Data Science Degree Programs in Alaska
Alaska is a land of rich history, diverse culture, and some of the world’s most renowned natural wonders, from the northern lights, which you can see 243 days out of the year in Fairbanks, to mountain ranges that host the highest peak in North America. At the northernmost extent of the United States, Alaska has always benefited from a strong tourism industry, bringing in more than a million visitors each year and generating thousands of jobs in the state’s largest city, Anchorage, where tourists spend $297 million annually and upward of $38 million in local taxes are collected each year.
The gas and oil industry in Alaska is the number one driver of the states economy, accounting for roughly 85 percent of the state’s revenue. According to the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, “The oil and gas industry paid $3.1 billion in state and local taxes and royalties in State Fiscal Year (SFY) 2019, including $2.7 billion to state government, and $449 million to local governments.” The Alaska fishing industry is the third of the three key economic drivers in the state, supplying nearly 60 percent of the country’s commercial fisheries. According to Alaska’s Resource Development Council, the seafood industry in Alaska employs 58,700 people and generates over $5 billion in revenue each year. Data scientists play a vital role in each of these industries and are needed to uncover the opportunities and risks for businesses and the environment. For example, in a review of big data analytics in the upstream and downstream oil and gas industry, which was published in the journal Petroleum, the researchers noted, “Because of the recent improvements in data recording technologies and the necessity for efficient exploration and production operations, Big Data has gained interest and significance in oil and gas industry.” Researchers from New Zealand and the UK emphasized the impact of big data on the tourism and hospitality sector, including revenue management, market research, strategy, customer experience, and reputation management. If you’re interested in becoming a data scientist in Alaska, this guide will instruct you on the best educational opportunities in the state and certain career-related ties to the local economy.
Outlook for Data Science Jobs in Alaska
The 2021 AEDC Economic Forecast from the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation, revealed that “[s]ignificant new developments and expansion of existing storage and air freight logistics infrastructure at ANC are expected to begin in 2021 and extend for several years. Five major storage and logistics projects totaling $700 million in investments are in various planning stages.” This is good news for budding data scientists, as logistics is an industry that relies heavily on data optimization. Complex operations must make incremental improvements to their existing systems in order to lower operating costs and make more money.
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the annual mean wage for data scientists in Alaska is $105,150 as of the May 2021 employment survey. Only .54 out of 1,000 jobs in Alaska are data scientist jobs. But considering the important roles energy, freight, and logistics play in the state’s economy, data scientists in Alaska could very well become key players in those vital industries and more.
Local organizations such as the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and other nonprofit organizations employ data scientists to analyze data and streamline existing systems. For these organizations, saving money in the long term justifies the shorter-term expense of hiring a data analyst. Demand for this service will only increase as computer technology continues to evolve. Specifically, the ANTHC has hired data scientists to gather and manage data related to their health service offerings. This has included efforts to improve their prevention training and their rural health system. In 2016, the Alaska Native Tumor Registry, which belongs to the ANTHC Alaska Native Epidemiology Center, won second place for data quality by the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) program. Moreover, the demand for data scientists in Alaska will increase drastically as the energy sector continues to explore green energy options and as mining operations open up in the Arctic Ocean due to warming ocean temperatures. Organizations such as the Alaska Energy Authority need data scientists to study big data analytics for oil and gas. The Alaska Energy Authority is an independent organization that exists to reduce the cost of energy in Alaska. AEA has developed open data visualizations and dashboards that allow the public to view tables and charts to “explore population, generation, sales, and generation infrastructure data in a number of ways.” Geospatial analysts, a type of data scientist specializing in extracting data from GPS and aerial photographs, studies geography to determine good mining locations. These scientists also optimize the energy output of existing wind and solar farms. Demand for this type of data scientist will surely increase along with the demand for green energy. Job postings for oil and gas data science professionals, marine data science researchers, and professionals with an interest in data science for conservation require that candidates possess analytical thinking and problem-solving skills, research and data analysis experience, and knowledge of programming languages such as Python, MATLAB, andlo geospatial software, including ArcGIS and Adobe Bridge and DGGS. In addition to Alaska’s data science opportunities in conservation and sustainability, the financial sector in the state will see more demand for data scientists in finance who are proficient in data mining. Data mining is the process of examining existing databases to find new, useful information. Banks use data mining techniques to help them understand their customers better. Since customers have more choice than ever with regard to banking, it’s crucial that banks understand why customers choose to go to their competition. By analyzing loss in this way, they can devise incentives that will attract new customers. Data mining specialists may also aid banks in understanding how customers use their accounts. This can yield new product ideas. Each product a bank offers allows them another opportunity to charge fees, which contribute to a bank’s bottom line. Informatics and software development firms headquartered in Alaska, such as Axiom Data Science, will need to hire more data scientists going forward. Programmers who are well-versed in data analysis are incredible assets to such firms. As a data scientist employed in an Alaskan software development firm, you will help your operation stay competitive on the national stage. Axiom Data Science, for instance, relies on stellar data analysts, data coordinators, scientists, and librarians to help them net new clients and nurture existing client relationships. Without these professional leadership positions, local operations couldn’t compete with larger firms elsewhere.
Data Science Degree Programs in Alaska
There are several colleges in Alaska that provide a pathway to a career in data science. Students may complete associate degrees, a bachelor of science or art, and master’s degrees at one of the many reputable Alaska colleges and universities.
On-Campus Undergraduate Data Science Programs in Alaska
When you hear the term “undergraduate degree,” you might think of a traditional four-year bachelor’s program. However, depending on the program, you could earn an associate degree instead. Typically, an associate degree requires a lesser time commitment. Although an associate degree won’t get you as far on the path toward becoming a data scientist as a bachelor’s degree, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that unemployment rates for those with at least an associate degree are significantly lower than for people who hold only a high school diploma. A bachelor’s degree program is typically a four-year commitment — but may be longer — and you may be able to transfer credits earned in an associate degree program to a bachelor’s degree. Ilisagvik College, University of Alaska Anchorage, University of Alaska Fairbanks, and the University of Alaska Southeast all offer undergraduate degrees in data science or related subjects.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The University of Alaska Fairbanks offers four programs for prospective data science students. The Geographic Information Systems Minor requires 15 credits in courses such as:
- Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
- Change Detection in Arctic Systems
- Geoscience Applications of Remote Sensing
- Applications of GPS and GIS in Geophysics
- GIS Analysis
- GIS and Remote Sensing for Natural Resources
Students may also pursue a bachelor’s in computer science at UAF. Offered on the UAF main campus in Fairbanks, the bachelor’s degree is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET and boasts 100 percent job placement for graduates of the program.
The Information Technology program at Ilisagvik College offers several programs that will give students an edge when applying for jobs in computer graphics, marketing, database management, data analysis, and computer support. Information Technology Programs include:
- Associate Degree, Information Technology
- Certificates I & II, Digital Arts I the Arctic
- Certificates I & II, Data Analysis
- Certificates I & II, Information Technology Support Specialist
- Endorsement, Office Productivity
University of Alaska Anchorage
The University of Alaska Anchorage offers a diverse range of data science-related programs. The Department of Mathematics & Statistics prepares students for careers in:
- Actuarial science
- Computer programming
- Research analysis
- Risk analysis
These are only a few of the lucrative occupations for which you would be qualified after earning a statistics degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage. UAA’s Management Information Systems Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree “gives students a broad-based business background and provides a strong foundation for careers in software engineering, project management, web development, programming, data analysis, and web security.” The Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Computer Information Systems is another option for data science professionals attending UAA. This degree equips you with the tech skills you’ll need to work with data in a business setting. You will learn basic coding as well as how to work efficiently in several data-management applications.
University of Alaska Southeast
The Bachelor of Business Administration, Management Information Systems is suitable for future leaders and those who aspire to a range of sought-after roles in this lucrative industry. The BLS reports that the mean salary for computer and information systems managers in Alaska is $123,230. However, other potential careers in this sector include:
- Computer systems analyst
- Data analyst
- IS/IT manager
- Project manager
- Web developer
- Business analyst
- Network systems administrator
- Software developer
- Database administrator
Students must complete 120 credit hours of general education and major requirements, as well as 18 credit hours of emphasis courses, such as Infrastructure, Systems Analysis/Design, and Data/Information Management.
On-Campus Graduate Data Science Programs in Alaska
If you’ve already obtained an undergraduate degree, a master’s degree is the next logical step. A master’s degree typically requires a year and a half to two years of study.
On-Campus Master’s in Data Science Programs in Alaska
Alaska Pacific University
Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage offers an EMBA in Information Technology that “is designed to educate business leaders on the technical, organizational, and financial implications of leading an IT organization.”
University of Alaska Anchorage
The M.S. Applied Geological Sciences Program is a high-level graduate program that focuses on scientific analysis and geological science theory and research. It is designed to prepare students for Ph.D. research programs.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Master of Science in Statistics program includes four statistics core courses and two elective courses. Core Courses
- Statistical Theory I
- Statistical Theory II
- Statistical Theory III: Linear Models
- Statistical Consulting Seminar
The program is unique in that it reinforces the coursework with practical applications. UAF also offers a master’s degree in Computer Science. The program focuses on computer graphics, parallel computation, database management, computer security, artificial intelligence, robotics, and simulation. There is a strong focus on the application of these skills to business as more organizations are realizing how data optimization can lead to greater profits. For students who want to pursue a graduate-level computer science degree, the university offers a 5-year BS/MS “Fast Track” program. Students have access to the school’s industry standard labs, equipment, and software programming, where they will develop a foundational knowledge of C++ and prepare for a career in the rewarding field of computer science.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide – Anchorage
At Embry-Riddle Worldwide, students can earn a Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance or a Master of Science in Management Information Systems. The Master of Science in Information Security and Assurance “prepares its graduates to develop, coordinate, and protect information and knowledge resources.” The 33-credit hour program uses an interdisciplinary approach to equip graduates for careers in a variety of industries. The Master of Science in Management Information Systems program will prepare you to work for large organizations, analyzing data to improve existing systems. Both master’s programs are also offered online.
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Alaska
Once you’ve obtained a master’s degree, you may be interested in applying for a doctoral program in Alaska, or perhaps in another state. Professional opportunities in the field are opening up at an amazing pace.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
The Ph.D. program in natural resources and sustainability is a 26-credit program — 18 of which are thesis credits — that emphasizes three areas of study:
- Resource economics
- Resource policy and sustainability science
- Forest and agricultural sciences
According to the program website, the Ph.D. program “prepares future leaders as academic researchers, agency professionals, and analysts of nongovernmental organizations and communities for careers at the frontiers of the science of sustainability and natural resources management.”
On-Campus Graduate Certificate Programs in Alaska
Unlike with a doctoral program, you can earn a graduate certificate in as few in two semesters. Naturally, however, a graduate certificate won’t qualify you to fill the highest positions available in the industry. A typical graduate certificate requires you to complete four courses, or between 12 and 14 credit hours.
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Designed for students who hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution, the graduate certificate in statistics focuses on a comprehensive study of statistics. You must have completed Calculus I, II, and III, as well as Regression and Analysis of Variance with a C or better to be admitted to the program.
Online Data Science Degree Programs in Alaska
Getting your degree online can offer several advantages, and it’s one of the fastest growing trends in education. Let’s briefly highlight a few of the benefits of distance learning:
- Learn from home. You can learn from the comfort of your own home and complete coursework on your schedule.
- Reduced costs. Higher education costs continue to increase, but when you pursue a data science degree online, you could cut significant expenses that come with on-campus learning.
- Greater flexibility. As mentioned, studying at home gives you greater flexibility in how and when you tackle your course work such as completing schoolwork at night while working a part-time job.
- More options. Often, a student will find themselves choosing between one campus or another based on a variety of university-related factors, but with online courses, you don’t have to compromise. You can choose based solely on the preferred degree program, as well as select from a wider range of available, accessible courses.
Several colleges and universities in Alaska offer fully online or hybrid programs.
University of Alaska Southeast
At the University of Alaska Southeast, the Health Information Management AAS program lets students earn their degree online, allowing them the opportunity to develop the skills they need to compete for prime positions in the field of health information. The 62-credit program can be completed in two years and sets graduates up for success in careers including:
- Application analyst
- Clinical documentation consultant
- Health information technician
- Medical records technician
Thomas Edison State University – Eielson Air Force Base
One of several esteemed universities in Alaska, Thomas Edison State University offers several programs for aspiring data scientists. The Bachelor of Science degree in Data Science and Analytics focuses on using “key technologies in data science and analytics, including data mining, machine learning, visualization techniques, predictive modeling, and statistics.” During the program students will solve practical problems with the knowledge and skills they have acquired in statistical data analysis and quantitative modeling. TESU’s Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics is a fully online program that designed to “provide students with graduate-level theoretical knowledge, applied skills, and the ability to derive value from data in real world decision making.” An applications-oriented master’s program that prepares students to succeed in IT leadership roles, TESU’s Master of Science degree program with an area of study in Information Systems is a 39-credit online program that allows students to complete coursework on their schedules.
Explore your Degree Options
This concise guide compiled is designed to help narrow down your search for the right data science program from Alaska colleges and universities. To continue your journey, Discover Data Science can help you take the next step in gathering more information or applying for the data science degree program best suited to your goals.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for data scientists and computer and information systems managers reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.