Maybe you’re not sure if you have the expertise or bandwidth to pull it off.
Perhaps you’re worried that online learning isn’t for you or you might be questioning whether or not a master’s degree is truly worth it.
Sarah Baylor didn’t have a programming background prior to joining our data science program. She recalls how early in the program our data science instructors helped the entire cohort strengthen their programming skills.
"They started us off with some really good basics. We had some awesome professors who sacrificed every Friday night for an entire semester to help. To be able to ask questions of your professors and fellow students is a really important part of the program and really does help the learning process."
While you don’t have to be a programming wizard, it’s still good to familiarize yourself with programming or refresh your skills before classes start.
Sarah took our free online Data Science Readiness Assessment to evaluate her programming competencies and used online programming courses to get acquainted with the primary programming languages. If you’re considering our program and looking for an introduction to programming, we recommend Data Camp.
Mitch Speer works as a Business Intelligence Analyst, coaches high school football and travels out of town frequently. Even with his full-time job and busy schedule, he’s found that he can easily access the program, which makes it possible for him to manage his work and day-to-day life.
"I spent one class in an airport in the United Club at the Denver airport. The platform is designed so you can work on your mobile phone. All of the materials are available on different devices. Even if you’re not in your usual place or at home when you have class, you can still take the program with you. That’s one thing I’ve really appreciated."
Like Mitch, Tony Galvan, finds that he is able to remain engaged in his busy life.
"I have a family and a demanding professional job. The online master’s in data science program aligns well with my current lifestyle. It allows me to work at my own pace, as I balance my family and work responsibilities; yet, it’s online format is designed to build close connections between the faculty and my fellow classmates."
Many online master’s programs want to enroll 1,000+ students and target the masses.
That’s not our goal.
As Program Director Roger Woodard explained:
"We want to keep our program intimate—about 24 students in each online class. Our program is designed to provide the student-centered learning experience for which Notre Dame is known, where students get to know their classmates and professors, and enjoy the personal attention they need to succeed in the program."
Discovering this close-knit learning community was a pleasant surprise for Mitch.
"A lot of us are interacting before class, asking each other questions or just shooting the breeze and talking about random stuff before the class. You still get that really personal kind of classroom experience, which I think was a really unexpected draw for me."
Students also enjoy strong communication channels with their professors.
Sarah experienced this first-hand when her instructors worked with her and other students to boost their programming skills.
"I think it’s unique for an online program to have so much human interaction and connection, even though I don’t actually see my classmates and professors in person."
In addition to twice-weekly synchronous sessions, students meet in person on the Notre Dame campus for a weekend Immersion to kick off the program. Students can also attend optional Immersions where they gain insights from industry experts and network with others in the field.
Immersions are one of Ashley Klesmit’s favorite program experiences.
"Before the program began last August, we all met at the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, IN, for a weekend. Meeting the people that I would spend the next 21 months with in person was incredibly beneficial and has made the collaboration and camaraderie unlike anything I imagined. The bond that you form with the faculty and students cannot be measured. This program provides you with the ability to form meaningful relationships."
If you’re trying to decide between a master’s program, a boot camp, MOOC, certificate, or self-study, consider the perspective of your employer.
If an employer sees that you have a data science master’s degree from a prestigious university, that’s an immediate mark of trust. Your master’s is going to help you stand out against other job candidates who may have only completed a boot camp or MOOC.
In addition to credibility, it’s essential to think about longevity.
Many master’s programs will teach you technical and quantitative skills and theory and critical thinking.
Boot camps, MOOCs and certificates tend to be more focused on just the technical side, such as learning how to code. Data scientists in the making can take a boot camp or MOOC or rely on YouTube videos and perhaps learn enough to get a data science job because of the high demand.
However, if you’re looking for long-term career growth in data science, that’s where a master’s program comes in. A master’s program helps you future-proof your career because you have the theoretical foundation to adapt to changing tools and technologies.
The more in-depth nature of a master’s in data science was an important consideration for Mitch as he evaluated his options to make a career pivot to data science.
"I could have gone in the direction of a certificate or a MOOC,” Mitch explained. “But since I was going in a new direction with my career, I wanted a master’s degree that would give me a more in-depth learning experience then these options."