially increase job and income potential. All of this is further boosted for success through Cornell’s discount and partnership with Chameleon Resumes LLC for career search, prep, and resume services.

Duke University Big Data and Data Science Certificate

Duke University’s continuing education department also offers an online program in Big Data and Data Science. This program is for professionals wanting to go deeper in analytics, software, and business data, and while there are no prerequisites, programming and basic statistics is of huge benefit.

This program combines self-paced and live virtual classroom options taught by a range of highly experienced instructors with experience both in, and outside of the classroom. The virtual classroom approach gives students an intimate and interactive educational experience, as well as tons of support in finishing 300 hours worth of course content and study time in under 12 months.

Tuition for this intensive course amounts to $2995, and as it is part of the continuing education department, there is no official Financial Aid available. However, private loans are an option in addition to potentially reaching out through the lengthy Workforce Investment Act and AmeriCorps Awards (pending you have past experience with them). There is no application process; instead, students can register openly at any time. Upon finishing the course with an 80% or higher on all graded assignments, quizzes, and projects, the student receives a certificate of completion. Upon completion the institution does not provide specific programs or departments to guarantee or assist the student in finding employment afterwards.

Northwestern University Data Science and Analytics Certificate

The Northwestern School of Professional Studies offers a highly valued and practical Data Science and Analytics Certificate program comprised of students already in their professional fields who want to be able to work with analysts and translate data into visually understandable images and stories. The program features 4 required courses from Data Management to Visualization, and is headed by 4 highly experienced professionals in analytics, IT, and finance.

Given that this program pertains to more advanced content, a graduate degree is required for admission into the program. Admissions can be completed online for the appropriate terms (July 15th for the Fall, or January 15th for the Spring). The application requires transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, and one letter of recommendation.

The 4 course program at NW costs around $12,300, in addition to a $120 technology fee and $50 application fee. Scholarships and financial aid don’t quite cover graduate certificates at Northwestern, however Northwestern offers a designed Employer Reimbursement Plan and Federal Student Loans can be applied to the program with a sufficient course load (two courses per term) as well.

Completing this program adds a substantial boost to the resume and skillset of a graduate in Data Science, however, outside the standard career services provided by the university there is no career placement service offered by the program itself.

Syracuse University Certificate of Advanced Study in Data Science

The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University offers a Certificate of Advanced Study in Data Science. Professionals and students alike enroll in this program seeking the competitive edge it offers either as a stand-alone certificate or to work towards a master’s degree.

The course has 6 credits of core classes plus 9 credits of elective classes offering students tons of flexibility to tailor the curriculum to fit their professional and educational goals. The curriculum provides students with knowledge in handling data from its architecting phase all the way through its archiving, and through the variety of electives students can also be familiarized with various other aspects of Data Science such as analytics or visualization.

Admission into the program is funneled through the university’s graduate admissions process, and as such students must submit their application online with a $75 application fee in addition to transcripts from your former institution, a personal statement, a letter of recommendation, and a resume.

Completing and obtaining Syracuse’s Certificate of Advanced Study typically takes students around a year and can cost around $28,000 in terms of tuition and fees. Financial Aid is available based on merit, and in addition to this federal loans can also be applied to the program.

This course stems from one of the highest ranking information systems libraries in the world, and provides students a substantial opportunity to sharpen their skills, maintain a competitive edge, and keep current with changes in their profession.

University of Michigan Graduate Data Science Certificate

The University of Michigan Michigan Institute for Data Science offers a Graduate Data Science Certificate program that aims to take current data scientists and professionals and equip them with multidisciplinary skills across analytical and technical platforms.

The program is part of the university’s larger Rackham School for Graduate Studies, and involves 9 credits of courses and 3 credits of a hands on experiential activity (internship, project, etc) capstoned with a written report. Students generally take anywhere from 1-2 years to finish the course, but throughout the process are familiarized with Analysis Methods, Data Management, and applying Algorithms.

In addition to this course outline, students are also expected to attend seminars and are encouraged to attend networking and community building meetings. Additional prerequisites include a completed undergraduate degree, entry level mathematics skills, and basic coding experience

Enrollment for Michigan’s Data Science Certificate Program requires that the student also be enrolled in a current graduate degree-granting program with the university. Applications must be submitted by August 1st for the Fall or December 1st for the Winter, and upon acceptance can receive Financial Aid in the form of merit based scholarships or fellowships to contribute towards the $22,578 tuition ($11,184 for in state residents). This program, while definitely containing more difficult prerequisites than most, offers a very thorough and hands on experience that is sure to benefit students willing to submit themselves to the rigor of the courses.

University of Washington Certificate in Data Science

A Certificate in Data Science from the University of Washington is designed for technically oriented professionals with prior experience in statistics, SQL, and programming. This program features 3 courses designed to give students hands on experience with the Python programming language to explore and visualize large data sets, apply data science to business problems, and in the end students will complete a capstone project to assess and demonstrate their skills. This program, taught by 3 highly qualified Data Science professionals, starts in January of 2018, costs $3,825, and has specific Financial Aid programs applicable to certificate programs. Timing and duration of the program is extremely flexible, though taking up to a year would not be unheard of.

Admission into the program requires a simple online application, completing an online assessment to demonstrate you meet the experience requirements in statistics and programming, a resume, letter of application, and a $50 application fee.

Upon completion of this program, students receive a UW approved Certificate in Data Science and will have a fine tuned set of skills to offer themselves a competitive edge in their current field.

UC Irvine Data Science Certificate

The Data Science Certificate from UC Irvine is a fully online course designed to transform current professionals into data scientists. While there are no assessed prerequisites in terms of experience or expertise, students for this program are ideally current professionals looking to benefit their organizations by honing their skills in data engineering, mining, and visualization by being taught by industry experts.

The program stems around 6 required credit units (Intro to Data Science along with Data Exploration) and 9 elective credits. Depending on how students distribute the course load, it could take 1-2 years to complete the program though students are allotted a 5 year maximum. The elective components of the course allow for a highly customizable track, and students can explore subjects based on their interests and desires such as Data Modeling or Java Programming. Admissions into the program Is handled by registering for individual courses, and by the time students enroll in their third course a Declaration for Candidacy should be made in order to receive a certificate from UC Irvine upon finishing all the requirements with a ‘C’ or higher. Course tuition and fees amount to $4,795 with no apparent financial aid available through the institution.

Northeastern University Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics

Northeastern University offers a 2-3 year, fully online interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Data Analytics. This program bridges the technological and policy-making fields, and seeks to provide students a foundational knowledge in data science. As such, the student make up may be varied, and previous expertise in the field is not directly assessed or required.

Northeastern prides itself in an experiential learning approach, and as such students will draw on in-class case studies, research, and co-op work opportunities to gain theoretical and practical knowledge in Data Science. 4 core classes make up the required curriculum and cover such topics as Data Collection, Computational Statistics, and Visual Analytics.

An admission into the program must be submitted online by August 1st for Fall enrollment, and requires an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher, a course in statistics, a resume, statement of purpose, and letter of recommendation. Once you have been admitted into the program and financed the $20,700 tuition cost (Financial Aid is available, though inquiry to treasurer’s office is required), students become part of a large network of 230,000 Northeastern alumni and 3,000 employer partners giving students a huge networking and employment advantage once they have completed their certification.