Top 10 Best Data Science PhD Online Programs

Data Science Degree Programs Guide - Top Online Degrees - New-01

According to IBM, poor data quality costs the US economy around $3 trillion annually. Globally, that figure could be as high as $14 trillion. As a result, the demand for data scientists has soared in recent years, making a PhD in data science a highly sought-after degree.

Data scientists are highly skilled professionals who use cutting-edge technology to make sense of large, often unstructured, datasets.  They are necessary for almost every industry to help provide analysis for a data-driven business environment. Data scientists use proven strategies such as clustering, behavioral analytics, and data mining to analyze and organize data to make informed decisions.

Becoming a data scientist requires a higher education to gain the necessary skills for this field. One of the best ways of doing so is earning a degree online. Better still, earning a data science PhD online will give you the most comprehensive set of tools required to advance your career.

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Methodology for Ranking the Best Online Data Sciene PhDs

A PhD in data science online is a great choice for data scientists who may not want to relocate or take time away from work. We looked at over 20 different doctoral programs in data science.  We based our search on College Navigator and DataScience Community. This determined our top 10 for our data science PhD program ranking. We included data analytics doctoral programs in our search.  The best programs had:

  • limited residency requirements
  • a highly interactive curriculum
  • a variety of courses in data science
  • support from expert-level faculty

We then based our data science PhD programs ranking on the following considerations and assigned points accordingly:

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

  • 15:1 or less = 5 Points
  • 16:1 to 20:1 = 3 Points
  • Greater than 20:1 = 1 Point

Average Graduate Tuition

  • Less than $10,000 per year = 5 Points
  • $10,000 to $15,000 per year = 4 Points
  • $15,001 to $20,000 per year = 3 Points
  • $20,001 to $25,000 per year = 2 Points
  • Greater than $25,000 per year = 1 Point

Cost is a factor we considered when developing our list. However, many PhD-level data science programs provide students with assistance to cover the cost of their tuition. We reviewed each school’s average graduate tuition rates from College Navigator, a website run by the National Center for Education Statistics. It provides information on institutions of higher education around the country.

Tuition rates can vary from program to program. We looked specifically at tuition rates for graduate school. Always consult the university to find out specifics related to their online PhD data science program. Check if they offer any financial aid or scholarships to reduce your overall cost.

Below are the best online doctorate degrees in data science based on our criteria. Our list highlights the best of the best in quality online doctorate in data science programs.

Data Science Doctorate Online Degree Programs Ranking

#1. Capitol Technology University – Laurel Maryland

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Business Analytics and Data Science

Capitol Technology University Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Business Analytics and Decision Sciences

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $11,340/year
  • Total Points: 9

Capitol Technology University offers our top data science online PhD. You will learn strategies and skills that prepare you for senior positions in the public or private sector. The low residency format allows you to balance your education with your established career. Most courses are offered online and cover areas like:

  • analytics and decision analysis
  • business intelligence
  • machine learning
  • data mining
  • applied statistics and visualization for analytics
  • Big Data warehousing and analytics systems

You must visit campus to complete your qualifying exam and work one-on-one and in groups to prepare for your dissertation. Core PhD in data analytics online courses are taught by working professionals who stay current on emerging developments in the field. You can feel confident you’re gaining professional skills that are in demand by top employers.

Program Pros:

  • Most coursework is completed online
  • Small class sizes
  • Low average graduate tuition rate
  • Tuition discounts for military

Program Cons:

  • Abundance of program and institutional fees
  • On-campus residency is required for some classes

#2. Dakota State University – Madison, South Dakota

Doctor of Science in Information Systems


Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $5,999/year in-state; $11,199/year out-of-state
  • Total Points: 8 (points were determined using in-state tuition)

DSU features one of the most flexible data science Doctor of Philosophy programs in this ranking. You can take courses online or on-campus and attend full or part-time. You can choose from three different areas of specialization as well:

  • analytics
  • data management
  • health care information systems
  • information systems cybersecurity
  • network administration and security

You can also choose to complete a general specialization. This requires you to take courses in application development, network administration and security, and data management. Core courses for all specializations cover relevant areas such as information systems, applied statistics, and web application development. You’ll also take classes in research, enterprise modeling, and data management, to name a few.

As a full-time student with a master’s degree, you should be able to complete this program in just three years. However, it can take as much as seven years to finish. When you graduate, you will have the tools needed to solve complex data science problems in a variety of settings, including academics, business and finance, and government.

Program Pros:

  • Multiple options for completing the program, including online or on-campus
  • Multiple specialization options
  • Just three years needed to complete the degree as a full-time master’s-level student
  • Very low average in-state tuition

Program Cons:

  • Long list of knowledge requirements for admission
  • High out-of-state tuition compared to in-state tuition

#3. Indiana Wesleyan University – Marion, Indiana

Online Doctor of Business Administration – Data Analytics Specialization

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $9,731/year
  • Total Points: 8

This online program follows a cohort format, meaning you progress through the curriculum with the same classmates in each class. This format encourages the development of collegiality between you and your classmates and also enhances your working relationship with your professors.

The curriculum is problem-based. You’ll learn how to collect, analyze, organize, and interpret data. Many opportunities exist to enhance your writing and communication skills as well. Some of the courses you’ll take include the following:

  • Data Analytics and Research
  • Academic Writing for Business
  • Foundations of Doctoral Research
  • Leadership and Global-Based Teams
  • Marketing

You must also complete a comprehensive examination, a scholar-practitioner paper, and an applied doctoral project.

The comprehensive examination must be completed prior to the applied doctoral project, and involves a critique of relevant research and a demonstration of your subject matter expertise. The purpose of the paper is to build the required research and writing skills to produce a piece worthy of submitting to industry journals. The doctoral project takes the place of a traditional dissertation. The project focuses on developing an evidence-based consulting report that directly addresses a real-world problem in the business world.

Program Pros:

  • Extremely affordable
  • The applied doctoral project gives you real-world experience prior to graduating
  • Data analytics focus is highly sought-after in business

Program Cons:

  • An on-campus residency is required
  • The program includes a religious focus, which might conflict with your personal beliefs

#4. National University – San Diego, California

Doctor of Philosophy in Data Science Online


Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 16:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $15,912/year
  • Total Points: 6

National University features a research-oriented online PhD in data science that is aligned with industry needs. The unique one-on-one learning model provides unmatched personal attention – you’re paired with a professor for each course to give you the guidance you need to succeed.

New courses begin weekly and last eight weeks (except dissertation courses, which are 12 weeks long). This allows you to fit your education into your busy personal and professional schedule. This program includes courses that cover areas like big data development, data preparation methods, and data curation. You’ll also take courses such as:

  • multivariate analysis
  • data visualization and communication
  • exploratory data analysis
  • databases and business intelligence
  • inferential and predictive analytics

You can complete this program in as little as three-and-a-half years. Once you graduate, you can pursue any number of data science-related careers. This includes database architecture, database administration, and data warehousing, among many others.

Program Pros:

  • One-on-one learning model provides the utmost support
  • Program applications are accepted year-round
  • Monthly program start dates

Program Cons:

  • High average graduate tuition rates compared to other programs on this list

#5. The University of Rhode Island – Kingston, Rhode Island

Online PhD in Computer Science

University of Rhode Island Online Ph.D. in Computer Science

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $15,402/year in-state; $29,904/year out-of-state
  • Total Points: 6 (points were determined using in-state tuition)

The computer science PhD program at the University of Rhode Island is a flexible program available to you as a full- or part-time student. Most, but not all, computer science courses are available online, making it a good choice if you’re a professional in the Kingston area looking for a low-residency program.

Course offerings include options like Programming for Data Science, Data Structures and Abstractions, and Database Management Systems. All told, you must complete 52 or more credits of coursework, 18 dissertation research credits, and at least two credits of seminars.

You can earn your degree in four years, provided you study full-time. Admission is for the fall semester or spring semester; bear that in mind when applying to ensure you meet application deadlines for the next academic term.

Program Pros:

  • Full-time and part-time options are available
  • A statistics PhD option is available

Program Cons:

  • Some on-campus coursework is required
  • Expensive compared to other options on this list

#6. University of North Texas – Denton, Texas

PhD in Information Science-Data Science

UNT Ph.D. in Information Science-Data Science

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 23:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $7,160/year in-state; $14,720/year out-of-state
  • Total Points: 6 (points were determined using in-state tuition)

UNT’s Department of Information Science offers a PhD with interdisciplinary training. You will gain experience in doctoral research in data science and related areas that enhance your critical thinking skills, disciplinary thinking, and research capabilities. The program offers numerous concentration areas, allowing you to specialize your degree according to your interests. The available specializations are as follows:

  • Consumer Behavior and Experience Management
  • Cybersecurity
  • Data Science
  • Geospatial Information Science
  • Health Informatics
  • Journalism
  • Knowledge Management
  • Linguistics

Though most coursework is online, you must come to campus for a residential experience that gives you a high level of interaction with your professors. The faculty in this program are all highly experienced and provide real-world guidance to support your theoretical learning.

UNT is committed to keeping costs affordable. The university offers various financial aid opportunities, including grants, competitive scholarships, fellowships, and assistantship opportunities.

Program Pros:

  • Multiple specialization options
  • Interdisciplinary curriculum
  • Low in-state tuition

Program Cons:

  • Some on-campus coursework is required
  • Extremely high student-to-faculty ratio

#7. Johns Hopkins University – Baltimore, Maryland

DrPH in Health Policy and Management-Public Health Informatics

Johns Hopkins DrPh in Health Policy and Management-Public Health Informatics

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 6:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $62,840/year
  • Total Points: 6

The Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University features an online Doctor of Public Health with a concentration in health policy and management. Within the concentration is a track in public health informatics. It is delivered in a flexible part-time format. This data science-related doctorate degree requires you to complete a series of high-level courses in addition to a practicum experience during which you apply what you’ve learned in your courses in a public health informatics setting. A dissertation is also required.

Some of the courses you’ll take include the following:

  • Statistical Reasoning in Public Health
  • Advanced Data Analysis Workshop
  • Qualitative Research Theory and Methods
  • Introduction to Qualitative Data Analysis for Public Health
  • Mixed Methods for Research in Public Health

Once you graduate, you can seek employment in mid- to senior-level positions in government agencies, non-profit organizations, or international public health organizations.

Program Pros:

  • Johns Hopkins is a prestigious university
  • Healthcare-focused data science degree has high value
  • The program can be completed entirely online

Program Cons:

  • Extremely expensive
  • A Master of Public Health is required to apply

#8. Grand Canyon University – Phoenix, Arizona

DBA Degree in Data Analytics – Quantitative

grand-canyon-university Doctor of Business Administration with an Emphasis in Data Analytics Online

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 20:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $10,138/year
  • Total Points: 5

Grand Canyon University features an online, cost-effective DBA in data analytics that focuses on evidence-based theories and practices. You will learn to use statistical tools to clean numerical data, determine data’s reliability, and conduct data analyses. You’ll gain these skills in courses like:

  • Analytic Foundations for Business Leaders
  • Approaches to Research Design and Data Analysis
  • Emerging Issues in Financial Management
  • Foundations of Research Design
  • Enterprise Data Complexity

You will also complete a dissertation. Unlike traditional PhD programs, this one requires you to begin the dissertation from the outset. You’ll work closely with faculty members to conduct original research and utilize what you learn to inform a detailed data analytics dissertation.

This program allows you to complete your coursework where and when it’s convenient.  However, you must come to campus for two or three five-day residencies in Phoenix. These on-campus experiences allow you to network with other students and participate in mentorship opportunities and professional development with faculty members.

Program Pros:

  • Extremely affordable
  • Emphasis on mentorship from faculty members
  • Quantitative research focus has wide applicability for careers

Program Cons:

  • Several on-campus residencies are required
  • Program is designed specifically for business executives, which may preclude you from applying

#9. Colorado Technical University – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Doctor of Computer Science – Big Data Analytics

Doctor of Computer Science-Concentration in Big Data Analytics Colorado Technical University

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 31:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $14,104/year
  • Total Points: 5

The online doctorate in big data analytics from Colorado Technical University helps you learn the latest industry tools to produce meaningful insights from unstructured data. The data science curriculum is primarily delivered online, so you can build your course schedule around other obligations. Multiple start dates are offered throughout the year as well.

Another advantage of this program is that courses begin every five weeks, so that you can begin at your convenience. Despite requiring 100 credits to graduate, you can complete this degree in about three years of full-time studies. During that time, you’ll take courses focusing on:

  • Advanced Topics in Database Systems
  • Advanced Quantitative Analysis
  • Artificial Intelligence in Real World Problem Solving
  • Business Intelligence
  • Futuring and Innovation

The big data analytics specialty also requires completing a research proposal and a dissertation. You’ll work on each project extensively throughout the program in preparation for defending your dissertation before graduation.

Program Pros:

  • Extremely affordable
  • Training in big data is in high demand in business and industry
  • Fully online program

Program Cons:

  • Poor student-to-faculty ratio
  • The program does not lead to licensure or certification

#10. University of the Southwest – Hobbs, New Mexico

DBA – Data Analytics

Program Website

  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 19:1
  • Average Graduate Tuition: $23,364/year
  • Total Points: 5

The University of the Southwest is a private, non-profit Christian university offering accredited degrees to online students. USW features an online doctorate in data analytics that prepares you to solve business challenges using a quantitative research approach. This data science program follows a mentorship model. You will work closely with faculty members to achieve your professional goals while benefitting from their real-world expertise.

This program’s coursework is delivered 100% online and there are no required residencies (though you have the option of participating in an on-campus or online residency if you choose). The curriculum focuses on foundational business data analytics skills. This includes data visualization, predictive modeling, and forecasting, to name a few.

A free laptop is included with the first course. There is no additional cost for textbooks or course materials – these components are included with tuition. You also benefit from a transfer policy allowing you to use up to 12 credits earned in a program from another regionally accredited university.

Program Pros:

  • The program is completely online
  • Data analytics skills are widely applicable in various businesses and industries
  • Free laptop, textbooks, and other course materials

Program Cons:

  • Relatively expensive tuition
  • At least three years of data analytics experience is required for admission

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a PhD in data science worth it?

A PhD in data science is the most advanced level of data science education available and can take years to complete. By the end, you’ll have a wide span of knowledge and understanding of the data science field. You will also have the education you’ll need to get top positions in research and academia.

A PhD is typically a research-oriented program. It can take some time before you hit a financial payoff after earning your PhD. High-paying jobs, such as data scientist jobs requiring a PhD, also usually require significant experience. You’ll need to be patient!

The decision to earn a PhD is not to be taken lightly.  There are many benefits (as well as some downsides) of getting a PhD in data science.

  • Research is a key piece of earning a PhD.  You can conduct research during your dissertation that could advance the industry or solve a long-standing issue.  Very exciting!
  • There are several specializations in data science.  Some master’s degree programs even offer concentration areas that PhD programs can build upon.  Areas like biomedical data science, health informatics, and business analytics allow you to build upon your previous education and make meaningful contributions to the field.
  • University partnerships provide you with the opportunity to work with real data sets. You can collaborate with others on research efforts, gaining new perspectives and insights.
  • Some programs accept students with only a bachelor’s degree.  Popular bachelor’s degree majors include analytics and computer science.  You can earn a master’s while pursuing a PhD!
  • Graduates with a PhD may see an increase in job opportunities in areas like academia and research.

Potential Disadvantages:
  • A PhD takes a significant amount of time to complete.  If you opt to complete a full-time program, you could be missing out on three to five years of financial earnings and real-world skill development.
  • You’ll need to find a way to fund your PhD.  Some students finance their degree on their own with the help of financial aid.  Others apply to programs that fully fund students and offer stipends.
  • Technology changes rapidly.  Your time spent completing research could take away from gaining on-the-job industry data analysis knowledge and skills.
  • Make certain your desired position requires a PhD.  Many industries are perfectly happy with a bachelor’s degree or master’s in data science. It could also be a related area like computer science, as long as the applicant has relevant work experience.

If you decide to pursue a PhD, your hard work and commitment to your doctoral program and the field of data science will eventually pay off. You’ll be eligible for some of the field’s highest-paying and most prestigious jobs.

What jobs are available to a data scientist with a PhD?

Whether you complete your data science PhD online or on-campus, the job prospects are the same. A PhD can open the door to various exciting data science careers. Data science PhD graduates are primarily in demand in academic and industrial settings.

PhD data science programs are the primary avenue for getting a data-related position in academia. These positions can be fiercely competitive, though. Data science grads who can stay up to date on the latest trends and technologies are highly sought after. Business intelligence and machine learning are two specialized areas in demand by industry executives.

How long does it take to get a PhD in Data Science?

A data science doctoral program is a significant investment of time and money. You can expect to spend three to four years working on your PhD in data science. The specific amount of time it takes to complete a doctoral program in data science is determined by the degree requirements and your schedule.

Hybrid and online data science programs usually provide extra flexibility if you have a non-traditional schedule (e.g., you work a regular 8-5 job). Accelerated doctoral program options may be a great option for completing your doctorate in data science, saving you time and money along the way.

What are the requirements for a PhD in data science degree program?

Admissions requirements

Admission to a PhD program is extremely competitive.  Because of the intense nature of the program, an extremely limited number of doctoral degree applicants are accepted each year.  You must submit a strong application packet that makes you stand out from the competition.

You should have a minimum of a master’s degree with a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. This does not need to be from a data science masters program, but of course, it will help. Some online data science programs may also require you to submit letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and GRE scores. You might also be required to provide a curriculum vitae or a resume. In some instances, an interview (either in person or web-based video) may also be required.

A doctorate degree is typically comprised of several different parts. These include the following:


A PhD in data science requires coursework that helps build a strong educational foundation. Core courses may cover areas that include:

  • Big Data
  • business intelligence
  • statistical methods
  • knowledge management
  • machine learning.

Comprehensive Exam:

Before beginning the doctoral dissertation process, you may need to complete a comprehensive examination. This exam allows faculty to assess your level of knowledge and understanding of the field before beginning your dissertation.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal is a comprehensive statement describing the research you want to accomplish. As part of this process, you will:

  • state your research question
  • discuss the general scope of your project
  • discuss how you’ll do it
  • explain how it contributes value to the field

Dissertation Research:

Dissertation research is the final piece of doctoral study. You complete the dissertation research project you designed and summarize your research and findings in your dissertation paper.

Field Experience:

Some data science graduate programs require you to complete a field experience as part of the curriculum. You may work with an outside organization or a research center on-campus to create original research or solve a real-world data science problem.

Special Projects:

Many data science doctoral programs offer you the opportunity to participate in special projects. These unique professional development opportunities allow you to develop areas of specialized knowledge that can help them build your resume.

Will I need any licenses or certificates to get a job in data science?

There’s no standard industry license or certification for data science professionals. Data professionals who want to stand out from the competition have a variety of certification options available. These specialized training programs allow you to develop technical skills that recruiters and hiring managers look for. Some popular certifications include:

Cloudera Data Platform (CDP) Generalist Certification

This certification validates proficiency with the Cloudera platform. Certification applies to multiple roles including, data analysts, developers, and system architects. The exam takes 90 minutes to complete and consists of 60 questions.

Data Science Council of America (DASCA) Principal Data Scientist

The Data Science Council of America is an industry leader for professional development opportunities in data science. It offers the Principal Data Science (PDS) certification, which is designed for professionals with at least ten years of experience working with big data. The primary audience is “seasoned and high-achiever data science thought and practice leaders.” The certificate is awarded after meeting eligibility criteria and passing a self-paced online exam. At a minimum, completing the certification process will take several months. You have a year to finish, though.

Microsoft Certified Azure AI Fundamentals

If you want a certification to validate your knowledge and skills in machine learning and artificial intelligence related to Azure services, this might be the certificate for you. This is a fundamental certification, so it’s great if you’re new to AI and need to demonstrate your proficiency to your employer. The certification test takes 45 minutes to complete.

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