5 Signs of an Innovative Data Science Degree Program

innovative data science programs

How Do You Know the Program You’re Considering Is Truly Cutting Edge?

  • Industry Focused
  • Instructor Experience
  • Customizable Program
  • Flexible Enrollment Options
  • Soft Skills

Because many degree programs don’t teach the skills students really need on the job, it’s smart to determine which are the truly innovative data science programs before enrolling in one. But what are the signs a student should look for? With technology changing so quickly, how does a person understand whether a program is up to date or behind the times? Here are 5 no-fail signals that a data science degree program is truly innovative.

Related Resource: Top 20 Most Affordable Bachelor’s in Data Science

Industry Focused

Industry demand for data scientists is what’s driving the new proliferation of data science degree programs – and the best data science programs have taken industry needs into consideration. Look for evidence that Silicon Valley recruiters who place talent at companies such as Google, Airbnb, Cisco, and Apple are showing up at the school trying to score interviews with students who haven’t even graduated yet. That’s a surefire sign the degree program is worth enrolling in.

Instructor Experience

If the program’s instructors haven’t held industry jobs or any other related position since the 1990s, that’s a bad sign. What are they doing in addition to teaching? Are they on the advisory boards of Fortune 500 companies? Are they inventing things? Publishing research? Students will want to find some evidence that the people who will be teaching them are still key players with up-to-date skills in the topics they’re teaching about.

Customizable Program

Many of the most innovative data science degree programs offer the possibility of being customized to the students’ professional goals. This is possible through concentrations or tracks. Customization is important because each industry has unique needs. A healthcare administrator will have a different set of priorities than a finance executive will have – and concentrations can help individuals better align their coursework with their career aspirations.

Flexible Enrollment Options

Some of the candidates who could be expected to perform the best work as data scientists are mid-career executives who already have an intimate understanding of the problems their industries are facing. They also have a vague understanding of how data could be used to solve their industry’s pressing problems. What they might be missing is a nuts-and-bolts, step-by-step understanding of how to extract the answers they need from the data their company collects. That’s what they’re hoping to achieve by returning to school to earn data science degrees.

Such candidates are highly unlikely to walk away from the jobs they’re already working at. Schools offering truly innovative degree programs understand that and are finding ways to accommodate these students so they can continue working while they earn their data science degrees. A data science program offering the option for distance learning and online coursework is one that is also likely to be in tune with current trends in other ways, too.

Soft Skills

According to CIO.com, coding and math aren’t the only crucial skills for success in data science. Communication skills actually top the list of essentials.

Storytelling is critical, and most data science degree programs won’t necessarily emphasize this skill. But students who choose a program that requires an internship or a capstone project will inevitably come face to face with this requirement – because they’ll be thrust into situations that require them to actually solve problems and present the solutions. That requirement will force them to give careful thought to how to best express the presence of the problems and their solutions – which results in better communication skills.


It’s possible for a data science degree program to be innovative without checking all 5 of these boxes. They aren’t all mandatory prerequisites for the program to be a high-quality one. But most of the top programs will share at least a few of these characteristics – so these 5 signs can definitely help to point students in the direction of the most innovative data science degree programs that are currently available to them.

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