Data Science Institute Details New MS Program

Aug 21 2014 | By Holly Evarts | The new program will give students a leg up in the exciting, burgeoning field of big data.

A new master’s degree program in data science offered by Columbia’s Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering will give students a leg up in the exciting, burgeoning field of big data. The new degree is uniquely structured to provide the foundational education coupled with real hands-on knowledge to address the shortage of data scientists across multiple industries and academia. It builds upon the Institute’s existing certification program introduced in 2013 enabling individuals to hone their data science skills, and industry to offer executive training for their employees.

Master of Science Program in Data Science.

In addition to the courses aimed at providing the fundamental skills essential for data scientists—Algorithms for Data Science, Probability, Machine Learning for Data Science, and Exploratory Data Analysis and Visualization—students enrolled in the MS program will take three additional courses outlined by the Institute: Computer Systems for Data Science, Statistical Inference and Modeling, and a data science capstone and ethics course. Rounding out this interdisciplinary curriculum are electives that address the intellectual scope of any of the Institute’s specialized centers: Cybersecurity, Financial Analytics, Health Analytics, New Media, Smart Cities, as well as the Foundations of Data Science. 

Even though the MS in data science has just recently been approved by New York State, it has already drawn a good deal of interest—the program has gained significant traction as a result of early outreach efforts from the Institute’s Data Science Certification Program. Industry managers across the New York City metropolitan area as well as around the world are already anticipating the rise in new data science hires and the subsequent ability to greatly expand their businesses.

This is an opportune time for budding data scientists to learn from the top professors in this new field.

“Data scientists are in great demand in the world today,” says Kathleen McKeown, director of the Institute and Henry and Gertrude Rothschild Professor of Computer Science. “Our goal is to provide the necessary education so that we can fill the critical need for big data experts who will be able to exploit this deluge of data across all disciplines. The demand to understand data science is great and only rising exponentially.”

“We are at a point in time when Columbia can lead the nation in the development of the next generation of data scientists,” says Mary C. Boyce, dean of Columbia Engineering. “The role of the Institute is instrumental in assisting, and in many cases, leading the efforts to drive this new and exciting field, and to further push technology and spur innovation in New York City and abroad. The MS program will pave the way as a model for interdisciplinary programs while showcasing the University’s faculty across all areas of academic expertise.”

The program draws upon the cross-disciplinary strengths of Columbia University and the growing emergence of the Institute’s Industry Affiliates program, which enables companies like Bloomberg, Microsoft, and Yahoo to engage directly with students and provide insight into technology challenges of today and in the future. The program also offers an elective track in entrepreneurship. This 30-credit graduate program encompasses a diverse hands-on educational experience that intersects academic coursework with industry engagement.

Truly interdisciplinary at its core—one of the Institute’s key strengths—the Institute offers its students a broad array of electives, ranging from bioinformatics to social science and journalism. More than 150 faculty from nine schools at the University—Engineering, Arts and Sciences, Journalism, Business, Architecture, International and Public Affairs, Medical School, Public Health, and Law—are affiliated with the Institute and working on a broad range of research projects, from the birth of the universe; to high dimensional data analysis of microscopy images; to reducing racial and gender achievement gaps in STEM disciplines.

“The goal of the MS program is to provide a world-class education and training for future data scientists who can contribute, both locally and globally, to meeting the growing challenges and opportunities that our increasingly data rich society provides,” says David Madigan, executive vice president for Arts and Sciences, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and professor of statistics.

Applications for the fall 2015 term will open in late September. For more information about the master’s degree program in data science, visit