Business Intelligence & Analytics

What Are the Best Online Big Data Master’s Programs?

What Are the Best Online Big Data Master’s Programs?
There's a growing demand for analytics professionals who can make sense of the vast quantities of data created every day. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry November 22, 2019

No schools offer an MS in Big Data… yet. The discipline is relatively new, but it won't be long before universities begin creating dedicated big data programs.

Data Science Programs You Should Consider

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There’s a growing demand for analytics professionals who can make sense of the vast quantities of data created every day. These experts help sort through information and develop best practices for interpreting it to solve specific challenges. While there is currently no such thing as a master’s degree in big data, there are a lot of advanced online degree programs designed for analytics professionals across disciplines.

In this article about the best online big data programs, we’ll cover:

  • Why get a big data master’s degree?
  • The top online master’s degree programs for big data professionals
  • Jobs for big data professionals with master’s degrees
  • Big data job outlook
  • Best online big data master’s degree programs
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Why get a big data master’s degree?

Simply put, having a master’s degree in big data will boost your hireability. Industries large and small are generating vast quantities of data related to everything from consumer behavior to health outcomes. Those industries struggle to make the most of this potential treasure trove of information. Governments and retail companies alike desperately need skilled analytics who have the aptitude and expertise to find, sort, understand, and draw meaningful conclusions from that data. Technology professionals with big data bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees are in demand, especially in:

  • Finance
  • Insurance
  • IT
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Science
  • Technology
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“I’m Interested in Business Intelligence & Analytics!”

Data science professionals can use their knowledge and skills in many ways and in almost every industry. You might specialize in business intelligence or robotics or healthcare informatics. There are almost too many options.

90 percent of data scientists hold master’s degrees, and 47 percent hold doctoral degrees. (source)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sets median data scientist annual pay at just over $100,000. Top-paying sectors include (source):

- Computer and peripheral equipment manufacturing ($148,290)
- Semiconductor and other electronic equipment manufacturing ($142,150)
- Specialized information services ($139,600)
- Data processing, hosting, and related services ($126,160)
- Accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping, payroll services ($124,440)


University and Program Name Learn More

The top online master’s degree programs for big data professionals

Big data pros can choose from several online master’s degree options. As you explore them, remember that different universities use different naming conventions. The business analytics program at one school may be virtually identical to the data analytics engineering program at another. Read program guidelines carefully and look for online degree programs that include coursework specifically focused on big data and technical data analysis. Search for these degrees:

Master of Science in Data Analytics (or Data Analytics Engineering)__

This degree is quant-heavy, and it’s a great choice if you want to work in data mining or business intelligence. Students in these programs learn:

  • Data extraction techniques
  • Predictive modeling
  • Machine learning
  • Data validation
  • Linear and quadratic analysis
  • Other ways to use data to make strategic decisions

More importantly, what you’ll learn in a Master of Science in Data Analytics program will be applicable across all industries that generate large bodies of data, from healthcare to manufacturing.

Master of Business Administration in Big Data

Big data literacy is a highly sought-after competency in the business world. An MBA is first and foremost a business degree, but some schools have tracks, specialties, or concentrations related to big data. This degree is a wise choice if you want a solid business education plus a foundational understanding of data science, machine learning, and automation. Just be aware that some MBA programs dive deeper into big data than others.

Master of Science in Data Science

This highly technical data science program is probably the best choice for the professional who wants to become an expert in large-scale data analysis. In these programs, data science professionals use or hone programming skills such as SQL and Python and learn more about using data mining, data visualization, and applied machine learning to identify trends and create compelling stories with data.

Master of Science in Business Analytics

This is one of those degrees that varies widely by school. One university’s business analytics degree will include tech-heavy comp sci coursework related to business intelligence and information systems (like the one at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is essentially a data science degree). Another school’s business analytics program might have a lot more in common with an MBA. Reading a program’s course list is the easiest way to determine whether the focus on that program is data science, math and statistics, or business.

Jobs for big data professionals with master’s degrees

Data figures more prominently in business decision-making and growth every day, and jobs in data are among some of the highest-paying around. According to an IBM report, job listings that ask for machine learning skills pay an average of $114,000, job listings for data scientists pay an average of $105,000, and data engineering jobs pay an average of $117,000. After earning a big data master’s degree, you might work as a:

Big data job outlook

The ability to leverage big data has become hugely important to success in a wide variety of industries. A big data master’s degree gives you the skills you need to work in nearly any of them. With this versatile degree, you will be able to find work in healthcare, finance, manufacturing, communications, technology, or public policy—and you’ll be able to find it relatively easily, according to IBM. The report linked above predicts that by 2020, the number of positions for data and analytics professionals in the US will jump by 364,000 openings to 2,720,000. Demand for data scientists and big data engineers is expected to grow by 39 percent. That may lead to a skills gap that you can capitalize on by getting a big data master’s degree.

Best online big data master’s degree programs

For each of the master’s degree programs below, we’ve included the most relevant information you should consider when looking for the best program for your needs:

  • Degree type
  • 2019-2020 tuition
  • Graduation requirements
  • Core courses
  • Concentration courses
  • Special program features

Brandeis University

  • Degree: Master’s of Science in Strategic Analytics
  • Tuition: $1,179 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours (21 hours required courses, 9 hours electives)
  • Core courses: Foundations of Data Science and Analytics; Business Intelligence, Analytics and Strategic Decision Making; Statistics and Data Analysis; Strategic Analytics and Visualization for Big Data; Predictive Analytics; Data Quality and Governance; Analytics Strategy and Management
  • Electives: Three electives, select from: Communication for Effective Leadership; Data Analysis and Decision Support for Health Informatics; Advanced Healthcare Data Analytics; Cloud Security; Marketing and Customer Analytics; Data Security, Privacy and Ethics; Project Manager for Analytics; Special Topics in Strategic Analytics; Database Management; Data Warehousing and Data Mining; Cloud Computing
  • Features: Class size capped at 20; the average class size is 12; official STEM designation

George Mason University

  • Degree: MS in Data Analytics Engineering
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $930 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours over less than two years
  • Core courses: Data Analytics Foundation; Big Data to Information; Applied Statistics and Visualization for Analytics; Analytics and Decision Analysis; Principles of Data Management and Mining; Data Analytics Project
  • Electives: Big Data Essentials; Database Management Systems; Bayesian Inference and Decision Theory; Applied Predictive Analytics; Information Representation, Processing and Visualization; Decision Support Systems Engineering; Applications of Metadata in Complex Big Data Problems; Knowledge Mining from Big-Data; Decision and Risk Analysis; Heterogeneous Data Fusion
  • Features: Course includes special workshops and lectures; rated one of the top schools to study big data analytics by TechRepublic; George Mason’s Volgenau School of Engineering has worked with big data and cybersecurity for more than 25 years

Georgia Institute of Technology – Main Campus

  • Degree: Master of Science in Analytics with a Computational Data Analytics Track
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $275 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 36 credit hours (11 courses) including the completion of a capstone project with an external firm over one to three years
  • Core courses: Introduction for Computing for Data Analytics; Introduction to Analytics Modeling; Business Fundamentals for Analytics; Data and Visual Analytics; Data Analytics in Business
  • Electives: Machine Learning/Computational Data Analytics; Time Series Analysis; Nonparametric Data Analysis; Design and Analysis of Experiments; Regression Analysis; Computational Statistics; Bayesian Statistics; Data Mining and Statistical Learning; Simulation; Probabilistic Models; Deterministic Optimization; Nonparametric Data Analysis; Machine Learning/Computational Data Analytics; Design and Analysis of Experiments; Computational Statistics; Deterministic Optimization; Database Systems Concepts and Design; Information Visualization; Computational Science and Engineering Algorithms; Big Data Analytics in Healthcare; Web Search and Text Mining
  • Features: Has one of the lowest online tuition rates for US students; access to experts in the fields of business intelligence, statistics, and operations research, big data, and high-performance computing; no on-campus time is required; fall and spring admission; six-hour applied analytics practicum

Georgia Institute of Technology – Main Campus

  • Degree: MS in Business Analytics
  • Format: On-campus and online
  • Tuition: $1,230 per credit hour for residents; $1,698 per credit hour for non-residents (on-campus); $275 per credit hour for the online master’s degree program
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours over one to two years
  • Core courses: Introduction for Computing for Data Analytics; Introduction to Analytics Modeling; Business Fundamentals for Analytics; Data and Visual Analytics; Data Analytics for Business; an applied analytics team practicum or internship
  • Electives: There are more than 50 courses that students can take to fulfill elective slots covering topics like forecasting, regression analysis, data mining, statistical learning, machine learning, computational statistics, simulation, optimization, probabilistic models, data analytics, data visualization, databases, web and text mining, algorithms, high performance computing, parallel computing, graph analytics, business intelligence, pricing analytics, revenue management, business process analysis, financial analysis, decision support, privacy and security, and risk analytics
  • Features: Has one of the lowest online tuition rates for US students; faculty includes experts in business intelligence, machine learning, statistics and operations research, and big data; analytics students participate in Georgia Tech’s Big Data Industry Forum; the school offers students robust career support; each student receives a conference travel budget for each student

Pennsylvania State University – Main Campus

  • Degree: Master’s Degree in Data Analytics
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $1,046 per credit/$12,552 for 12 or more credits per semester
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours
  • Core courses: Foundations of Predictive Analytics; Data Mining; Applied Statistics; Large-Scale Database and Warehouse; Data-Driven Decision Making; Database Design Concepts
  • Electives: Principles of Demography; Data, GIS, and Applied Demography; Applications in Applied Demography; Data Visualization; Data Collection and Cleaning; Large-Scale Databases for Real-Time Analytics; Analytics Programming in Python; Enterprise Analytics Strategies; Network and Predictive Analytics for Socio-Technical Systems; Demographic Techniques; Statistical Analysis System Programming; Regression Methods; Applied Time Series Analysis; Technical Project Management; Decision and Risk Analysis Engineering
  • Features: Highly customizable via elective course choices; this degree path culminates in a capstone experience in which students design and implement analytics systems; geared toward data scientists, data engineers, data architects, research analysts, and data analysts

Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

  • Degree: Master of Science in Data Analytics
  • Format: Online, full-time and part-time
  • Tuition: $516 per credit in-state, $526 per credit out-of-state
  • Graduation requirements: 33 credit hours that can be completed in 10 months full-time or in two years by part-time learners (includes a capstone project)
  • Core courses: Statistical Methods; Introduction to Regression; Data Mining; Optim Models; Advanced Statistical Methods; Forecasting & Time Series; Big Data Analytics; Model Analysis; Statistical Computing
  • Electives: No electives listed
  • Features: Students have the option of pursuing an internship; curriculum includes the training necessary for the Certified Analytics Professional exam; students who complete the program also receive a joint certificate in statistical applications and data analytics from SRU and the SAS Institute Inc.

Syracuse University

  • Degree: MS in Applied Data Science
  • Format: Online, full-time or part-time
  • Tuition: $64,152 plus a per-semester technology fee
  • Graduation requirements: 36 credit hours
  • Core courses: Data Administration Concepts and Database Management; Introduction to Data Science; Data Analytics; Big Data Analytics; Data Analysis and Decision Making; Business Analytics; Accounting Analytics; Marketing Analytics
  • Electives: Linear Statistical Models I: Regression Models; Time Series Modeling and Analysis; Cloud Management; Information Policy; Introduction to Information Security; Scripting for Data Analysis; Natural Language Processing; Information Visualization; Data Warehouse; Text Mining; Advanced Database Administration Concepts and Database Management
  • Features: Offered in collaboration with Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management; opportunities for students to join a research lab or collaborate with faculty on their academic work for hands-on experience; some elective credits can also be used toward a CAS in Information Security Management; online students have access to the same faculty and degree as campus students

University of California – Berkeley

  • Degree: Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS)
  • Format: Online, synchronous and asynchronous format
  • Tuition: $2,573 per course credit
  • Graduation requirements: 27 credits over 12 months, including a capstone project
  • Core courses: Introduction to Data Science Programming; Research Design and Applications for Data and Analysis; Statistics for Data Science; Fundamentals of Data Engineering; Applied Machine Learning; Data Visualization; Behind the Data: Humans and Values; Experiments and Causal Inference; Deep Learning in the Cloud and at the Edge; Machine Learning at Scale; Natural Language Processing; Statistical Methods for Discrete Response, Time Series, and Panel Data
  • Electives: Statistics for Data Science; Fundamentals of Data Engineering; Deep Learning in the Cloud and at the Edge
  • Features: One required three-to-four-day on-campus immersion experience; curriculum touches on ethical and legal requirements of data privacy and security; live online classes capped at 18 students; students receive Global Access membership to WeWork workspaces

University of California – Los Angeles

  • Degree: Master of Science in Engineering With Certificate of Specialization in Data Engineering
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $36,000 for full nine-course, 36-credit program ($4,000 per course)
  • Graduation requirements: 36 credit hours within two academic years and one quarter, including two summer sessions including the completion of a capstone project OR three written exams
  • Core courses: Big Data Analytics; Large-Scale Data Mining: Models and Algorithms; Database Systems; Current Topics in Data Structures; Matrix Analysis for Scientists and Engineers; Machine Learning Algorithms; Large-Scale Social and Complex Networks: Design and Algorithms; earning and Reasoning with Bayesian Networks
  • Electives: Probability and Statistics; Digital Speech Processing; Advanced Topics in Speech Processing; Mathematical Foundations of Data Storage Systems; Web Information Systems
  • Features: Students learn to design and build big data systems and learn necessary data-mining and machine-learning techniques

University of Denver

  • Degree: Master of Science in Data Science
  • Format: Online, flexible
  • Tuition: $1,042 per credit
  • Graduation requirements: 48 to 60 credit hours completed over 18 to 24 months, including a capstone project
  • Core courses: Algorithms for Data Science; Machine Learning; Parallel and Distributed Computing for Data ScienceIntroduction to Probability and Statistics for Data Science; Python Software Development; Database Organization & Management; Algorithms For Data Science; Data Science Tools; Data Mining; Data Visualization; Machine Learning; Parallel and Distributed Computing
  • Electives: No electives listed
  • Features: Faculty includes top researchers in areas like databases, algorithms and statistics; three bridge courses prepare students without computer science degrees for the program; students receive Global Access membership to WeWork workspaces

University of Maryland – College Park

  • Degree: Master’s in Business Analytics
  • Tuition: $1,566 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours
  • Core courses: Data, Models, and Decisions; Data Mining and Predictive Analytics; Database Management Systems; Decision Analytics; Social Media and Web Analytics; Big Data and Artificial Intelligence; Strategy Analytics; Data Processing and Analysis in Python
    Specialization Courses: Intro to Financial Accounting; Corporate Finance; Financial Analytics; Healthcare Operations Management and Marketing; Marketing Management; Consumer Behavior; Advanced Marketing Analytics; Health Informatics and Information Technologies; Supply Chain Risk Management; Leadership and Teamwork
  • Electives: None
  • Features: Students can graduate in as few as 20 months; specializations in finance analytics, marketing analytics, and healthcare analytics are available; flexible curriculum blends synchronous and asynchronous content; 100 percent online; STEM-eligible

University of Missouri – Columbia

  • Degree: Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics
  • Format: Hybrid (students are required to spend one week per year on campus)
  • Tuition: $1,075 per credit hour
  • Graduation requirements: 34 credit hours completed over two years plus a big data analysis case study and a big data capstone
  • Core courses: Introduction to Data Science and Analytics; Statistical and Mathematical Foundations for Data Analytics; Database and Analytics; Data Analytics from Applied Machine Learning; Big Data Security; Big Data Visualization; Data and Information Ethics
  • Electives: Streaming Social Media Data Management and Analysis; Communication Networks/Analytics; Spatial and Geostatistical Analysis; Data Mining and Information Retrieval; Cloud Computing for Data Analytics; Advanced Visualization and Communication; Geospatial Data Engineering; Remote Sensing Data Analytics; Parallel Computing for Data Analytics; Genomics Analytics; Data Science for Healthcare
  • Features: Students get real-world experience in applying state-of-the-art data science tools and techniques; the program includes work in five different disciplines (biotech, geospatial, high-performance computing, human-centered data design, and data journalism)
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University of North Texas

  • Degree: M.S. in Advanced Data Analytics
  • Format: Online
  • Tuition: $13,300 for in-state residents; out-of-state students pay $450 per credit
  • Graduation requirements: 30 credit hours in 10 classes plus a capstone experience
  • Core courses: Introduction to Data Analytics; Data Analytics; Harvesting, Storing and Retrieving Data; Discovery and Learning with Big Data; Large Data Visualization
  • Electives: Related elective options include Deep Learning with Big Data and Recurrent Neural Networks for Sequence Data. Specialty elective courses are selected with the help of a program advisor in areas like health services, statistics, management, digital retailing, and sports entertainment
  • Features: Accelerated online option takes less than two years to complete; curriculum includes real business case studies; students can create a custom specialization with an advisor; five start times per year; hybrid format available

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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Data Science Programs You Should Consider

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