Data Science Degree Programs in Virginia
According to the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP), the Old Dominion State hosts the headquarters of 39 Fortune 1000 companies. There’s CarMax in Richmond, Dollar Tree Stores in Chesapeake, and mortgage company Freddie Mac and hotel giant Hilton Worldwide in Fairfax county.
Those heavy hitters stand alongside an economy bolstered by cybersecurity firms, advanced manufacturing companies, and data centers that facilitate around 70% of the world’s internet traffic every day. On top of that, the state is home to six unmanned aircraft test sites used by the FAA and two NASA research facilities.
Career Outlook for Data Scientists in Virginia
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says Virginia employs an impressive 3,650 data scientists as of their May 2021 occupational survey. Notably, the BLS reports that there are also 16,930 information security analysts, 68,250 software developers, and 4,340 database architects employed in the state.
Despite an already robust job market, a report published by the Virginia Employment Commission shows positive employment trends for multiple industries in which data scientists often work. Between the first quarter of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022:
- Employment in the professional, scientific, and technical services sector has increased by over 9,000 jobs.
- Transportation and warehousing employment has increased by almost 8,000.
- Employment in the information sector has increased by about 3,600.
- Employment in finance and insurance has increased by 1,550.
Overall, it appears that Virginia has a strong career outlook for data scientists.
Data Scientist Salary
The slight downside is that resident data scientists will pay approximately 13% more for their overall cost of living expenses. Housing is a whopping 35% more than the national average.
So, there’s a trade-off. Virginia seems to have ample job opportunities for data scientists, but your cost of living will consume a good chunk of that six-figure salary.
On-Campus Undergraduate Data Science Programs in Virginia
George Mason University, located in Manassas, Virginia, offers an on-campus undergraduate degree in Computational and Data Sciences.
You’ll take the usual undergraduate general education requirements (e.g., English, Social Science, etc.) to meet the 120 credits needed for graduation.
However, during your Sophomore and Senior years, you’ll complete the CDS core which will provide you with comprehensive coursework that meets all of the essential data science competencies including:
- Linear Algebra
- Calculus I and II
- Probability and Statistics
- Scientific Data Mining
- Scientific Data and Databases
- Python, SQL, and R
There are no specific application requirements in terms of prior data science or programming language experience. High school students do need to submit SAT or ACT test scores, and George Mason does accept students who’ve already completed an initial bachelor’s degree.
On-Campus Graduate Data Science Programs in Virginia
You have a few graduate-level choices for data science or data-science oriented degree programs in the “Old Dominion State.”
One option is the Master’s Degree in Computer Science offered through Old Dominion University. Their list of courses isn’t completely clear (unfortunately). But, you are required to complete core courses Computer Architecture and Foundations of Computing or Algorithms and Data Structures.
While it’s difficult to tell which data science competencies this meets beyond the math and computer programming languages, most computer science programs (at the very least) fulfill the data engineering side of data science. As a matter of fact, you do not need a degree in data science to become a data scientist.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Science may actually provide you with a broader array of career choices (including data engineer).
On-Campus Data Science Master’s Programs in Virginia
The University of Virginia has created a Data Science Institute where you can earn an on-campus Master of Science in Data Science. This is an 11-month program that is specifically designed to take you through advanced math and statistical coursework within a data science context:
- Programming and Systems for Data Science
- Linear Models for Data Science
- Practice and Application for Data Science
- Ethics of Big Data
- Machine Learning
The admissions team is not partial to any particular undergraduate degree. But, if you’re lacking in math courses such as Single Variable Calculus or Intro to Statistics, you’ll need to complete these prerequisites prior to diving into the master’s program.
On-Campus Data Science Graduate Certificates in Virginia
If you’re not yet certain that you want to pursue a data science master’s degree, earning a data science graduate certificate allows you to “dip your toe in” the extensive financial and time commitment of a master’s program.
George Mason University offers a 15 credit Graduate Certificate in Data Science (on-campus) that will give you a snapshot of the data science core competencies:
- Scientific Data and Databases
- Computational Science Tools
- Intro to Scientific Programming
- Scientific Information and Data Visualization
To be considered for admission, you need to present proof that you have coursework or other demonstrable experience in a STEM-field. Plus, they’ll look for coursework in differential equations and you should have intermediate to advanced knowledge (and application) in a computer programming language (they don’t specify preferences such as Python, C++, etc.).
On-Campus Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Virginia
To be forthright, Ph.D.s are for those academicians who are willing to sacrifice an inordinate amount of time and energy. This is particularly true for STEM Ph.D.s (but non-STEM are formidable in their own right).
The other aspect to consider is that Ph.D. programs in Data Science aren’t widely available.
So, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to select a data-science oriented or related program.
George Mason University has an on-campus Ph.D. in Computational Sciences and Informatics, a 72-credit program that includes coursework in:
- Numerical Methods
- Scientific Databases
- High-Performance Computing
- Scientific and Statistical Visualization.
If this sounds like the perfect path for your data science career objectives, be prepared to submit proof that you have mathematical proficiency (including differential equations) and intermediate to advanced knowledge of C, C++, FORTRAN, or another high-level language.
Online Data Science Degree Programs in Virginia
Online options for data science in Virginia are slim. But, Old Dominion University does offer an online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, a reasonable alternative to earning an undergraduate degree in data science.
Data science is the intersection of math, statistics, computer programming, and business or industry proficiency. Focusing on one of these core components via a specific academic program doesn’t preclude entering the data science career path.
Your coursework in Data Structures and Algorithms and Problem Solving and Programming are directly applicable to data science. Furthermore, you’ll need to take higher-level math courses (up through Calculus, at the very least), so a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science does meet a minimum of two data science core competencies: programming language expertise and upper-division math.
Online Data Science Master’s Programs in Virginia
While slightly more outside of the data science core competency essentials described above, Liberty University has a fully online Master’s Degree in Information Systems available. This is more in line with the business side of the data science Venn Diagram as your courses consist of Executive Leadership and Management, Enterprise Models, IT Infrastructure, and Systems Analysis, Modeling and Design.
Supplementing this degree with a graduate certificate in data science or other data science coursework is an ideal way to achieve the data science core competencies.
Online Data Science Graduate Certificates in Virginia
Business analytics combines the analytical/statistical aspect of data science with the applied business element (all too frequently, the business knowledge factor is overlooked in data science programs; ultimately, to earn that six-figure salary, a business is going to be hiring you to help solve their business problems).
Old Dominion’s fully online Graduate Certificate in Business Analytics and Big Data is a 15-credit series of courses that focus on Intro to Statistics, Statistics for Managers, Multivariate Statistical Methods for Business, Advanced Business Analytics, and Database Management Systems. Despite the “business analytics” title, this program meets the statistics segment of the essential data science skillset.
Online Data Science Ph.D. Programs in Virginia
Online Ph.D. programs in data science, or in a related STEM-field, are hard to come by. The closest we could find is Radford University’s online Doctor of Health Sciences. Since they don’t clearly list the required coursework, it’s challenging to determine the level of data science applicability.
Among other admission requirements, you’ll need to have at least 4 years of experience either working or teaching in specific areas of healthcare.
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.