It hasn’t been a good couple years for college rankings. In mid-November 2022, years of tension boiled over: Yale and Harvard Law Schools announced they were pulling out of the US News & World Report’s famous and industry-standard rankings. These schools argued, in part, that the rankings unfairly reward schools for scholarship-granting processes that juice LSAT scores and punish them when their graduates take lower-paying public sector jobs. Since then, dozens of colleges and universities have followed suit, ending their cooperation with US News & World Report and refusing to share data, in turn prompting US News CEO Eric Gertler to suggest in Wall Street Journal op-ed that the elite law and medical schools that began the exodus simply don’t like being held accountable. As it stands, it seems likely the defections will continue.
The crisis in confidence in ranking outfits like US News has serious implications for those researching future-defining educational degree programs, especially since these programs, in the US at least, are so gosh-darned expensive. Enrolling in one of these programs is a big financial decision, and would-be undergraduate and graduate students are increasingly skeptical of the returns, as The Economist explains in a recent piece titled “Was your degree really worth it?” These rankings thus ostensibly serve as crucial data as students are forecasting potential return on investment for their future degrees.
Will your data science degree be worth it?
The situation for the aspiring data scientist is nuanced by the fact that data science is a booming career — more than data analyst and even machine learning engineer — with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting 36% growth in headcount by 2031 and $100,910 median pay, respectively. Compare this to just 5% growth and $45,760 median pay across the US labor market as a whole, and it’s clear just how sunny this outlook is.
But given how relatively new data science is as a field, let alone an academic subject, and how likely it is that you’ll need to ultimately earn a master’s degree to succeed in data science (a recent report suggests that over two-thirds of data science professionals hold such a credential), it makes sense that someone considering a data science career would consult one or several of the many websites out there professing to possess the list of top ranked data science programs. And this is even considering that if you have high aptitude and pursue a data science master’s degree or other data science course of study, there’s a very good chance you’ll see substantial return on investment.