Data Science Degree Programs in Mississippi
Although the number of data science job openings continues to increase, not all U.S. states are equal when it comes to employers seeking data scientists. Certainly, the Magnolia State’s top 2 industries — agriculture and manufacturing — could leverage data science expertise to boost predictive accuracy and systemic efficiency. But, as will be discussed below, Mississippi ranks towards the bottom of the list when it comes to the number of technical jobs available (which includes data science).
Career Outlook for Data Scientists in Mississippi
At this time, only 3.9% of Mississippi residents are employed in tech-related occupations. As of May 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics has calculated the number of Computer and Information Research Scientists (which is their current category for data scientists) to be a mere 340 people employed within a data science context; this is only a slight increase of 100 data science-related jobs between 2017 and 2018. Indeed, most of Mississippi’s occupations are in the Office and Administrative Support, Sales, Production, and Food Prep categories with Cashiers being the number one sub-category.
However, the mean annual wage for Mississippi data scientists is still relatively high at $95,860. With a cost of living that is, on average, lower than the rest of the U.S. States (for example, the median home price in Mississippi is $128,400 vs. $216,200 throughout the U.S.), Magnolia State data scientists earn a comfortable living.
On-Campus Undergraduate Data Science Programs in Mississippi
The availability of data science on-campus undergraduate programs in Mississippi is zero. But, since data science is still a relatively new phenomenon, this lack of university offerings for a Bachelor’s Degree in Data Science holds true for many U.S. States. Alternatively, students who are interested in undertaking a data science-oriented undergraduate degree pathway do have options.
For example, Mississippi State University offers either a math or computer science concentration. A majority of job postings for data science stipulate that a STEM major is preferred, and this is inclusive of math, computer science, engineering or another hard science field (many physics majors have entered data science as well). So, if you’re determined to either stay in (or move to) Mississippi to pursue your undergraduate degree — and your ultimate goal is to be a data scientist — then Mississippi’s state school system, including the University of Mississippi, is likely your optimal choice.
There are plenty of other online options for fine-tuning your data science knowledge, skills, and abilities (see below) via MOOCs or supplementary coursework in database systems, machine learning, SQL, Python, R, and several other data science tools and scientific processes. The take away here is that a computer science and/or math undergraduate degree is the prime foundation for becoming a data scientist. So, the dearth of specific data science programs in the state of Mississippi is not at all problematic.
On-Campus Graduate Data Science Programs in Mississippi
As of this writing, there is only one on-campus data science graduate program in Mississippi, and this is housed at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. But, it cannot be emphasized enough that you do not need a degree with “data science” in the title in order to gain employment as a data scientist. Repeatedly, employers are seeking the essential triangle of advanced math and statistics, programming skills, and business knowledge, meaning you have an expertise in a specific industry. However, this last requirement is far more flexible than the others.
On-Campus Data Science Masters Programs in Mississippi
Machine learning is a combination of math and statistics, and depending on the employer’s size and scope, you’ll likely be working with massive datasets using SQL, and collaborating with data engineers or database administrators to build pipelines for funneling the data into an analyzable format. A Master’s Degree in Computer Science, such as can be found at the University of Mississippi, will provide the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities for a data science career. If there are additional courses available in database systems, data engineering, and business analytics, then taking these as electives is highly recommended.
As previously mentioned, The University of Mississippi Medical Center has designed an on-campus Master’s Degree in Biostatistics and Data Science. Over a two year period, you’ll utilize bioinformatics data and apply statistical analysis via R, SAS, Stata, and Python. By the end of your degree program, you will know how to extract, store, manipulate, and analyze extremely large datasets using machine learning techniques. To be considered a viable candidate for admission, you’ll need to have completed a STEM undergraduate degree (they indicate this as “a relevant scientific discipline” but clarify no further as to what, exactly, that means) with a minimum 3.0 GPA. As is the case for a majority of graduate degree programs, you’ll need to submit GRE scores and, if you’re an international student, scores for either the TOEFL or IELTS English proficiency exams.
On-Campus Data Science Graduate Certificates in Mississippi
Mississippi is still in the process of catching on to the educational demand for data science. As such, there are no on-campus data science graduate certificates available within the Magnolia State.
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Mississippi
When you reach the Ph.D. educational level, the degree selections narrow even further. This is the case regardless of the university, the only difference being that “narrow” is relative to the size of the university. For example, the high ranking universities such as the Ivy Leagues will be able to offer more Ph.D. choices due to their funding and student interest.
In terms of the Mississippi academic system, Jackson State does have a Ph.D. program that aligns with the data science career path: Ph.D. Computational and Data-Enabled Science and Engineering. You’ll have a choice between five concentrations, each of which encompasses data science. Your decision should be interest based. Ph.D. programs are extraordinarily arduous and frequently wrought with angst as well as unforeseen delays (life always has a way of disrupting our best intentions). One of the things that will help carry you through a 5 to 7-year commitment is your interest in a specific topic, or concentration, within your chosen academic field.
For those of you interested in a combination of data science and biostatistics, the University of Mississippi Medical Center offers a Ph.D. in Biostatistics and Data Science. Plan for a 5-year commitment where you’ll be able to earn a Master’s in Biostatistics and Data Science after you’ve completed 60 credit hours. Keep in mind that Ph.D. programs are research degrees. The university will expect you to “create systems that turn vast amounts of data into actionable evidence.” Thus, this expectation moves beyond merely learning and applying: you’ll need to create something new through extensive research design, analysis, implementation, along with publishing research in applicable academic journals.
A Bachelor’s Degree in a STEM field and verifiable training in calculus and linear algebra are the essential prerequisites for program candidacy. Also be prepared to submit three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and either share a link to your Github repository which demonstrates both statistical and programming knowledge or a presentation (e.g., Pitch Deck, Slide Deck, PowerPoint, etc.) that details a data science project you’ve completed. As usual, GRE scores are required and international students will need to submit either TOEFL, IELTS or PTE-A English proficiency scores.
Online Data Science Degree Programs in Mississippi
While Mississippi universities have a collection of online graduate programs, those with a data science orientation, e.g., math, statistics, computer science, are fewer in number. There are no online Bachelor’s in Data Science currently available.
Mississippi State offers a Master’s Degree in Computational Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Information Systems through its Distance Education Department. Granted, neither of these degrees appear to be directly associated with data science. On the contrary, one of the primary reasons that employers emphasize a STEM undergrad or graduate degree is due to the quantitative scientific reasoning and research that are a common thread throughout a majority of hard science programs.
Online Data Science Masters Programs in Mississippi
To illustrate, the Master’s Degree in Information Systems at Mississippi State will include database design and information system infrastructure. An understanding of the operational, tactical, and strategic levels of the database you’re pulling data from will help you to understand how your mathematical and statistical models impact internal and external stakeholders. Notably, some employers — who aren’t quite certain of the responsibility separation between a data scientist or a data engineer or they’re looking for a “full stack” data scientist — will expect you to build your own data pipelines. Either way, a solid foundation in database systems increases the likelihood that employers will place you at the top of their interview and hire lists.
Online Data Science Graduate Certificates in Mississippi
As with the on-campus data science graduate certificate, at this time, only the master’s and Ph.D. degrees discussed herein (or listed below) are available with regard to the data science or a parallel concentration. We will update the list as soon as either on-campus or online data science graduate certificates (or both) are launched by a Mississippi University.
Online Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Mississippi
Currently, there are no Ph.D. level data science programs available via the online format through a Mississippi university. However, if you intend on staying in Mississippi, but still want to pursue an online Ph.D. program, there are other non-Mississippi options. There is another caveat: online Ph.D. programs in Data Science are still scarce. One exception is the Ph.D. in Data Science offered by Northcentral University. Review online Ph.D. programs closely to not only ensure that the institution offering the degree is accredited but also to discern the institutions overall quality. Earning a Ph.D. doesn’t automatically place you at the top of the employment pile. Employers — or their human resource gatekeepers — are focused on how your expertise/prior learning provides value to their enterprise. So, you’ll need to keep that in mind throughout any academic program, whether undergraduate or graduate, you choose to complete.