Are Data Science Degrees Expensive?

It is important for prospective students to know that data science degrees are expensive. The cost of a college education is always a deciding factor in whether a student should choose to pursue one option over another. It should be noted whether degrees that allow graduates to enter into the data science field are more expensive than degrees needed for most other careers.

Data science degrees are perfect for college students who are interested in discrete mathematics and data processing. With a degree in data science, a wide range of high-paying jobs becomes available. Job seekers with advanced education and a few years of experience can expect excellent job security and personal autonomy. Data science graduates can work as consultants, professors, managers and researchers, and the best jobs tend to go to candidates with a graduate education.

A Master’s Degree Is Typically Needed

Are Data Science Degrees Expensive?

Although students can earn bachelor’s degrees in data science from some universities, a master’s degree is typically needed to enjoy a successful career in this field. In fact, undergraduate degrees specifically in data science are not common. Most people entering this field get their bachelor’s degree in a related subject like computer science, information science, statistics or mathematics. Graduates can then go on to enter a master’s degree program in data science. A master’s degree requirement to enter an occupation, however, means that schooling will cost more than it would for careers that only require a high school diploma, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree. This is a consideration students should take into account, even if the cost of the degree itself is about the same as degrees in other subjects.

The reason that most data scientists need a master’s degree is that data science is a highly specialized field that relies on concepts from many undergraduate math and computer science courses. A master’s in data science or a similar discipline usually takes two years to complete, and most people will need the full two years to get through these challenging courses.

Data science requires quantitative skills and computer science training, especially in the areas of machine learning and data mining. Data scientists must be well-versed in statistics, linear algebra and discrete mathematics. While most of these subjects are taught at the undergraduate level, they become more advanced at the graduate level.

How Does Their Cost Compare To Other Degrees?

To determine are data science degrees expensive, it is important to look at their cost in comparison to other degrees. Students should compare the tuition costs of a data science degree both to other data science programs as well as other degrees in different subjects. Comparison at the same school and across schools is also useful. There are a number of online services that allow students to make easy comparisons, such as the one offered by U.S. News & World Report. Overall, a data science degree is going to be comparable to other degrees offered by a particular institution. They are not on average more expensive than earning a comparable degree in a different subject.

While each credit of a data science degree will cost the same as credits in any other degree, the resources needed for coursework may be a little more expensive. That’s because math and computer science courses tend to be more challenging than courses in other disciplines.

Data science students will need textbooks and software for their courses, but they may also need additional books and technology to help them stay ahead of their assignments. While new textbooks and learning tools can be expensive, they can usually be found used in secondhand marketplaces online. The one resource that can’t be discounted is time, and data science students usually have to spend more time studying than students in the liberal arts and social sciences.

What About Online Degrees?

Are Data Science Degrees Expensive?

Many master’s degrees in data science are offered online. Online degrees can be cheaper than degrees earned in person but not always. Some online data science master’s degrees are quite reasonable in cost. Others might cost the same or even more than in-person options. When looking for online degrees, be sure to choose one offered by an accredited school with a good reputation. This is the single best thing students can do to ensure their online degree will be viewed seriously by employers.

Most online programs are regionally accredited, so they have just as much value as a traditional degree. Online schools may not have the reputation or ranking of some traditional schools, but most college graduates don’t get their degrees from Ivy League schools anyway.

Regional accreditation is the most trusted form of accreditation in the U.S. education system. As long as a school is regionally accredited, it can be trusted to provide the same level of education as any other regionally accredited school. The main problem with studying data science online is that some students may find it more difficult to learn this complex, abstract subject without personal interaction from a professor.

Seek Financial Aid

Most institutions provide financial aid opportunities for their students. Before deciding to apply for a program, students should inquire about financial aid and see if there are any ways to decrease the cost of a data science or related degree further. Schools typically provide students with a financial aid package offer upon acceptance so students can decide whether attending that school will be more expensive or not. There may also be options to seek outside financial aid, such as through scholarships offered by local, regional or national organizations. Given the significant problem of student loan debt in America, it is best to avoid loans wherever possible but many students will still find them necessary.

With enough focus and preparation, it’s possible to get through college without taking out any loans. There are always federal grants available for students, and high-achieving students can often find academic scholarships and fellowships to help them pay for their education.

Undergraduate students need to find money for four years of college, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) program is a good place to start. FAFSA offers students access to Pell Grants and low-cost subsidized loans based on their financial need. While student loan debt can be a burden after graduation, it doesn’t have to be. By keeping student loan debt to a minimum, students can make ends meet during school and become debt-free soon after graduation.

Computer Systems Design

One of the best fields for data science graduates to work in is computer systems design. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for computer systems design professionals is $106,440. It’s the industry with the highest level of employment of data scientists.

Data science workers can expect 15-percent growth in the computer systems design field over the next 10 years. The job entails designing software and hardware systems to perform data processing and analysis tasks. Computer systems design professionals work in scientific labs, businesses and government offices, and their work is largely autonomous. With experience and advanced education, these professionals can earn significantly more than the national median salary.

Company and Enterprise Management

Company and enterprise management is a great career choice for data scientists. Data science managers can work in a wide range of fields, including manufacturing, information technology, engineering, artificial intelligence research, finance, biology, healthcare and insurance.

Data science is important in fields that require large volumes of data to help make decisions that can impact many people. Managers are responsible for ensuring that all the members of a team follow the same protocol and carry out their duties in a productive and efficient manner. Salaries for managers are higher than salaries for most other professionals. The median annual salary for a data science manager is over $102,000.

Scientific and Technical Consulting

Consulting is ideal for data science graduates who want to work for themselves and determine their own income. Becoming a successful consultant typically requires at least five years of industry work experience. Data science consultants usually must work in a scientific or technological field before striking out on their own to offer private consulting services.

According to the BLS, data science consultants earn a median annual salary of more than $99,600. The highest-earning 10 percent of consultants in the data science industry take home more than $190,000 per year. With 24 percent of the data science industry comprised of consultants, they make up a higher percentage of the industry than any other occupation.

Scientific Research and Development

Research and development jobs are some of the highest-paying occupations in the data science industry. Data science researchers work in universities and private labs to investigate new methods for analyzing large volumes of data. Researchers usually need to have a PhD in data science or a related subject, such as computer science or mathematics.

Most new machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms are created by researchers working in the field of data science. At 16 percent of the technology industry, researchers play an important role in the overall economy. With a median annual income of $106,720, they are some of the highest-paid workers in the industry.

Postsecondary Teaching

Are Data Science Degrees Expensive?

Many data science graduates choose to go into teaching at the postsecondary level. With a PhD in data science or a related discipline, postsecondary teaching is a viable choice of employment. University professors earn a median annual salary of $64,650. The highest-earning 10 percent of professors can take home over $150,000 per year.

There are many perks to working as a professor, as well. With a tenured faculty position, a university professor usually won’t have to worry about looking for a job ever again. In the field of data science, professors typically split their time between teaching and research. Postgraduate professors work closely with PhD students and offer guidance for their students’ graduate-level research.

How Much Do Data Scientists Make?

According to the BLS, a computer and information research scientist with a master’s degree can expect to make around $122,840 per year. The top 10 percent of earners in this field can take home more than $190,000 per year. With jobs in this field expected to grow by 15 percent over the next 10 years, data science has an excellent employment outlook for the foreseeable future. Professionals in related occupations can earn even higher median annual salaries than data science researchers. The median income for software publishers is $141,820 per year while physics researchers can take home over $134,490 per year.

Best States for Data Scientists

The top five states for data scientists to work are California, Illinois, Texas, New York and Ohio. Illinois employs the highest percentage of data scientists at 37 per 100,000 workers in the overall population. The median annual income for data scientists in Illinois is $101,260, and the top-earning 10 percent can take home more than $190,000 per year.

The state with the highest median annual income for data scientists is New York at $125,170. New York has 21 data scientists per 100,000 workers in the general population. The state with the second-highest median annual salary for data scientists is California at $115,340. In California, there are 27 data scientists per 100,000 workers in the population.

Return on Investment

Data science degrees are expensive for graduates who don’t take full advantage of the labor market. A master’s degree in data science could cost around $20,000 for books and tuition, but financial aid can cover much of the cost for diligent students.

Even if a student’s financial aid application is declined, a master’s degree will be expensive only if the student doesn’t fulfill his or her full employment potential. With the national median annual salary of a data scientist exceeding $120,000, a data science degree should be an excellent investment for most students. The only students who shouldn’t consider getting a data science degree are those who aren’t interested in computer science, statistics or discrete mathematics.

Keeping Costs Low

A student’s living expenses can range from around $8,000 to $20,000 per year, depending on the student’s location and standard of living. With scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study opportunities and teaching assistant gigs, students can keep their living expenses to a minimum and maybe even save some money while in college.

The key to getting a great value from a data science degree is maintaining an excellent GPA and applying for work-study opportunities as early as possible. With a high GPA and a consistent college record, most students can expect to receive grants and other low-cost financial aid to help pay for all of their expenses.


With tech jobs making up a growing percentage of the overall economy, studying data science is a good choice for anyone interested in this fascinating field. Some of the most important technological advances of the future will be made by researchers and other professionals with data science degrees.

Because costs vary so widely based on the type of program, location and individual institution, it can be difficult to say whether data science degrees are particularly expensive or not. Prospective students are best off considering are data science degrees expensive in relation to other degrees offered by the same institutions or across a different subject.


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