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U Wisconsin Campuses Kick Off Online Master's in Data Science

The University of Wisconsin system is officially taking applications for its new online master's degree program in data science. The 12-course, 36-credit online degree will start in September. The program is a collaboration of the University of Wisconsin-Extension and six University of Wisconsin campuses: Eau Claire, Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Stevens Point and Superior.

The goal is to provide graduates with the knowledge they need to take on jobs involving cleaning, organizing, analyzing and interpreting data, including pulling out insights from the data and communicating those to stakeholders within their organizations.

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, demand for "deep analytical talent" could be 50 to 60 percent greater than its projected supply by 2018. In initial research, the Wisconsin university system found "significant market demand for data science/analytics professionals, including business analysts, data analysts, database administrators, software engineers, programmers, and project managers."

In October 2013, UW-Extension hosted an industry focus group with 10 "professionals from diverse industry sectors within Wisconsin" to gain feedback on current industry needs and existing workforce competency gaps within the state. The system also conducted interviews with experts within the field to understand the themes that would be relevant to degree development and curriculum planning.

Courses will cover statistics, programming, data warehouses, high performance computing, data mining, data visualization and communicating about data, prescriptive analytics and the ethics of data science, among other topics.

The degree is structured as a cost-recovery program not dependent on state funding or appropriations from other institutional areas. The total tuition will be $29,700 for both in-state and out-of-state students. Most students are expected to come from the upper Midwest; however, the universities also expect to draw national and international candidates.

"Data science professionals are and will be in huge demand. This program offers a great foundation for a professional career in the field," said Zamira Simkins, an assistant professor of economics at the university's Superior location. Simkins, along with 11 other faculty members drawn from all of the participating campuses, will be an instructor in the new program.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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