Data Science Degree Programs in Alaska
Alaska is a land full of wonders. It’s a state with a rich history and diverse culture. From the northern lights, which you can see 243 days out of the year in Fairbanks, to its mighty peaks, Alaska offers a plethora of natural beauty to behold. As the northernmost extent of the United States, Alaska has always benefited from a strong tourism industry. But progress in other sectors, such as finance and logistics has been comparatively slow at times.
But, as we will see, though the state has been gripped by a recession in recent years, there are signs that the economy is improving. If you’re thinking of becoming a data scientist, and you want to remain in Alaska, this is sure to be welcome news.
As a data scientist, you will analyze large data sets and extract meaning from them. Sometimes, this will mean identifying patterns in what may seem to others to be meaningless data. Other times, it may mean spotting trends in consumer behavior. Data scientists often find employment with large organizations, where they help to streamline existing systems. In so doing, they help these organizations save money. In some cases, they help businesses earn more money by identifying the demand for new products and services.
If you’re interested in becoming a data scientist in Alaska, read on. This guide will instruct you on the best educational opportunities in the state.
Career Outlook for Data Scientists in Alaska
In January of 2019, The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation held its annual Economic Forecast Luncheon. The organization holds this event to inform the public on economic developments over the past year as well as to analyze the economic trends emerging in the current year. This year, Bill Popp, AEDC president, pointed out that Anchorage contributed $25-billion of the state’s $50-billion GDP.
Moreover, Mr. Popp pointed out that logistics is now the city’s largest industry, followed only by real estate. The inflation rate in Anchorage was 2.1 percent, slightly lower than the national average of 2.5 percent. Because Anchorage makes up so much of Alaska’s GDP, you can view its performance as an indicator of state-wide economic performance. Mr. Popp speculates that Anchorage may be exiting the recession that has gripped Alaska for the last several years, led by the stellar performance of the logistics industry.
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.
Compared to the United States as a whole, there’s no denying that demand for data scientists in Alaska is low. The good news, however, is that demand overall is exploding and that this trend will continue for years, if not decades. According to Alaska.gov, there were less than 100 working data scientists in Alaska in 2017, compared to around 28,000 in the United States as a whole.
However, local organizations like the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and other non-profit organizations employ data scientists to help them 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.
Moreover, the demand for data scientists in Alaska will increase dramatically 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. A geospatial analyst, 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 in step with demand for green energy.
Similarly, the financial sector in Alaska will see more demand for data scientists 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 regards to banking, it’s crucial that banks understand why customers choose to go to their competition. By analyzing loss in this way, they can come up with incentives that will attract new customers.
Data miners 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, and, naturally, these fees 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 keep your operation competitive on the national stage. Axion 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 you, local operations like these couldn’t compete against flashier firms elsewhere.
Data Science Degree Programs in Alaska
There are several schools in Alaska that provide a pathway to a career in data science. On offer are associate degrees, bachelor of science, bachelor of art and master’s degrees.
Alaskan in-state schools include:
- Charter College, in Anchorage
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
- Thomas Edison State University
- University of Alaska Anchorage
- University of Alaska Anchorage, Kenai
- University of Alaska Anchorage, Kodiak
- University of Alaska Anchorage, Mat-Su
- University of Alaska Fairbanks
- University of Alaska Southwest, Sitka
In the following sections, you’ll learn which schools offer associate, bachelor or master’s degrees. Read on.
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 lower time commitment, but it won’t get you as far on the path toward becoming a data scientist as a bachelor’s degree will. However, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates for those with at least an associate degree are significantly lower than those who only hold 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 toward a bachelor’s degree. If you plan to start your journey toward a data science career with a bachelor’s degree, you may want to investigate Charter College, Thomas Edison State University or the University of Alaska.
The University of Alaska, at Anchorage, offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Business Computer Information Systems. 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.
Charter College, located in Anchorage, offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer information Systems. This degree prepares you to work with computer systems with an emphasis on helping businesses process large sets of data.
Thomas Edison State University, located in Eielson, offers a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Science. This degree prepares you to work as an analyst in a business setting. You may find yourself analyzing data sets and looking for ways to optimize current systems.
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. In Alaska, your go-to here will be the University of Alaska or Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
On-Campus Master’s in Data Science Programs in Alaska
The University of Alaska, Fairbanks, 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. After all, more and more organizations are realizing how data optimization can lead to greater profits.
If your aim is to go to work for an airline or the Air Force, however, you may want to look into Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which offers a Master of Science in Management Information Systems. This degree can also prepare you to work for large organizations, analyzing data to improve existing systems.
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Alaska
At present, there are no Ph.D. programs for data science available in Alaska. However, once you’ve obtained at least a master’s degree, you may be able to apply for a doctoral program in another state. The good news? Professional opportunities in this field are opening up at an amazing pace.
On-Campus Graduate Certificate Programs in Alaska
Unlike with a doctoral program, you can earn a graduate certificate in as little 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.
Alaska Computer Business Solutions, a private school in Anchorage, offers several courses that aim to prepare budding data scientists to work with complex software applications. They offer courses in Access, Excel, Visio and more.
The Vocational Training and Resource Center in Juneau offers courses on accounting, bookkeeping, business Internet security and other topics—all of which can help prepare you for a career in data science.
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 these:
- Learn from home. You can learn from the comfort of your own home and have a bit more leeway when it comes to how quickly you complete your course work.
- Reduced costs. Higher education costs continue to increase, but when you pursue a data science degree online, you cut costs significantly. Keep in mind that an online school has lower overhead costs. This enables them to pass some of those savings on to you in the form of lower tuition.
- Greater flexibility. As mentioned, studying at home gives you greater flexibility in how and when you tackle your course work. For instance, you could do your school work at night while working a part-time job. You could do this on campus as well, but many students find that the online option less stressful.
- More options. When you choose an online school, you don’t have to compromise. Often, a student will find themselves choosing between one campus or another based on which offers the most comprehensive program. With an online school, however, you can find a wide array of courses to choose from.
There are several online options for Alaskans. Among these are Syracuse University and Southern Methodist University.
Syracuse University, headquartered in New York, offers an online Master’s in Applied Data Science. This degree prepares you to manage and extract useful information from large data sets. With this degree under your belt, you’ll become an asset to any large institution that wishes to save money by increasing operational efficiency. You’ll also help your employer make more money by optimizing existing systems.
Southern Methodist University, headquartered in Dallas, Texas, offers an online Masters of Science in Data Science. The school offers a project-based approach that will prepare you to efficiently process large data sets in a manner similar to that described above.
We hope this concise guide has helped you narrow down your search for a school in Alaska. What do you find most exciting about obtaining a data science degree?