Data Science Degree Programs in Illinois
Despite being a smaller market, Illinois remains an attractive landing spot for career data scientists. With some of the nation’s top universities, a huge job market in and around Chicago, and an array of exciting employers, the state has plenty to offer in the field of data science.
Building a successful data science career in Illinois is much easier with a degree from one of the state’s top programs. Illinois has first-rate undergraduate and graduate-level educational opportunities at public and private universities. In addition, there are both on-campus and online programs available that meet the needs of students in different phases of life.
Career Outlook for Data Scientists in Illinois
As of May 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says Illinois’ workforce includes 4,670 data scientists. However, BLS data indicates that the Chicago area alone employs 3,580 of these professionals.
The Windy City is home to several data science startups, such as Uptake and Narrative Science, and often hosts relevant conferences and workshops. Major employers, such as United Airlines, Discover, and Kraft Heinz, often advertise for various data science roles in Chicago, from analyst-level positions to senior engineering opportunities.
According to the BLS, Illinois’ mean salary of $104,010 for data scientists beats wages in neighboring states like Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Missouri by a considerable margin.
Fortunately, the cost of living in Illinois sits right around the national average. Statewide grocery, housing, and healthcare costs all fall below U.S. metrics. As expected, the most expensive living in the state is around Chicago where the median home cost is around $230k. However, this is only $15k more than the national benchmark, making the city one of the more affordable major U.S. cities. Overall, the median home cost in the state is only $180k.
Pursuing a career in data science first requires a strong background in computer science, math, and data analytics. Fortunately, building the right knowledge base and skill set is easy at the state’s top public and private institutions.
On-Campus Undergraduate Data Science Programs in Illinois
For undergraduate students interested in pursuing data science careers right after college, there are a number of schools in Illinois that offer relevant coursework. At Northwestern, students can take data science-specific courses through the Department of Statistics in order to prepare for entry-level data science roles upon graduation.
Northwestern University Data Science Undergraduate Courses
Northwestern offers four specific courses that teach undergraduate students how to perform quality data analyses on real datasets. In addition to Introduction to Statistics, students can also take Data Science 1-3 and a Data Visualization course. The school also recommends completing other statistics courses, including Statistical Learning for Data Analysis, Optimization Methods, and Fundamentals of Computer Programming I.
With this foundation, undergraduates are empowered to pursue higher-level degrees or attractive job opportunities throughout the state if they prefer to begin working immediately.
On-Campus Graduate Data Science Programs in Illinois
Twelve schools in Illinois have Masters of Data Science programs. Several of these institutions offer both on-campus and online programs, as well as opportunities to earn graduate certificates while working full-time jobs in the field. From large, public colleges to smaller, world-renowned universities, there is no shortage of high-quality education available for aspiring data scientists.
On-Campus Master’s in Data Science Programs in Illinois
One of the top data science master’s programs in the country is offered at Northwestern University in Evanston, just north of Chicago. Delivered through the McCormick School of Engineering, the Master of Science in Analytics program combines advanced data management with statistical modeling. Courses include Introduction to Java & Python Programming, Data Visualization, and Analytics for Big Data. The program must be completed on a full-time basis on campus. Students are expected to take 4 courses per quarter and complete the entire program in 15 months.
The admissions process is highly selective as there are only 40 students accepted per cohort. To apply, prospective students must submit three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, transcripts, a resume, and GRE or GMAT scores. Applicants may also turn in an optional candidate video with supplementary materials, such as advanced certificates. In total, Northwestern’s program costs $18,040 per quarter, or $90,200. Fortunately, there are fellowships available each year that are awarded during the application process. Additional financial aid is available through the McCormick School of Engineering or the university’s Office of Fellowships.
The University of Chicago offers a Master of Science in Analytics program through the Graham School that can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. The curriculum focuses on developing proficiency in industry-leading data analytics applications and equipping students with the tools they need to successfully apply statistical analyses to real-world challenges. Students must complete up to 14 courses and a capstone project in order to earn the degree. In addition, program enrollees also complete one statistics boot camp during their time. Core classes include Time Series Analysis and Forecasting, Data Mining Principles, and Big Data Platforms Research Design for Business Applications.
For the 2020-2021 academic year, courses cost $4,640 each. On top of that, students pay $200 for the statistics boot camp and $550 for the Python training. After being admitted to the program, enrollees can work with the university’s Student Loan Administration office to explore financial aid opportunities. Applicants for the program must submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, and personal statement.
The private, roman catholic institution, Benedictine University, also has an on-campus Master of Science in Business Analytics program that consists of 64 quarter credit hours of coursework. The curriculum focuses heavily on developing statistical analyses and predictive modeling skills in order to guide corporate decision-making. Students choose from one of six different areas of concentration: Business Administration, Forensic Accounting, Health Information Systems Management, Management Information Systems, Marketing, and Professional Internship. The full-time track can be completed in two years if two courses are taken per quarter. Qualified undergraduate students may also choose to complete the master’s degree as part of a 4+1 Business Analytics program following their undergraduate study.
Benedictine University’s program costs $700 per credit hour, or $44,800 total. Prospective students can submit an application online or through the mail. It is highly recommended that those who are interested contact an admissions counselor at the school to discuss the application process in more detail.
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Illinois
The University of Illinois at Chicago has two different Ph.D. programs, both consisting of 96-credit hours that must be completed on campus.
The first Ph.D. track is offered by the College of Applied Health Sciences and is for those seeking further education in the field of biomedical and health informatics. Program enrollees complete at least 40 hours of research in a certain focus area under the direction of two different mentors. Students have direct access to the University of Illinois’s tertiary care hospital and associated outpatient clinics for research purposes. Required courses include Methods in Health Informatics and Biostatistics.
The application process requires transcripts, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a CV. Materials must be submitted online with a non-refundable $70 application fee. To be competitive for the program, students should have at least a 3.0 GPA and GRE scores above 152 and 151 on the verbal and quantitative sections, respectively.
The second Ph.D. track focuses on preparing students to make decisions in business settings through a Business Administration: Information and Decision Sciences program. Through the curriculum, students receive advanced training in the areas of machine learning, data mining, and business-centric statistics. At minimum, those in the program must complete 32 hours of dissertation research and take courses in Applied Statistical Methods, Statistical Models, Data Structures, and Real Analysis.
On-Campus Graduate Certificate Programs in Illinois
Northwestern University offers a 12-credit Graduate Certificate in Advanced Data Science program in which students choose from one of four specializations: Analytics Management, Analytics and Modeling, Data Engineering, and Artificial Intelligence. The program is delivered through the university’s School of Professional Studies.
Program applicants must have a graduate degree in predictive analytics, data science, or a related field. For the 2018-19 school year, tuition per course cost $3,015, or $13,252 total. Students can coordinate tuition reimbursement with their employers through the school’s Employer Reimbursement Plan program.
Loyola University Chicago has a 15-credit Certificate in Business Data Analytics program that exposes students to various data modeling tools and programs, including R, SQL, and Tableau. Offered through the Quinlan School of Business, the program consists of three required courses (Database Systems, Data Mining, and Data Warehousing) and two electives. Students can complete the program in 9-12 months.
Online Data Science Degree Programs in Illinois
For working professionals who need to sharpen their data science skills, online programs are a great option. Several top institutions in Illinois offer flexible master’s programs that can be completed remotely during non-working hours.
Depaul University M.S. in Predictive Analytics
DePaul’s M.S. in Predictive Analytics program is one of the best in the country at preparing students to use data analytics to solve real-world problems. Students choose a concentration area from the following list: Computational Methods, Health Care, Marketing, and Hospitality. Through each of these tracks, students must complete a minimum of 52 graduate credit hours in addition to 3 introductory courses.
Tuition rates for the 2020-2021 academic year for the program were $865 per credit hour. Competitive applicants for the program have cumulative GPAs above 3.0, a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and relevant professional work experience. Required application materials include an official transcript, a CV, and a $25 application fee. Letters of recommendation can also be submitted although they are not required.
The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Master of Computer Science in Data Science
The University of Illinois offers a 32-credit online Master of Computer Science in Data Science program at the Urbana-Champaign campus. Students complete eight courses total and focus on topics related to machine learning, data mining, and data visualization. Electives are not required and students do not have to complete a thesis in order to receive the graduate degree.
It is recommended that applicants have an undergraduate GPA of 3.2 or higher and have expertise or relevant coursework in the computer science field. Tuition costs are $600 per credit hour or $19,200 in total. Unfortunately, there are no research or teaching assistantships available through the Department of Computer Science. Students seeking financial aid can explore alternative opportunities through the Office of Student Financial Aid.
2021 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and employment figures for data scientists reflect national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed January 2023.