2022 Best Online PhD in Data Science Programs

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Enrolling into a PhD in Data Science program could be the career move that takes you to the next level. Gaining expertise at the highest education level in analyzing large data sets may lead to advanced employment opportunities as well as increased earning potential.

Best Online PhD in Data Science Programs

A doctorate program in data science enables you to explore data capture and analysis methodologies at a greater depth than a master’s program. Some specializations in the program also require you to develop new methodologies for handling data.

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If solving complex problems excites you, you might consider a PhD in Data Science.

PhD in Data Science Online Programs

PhD in Data Science Online Programs

Data science is the study of data. In an age where data is gold, almost all sectors require data analysis to make informed decisions. Data science involves analyzing, aggregating, manipulating, and identifying data patterns.

If you have a passion or a knack for data, you might consider enrolling in a data science PhD program online. Pursuing a PhD in Data Science exposes you to subjects like:

  • Big data analytics
  • Advanced data mining
  • Data structure
  • Data science communication
  • Algorithms
  • Machine learning

The subjects in the program mainly cover data analysis, forecasting, and computing. Aside from completing coursework, some online PhD in Data Science programs require internships or apprenticeships. You’ll likely also work toward writing and defending a dissertation, which requires many hours of individual research.

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After successfully completing your doctorate in data science, you can pursue various career paths, depending on your area of specialization. Common data science roles include:

  • Data scientist
  • Data analyst
  • Professor
  • Business intelligence manager
  • Computer scientist

Specializing in data science can help you further develop the skills needed to work in many of the organizations that rely on data for operations. Some specializations, such as those in computer fields, call for more collaboration than data-focused specializations.

The roles of a data scientist vary from company to company. For example, a data scientist in a business organization has different roles from one in a pharmaceutical firm. Studying data science might help you broaden your career path into a discipline that makes an impact and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Doctorate programs in data science typically require a background in qualitative fields like statistics, computer science, mathematics, and related fields.

Data Science Careers & Salaries

Data Science Careers & Salaries

A data science PhD program lets you specialize in a specific data science area at the highest education level. A data science doctorate degree exposes you to data analytics, computing, business leadership, and machine learning careers. You could also apply your knowledge and skills in the health sector.

The majority of people who specialize in data science work in tech firms, governments, research institutions, financial institutions, and the healthcare sector. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here’s a list of careers related to data science, along with their median pay.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $179,520
Computer and Information Systems Managers $159,010
Computer and Information Research Scientists $131,490
Software Developers $120,730
Information Security Analysts $102,600
Data Scientists $100,910
Database Administrators and Architects $98,860
Statisticians $95,570
Operations Research Analysts $82,360
Postsecondary Teachers $79,640

Factors such as skill level, area of expertise, and employer can influence job and salary prospects. Many experts in this field work as data scientists. They recognize patterns in data and are likely to work in financial institutions, research centers, pharmaceutical firms, government, and academia.

Others go into business analytics, which involves using data science for business applications. A business analyst uses data modeling techniques and big data analytics to help businesses maximize profits and minimize losses. Data analysts analyze, clean, and interpret large data sets. Meanwhile, machine learning engineers develop programs and algorithms. They’re likely to work in tech firms.

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Some professionals work as computer and information research scientists. This position entails using current technology or developing new technology to solve problems. They often work in government or big tech companies.

Data Science PhD Curriculum & Courses

Data Science PhD Curriculum

The majority of courses covered in data science doctorate programs focus on data research and analysis. The courses offered will vary from program to program, but some common courses include:

  • Integrative Data Science: This course introduces students to skills required to combine two or more independent sets and statistically analyze them as one unit.
  • Information Systems: You can gain an in-depth understanding of the role of information systems in institutions and businesses.
  • Big Data: This course introduces modern tools for handling large data sets. It includes learning algorithms, relational databases, distributed computation, and storage.
  • Predictive Modeling: You’ll learn predictive modeling techniques that allow businesses to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Research Seminar in Forecasting: This course applies a research seminar format, and you can learn to develop research proposals, analysis, and reports in data forecasting.
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: This course exposes students to AI, machine learning, and financial analytics.
  • Advanced Network Technology and Management: You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of network operations and how to identify and solve problems within networks.
  • Applied Statistics: You’ll learn how to use modern software to analyze data sets and make useful conclusions.
  • Sustainable Future: This course explores the sustainability of an organization through the lenses of innovation and competitive advantage.
  • Technology for Mobile Devices: This course explores the development of mobile applications.

It’s beneficial to check whether a prospective school’s curriculum aligns with your preferred area of specialization in data science.

Pros and Cons of a Doctoral Degree in Data Science

PhD in Data Science Pros and Cons

Pursuing a doctoral degree in data science has several advantages:

  • Positive job outlook. Given the importance of data science in many companies, there’s a high demand for professionals who have specialized in this field.
  • Increased earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, doctoral degree holders tend to have higher median salaries than those with a bachelors or masters. The median salary for data science occupations is also higher than average.
  • Freedom to research. You can push boundaries with your research project without the limitations of answering to shareholders in an industry setting.
  • Industry exposure. You may have the opportunity to show off your work to relevant audiences during conferences, symposiums, and talks.
  • Networking opportunities. You have the chance to interact with like-minded peers and experts, learning from them and making connections.

There are many benefits to earning a PhD in Data Science. Depending on your personal situation, pursuing a doctoral degree in data science can also have its cons:

  • Time commitment. A doctoral program can take years to complete, even when pursuing it full time.
  • Extensive research. This type of degree involves a lot of research work. Some students find it necessary to forgo paying work in order to focus on their dissertation.
  • Cost. Data science PhD programs can be costly if you don’t have financial aid or other forms of financial support.
  • No guaranteed return on investment. It might take a while to recoup everything you’ve invested. Plus, a certain degree does not guarantee a specific career or salary.
  • Void of real-life experience. Some knowledge, like corporate issues and pain points, can only be truly learned on the job.

Enrolling in a data science doctorate program requires careful consideration of both the advantages and disadvantages. There may also be additional pros and cons to consider for your particular circumstance.

How to Choose an Online PhD in Data Science Program

Choosing an Online PhD in Data Science

Choosing the right data science program can be challenging, but here are few factors to consider:

  • Cost. It’s helpful to search for credible schools that fit within your budget. You can also explore available financial aid opportunities, such as scholarships, grants, and employer tuition benefits.
  • Location. It’s beneficial to verify whether any physical attendance is occasionally required for prospective online programs.
  • Accessibility to professors. You’ll work closely with your professors for your dissertation, so it’s essential that they are easily accessible.
  • Networking opportunities. It’s advisable to join a PhD program that allows you to interact with others peers, engage in meaningful discussions, and gain exposure.
  • Curriculum. Data science is a fast-evolving field, so you may want to check how current a program is. It’s strategic to pick a program that is up-to-date with current practices and tools in the discipline.

Once you determine what you want from your PhD program, you can assess the available programs based on your needs and career goals.

Admissions Requirements

PhD in Data Science Requirements

Most colleges offering a data science PhD program require the following criteria:

  • Letter of intent on your reasons for applying and your future plans
  • All undergraduate and graduate official transcripts
  • Reference letters
  • Résumé detailing academic and professional accomplishments
  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)

Getting some of these documents may require time, so it’s helpful to prepare adequately beforehand to save yourself the pressure while applying for the program.

Data Science PhD Programs Accreditation

Data Science PhD Accreditation

Accreditation is often a top consideration when selecting a college for doctorate studies. Regional accreditation is considered the gold standard, but there are also additional accrediting boards that evaluate specific areas of study.

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For instance, if your preferred data science PhD program focuses on computer engineering, you could check with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) to verify the quality of the program. While most schools list their accreditation status on their website, you can also check the online database of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Regional accreditation ensures you’re getting a high-quality, credible education.

Data Science Licensure and Certifications

Data Science Licensure

Professional certifications are often received by completing specified coursework and passing examinations. Here are a few data science certifications that are often useful in professional setups:

  • Cloudera Certification: Cloudera offers a professional credential for data engineers and an associate certification for data analysts.
  • SAS Certification: SAS offers data scientists, big data, and AI and machine learning certifications.
  • Data Science Council of America (DASCA): DASCA offers certifications for senior data scientists and principal data scientists.
  • Microsoft Azure Certification: Microsoft offers AI fundamentals and data scientist associate certifications.

Data science certifications may prove your expertise in the field. They can showcase your abilities and credibility to prospective employers and clients.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Data Science Financial Aid

Completing a doctorate degree in data science can often be a costly affair, even when taking it online. Fortunately, there are many financial aid opportunities for students who qualify.

You can start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your FASFA can determine your eligibility for federal financial aid, such as student loans and grants. While student loans have to be paid back, they tend to have lower interest rates.

You can also research organizations that offer scholarships for data scientists. In some cases, employers have tuition benefit programs for their employees. Some doctoral students even work as assistant lecturers in their college to help offset school costs while gaining academic experience.

Should I Get a PhD in Data Science?

Should I Get a PhD in Data Science

Whether getting a PhD in Data Science is the right decision for you depends entirely on your circumstances. There are numerous advantages to pursuing this doctorate, like advanced career paths, higher earning potential, and opportunities to innovate and be part of impactful projects.

On the flip side, a PhD is resource intensive. Many professionals commit at least 5 years to finish their degree program and dissertation. Ultimately, if getting a PhD aligns with your career goals, you might seriously consider pursuing this terminal degree.

What Can You Do with a Doctorate in Data Science?

Doctorate in Data Science Careers

A doctorate in data science can lead to several career paths. PhD holders often work in big tech firms. Others work for the government, security firms, financial institutions, and business organizations.

A doctorate in data science can also help you qualify for more advanced roles. For instance, data science experts may work as data scientists, chief data officers, computer and information research scientists, machine learning engineers, and business intelligence managers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, data science careers are in high demand. Computer and IT occupations overall are expected to see 13% job growth over the next ten years.

How Long Is a PhD Degree in Data Science Online?

PhD programs generally take 3 years to 5 years to complete with full-time study. Most data science doctorate programs require the completion of around 71 credits.

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Most PhD programs also require doctoral candidates to defend a dissertation. The research and writing components of a dissertation will often affect how long it takes you to get your degree. If a doctorate program does not require a dissertation, it can often be completed in 3 years of full-time study. Earning a doctorate often takes longer for those who enroll part-time.

What’s the Difference Between a PhD in Data Science vs. Data Analytics?

Here are some key differences between data science and data analytics.

PhD in Data Science PhD in Data Analytics
  • Focuses on using data to solve complex problems and design innovative solutions
  • Encompasses a broader range of activities
  • Includes activities like developing new algorithms and building predictive models
  • Focuses on assessing and interpreting existing data to arrive at actionable insights
  • Primarily involves identifying patterns and trends in data sets

While they are closely related, each field uses specific tools to find solutions. A background in statistics, computer science, or mathematics is needed to pursue either degree.

What’s the Difference Between PhD Programs in Data Science vs. Computer Science?

Data scientists and computer scientists often seem to work in related fields. While they do have points of intersection, like data and computing, there are also some key differences.

Data Science Computer Science
  • Focuses primarily on analytics
  • Uses statistics as the foundation
  • Emphasizes machine learning algorithms
  • Focuses on software designs
  • Uses computer engineering as the foundation
  • Explores other software tools

Data science focuses on the data, while the main focus of computer science is on engineering, programming, and technology tools.

Is a PhD in Data Science Worth It?

PhD in Data Science Degree

Yes, a PhD in Data Science is worth it for many professionals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many careers in data science are projected to have faster than average job growth over the next ten years. For instance, computer and information research scientists are expected to see 22% job growth.

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Many companies want data science experts because of their in-depth knowledge of the discipline, and PhD holders have some of the highest qualifications in the field. A PhD is also needed for most teaching and research positions at the university level. Employment for postsecondary teachers is expected to increase 12% over the next ten years (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Data Science Degree Program

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Capella University

Capella University

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Universities and Schools.

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Dakota State University

Dakota State University

Dakota State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Florida Atlantic University

Florida Atlantic University

FAU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University

Indiana Wesleyan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Middle Georgia State University

Middle Georgia State University

Middle Georgia State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University

Mississippi State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Nova Southeastern University

Nova Southeastern University

NSU is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Purdue University

Purdue University

Purdue University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University

Robert Morris University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Rutgers University

Johns Hopkins University

Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

St. Thomas University

St Thomas University

St. Thomas University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Delaware

University of Delaware

The University of Delaware is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of North Texas

University of North Texas

The University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of Rhode Island

University of Rhode Island

The University of Rhode Island is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of the Cumberlands

University of the Cumberlands

The University of the Cumberlands is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of the Southwest

University of the Southwest

The University of the Southwest is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Ph.D. in Data Science Online

Data Science PhD Online Degree

A PhD in Data Science enables you to develop specialized knowledge in this lucrative field. Since many sectors now rely on data to make production, operations, marketing, and sales decisions, there are employment opportunities in a variety of industries.

Some professionals even use their expertise to start their own organization or work as consultants for many organizations. A PhD is also essential if you choose to pursue a career in academia. Whatever your preference, much like an online masters in data science, or even a masters in data analytics online, an online PhD in Data Science can help set you apart and lead to more career options or advancement.

If you’re interested in becoming an expert in this field, you can begin your doctoral journey by researching available online PhD programs in data science. The sooner you start exploring accredited universities, the sooner you may find the specialization and program option that’s best for you.

Ready to start your journey?
Ben Flynn
Ben Flynn
Ben has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Northwestern University and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Project Management from New York University. Ben's work focuses on the intersections of education, leadership, community college reform, and workplace training and development.