College of Charleston’s MS in Data Science and Analytics

by Barry Waldman

Ashley Dowd graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in physics and an interest in adding to her toolbox with deeper knowledge of data science. She enrolled in the master’s degree program in Data Science and Analytics at CofC during Covid, and completed the program with a degree of ultra-personalized instruction.

Upon graduation, instructors offered their counsel and contacts to students, helping Dowd land a job as a data scientist at Bear Cognition, a North Charleston-based data intelligence firm.

The master’s program in data science links students with an array of post-graduate career opportunities.

What is Data Science?

Data scientists organize and analyze massive amounts of data, a skill that is invaluable to any enterprise using information. It has revolutionized the way we collect, analyze and interpret data, making it applicable to every industry, says program director Dr. Navid Hashemi, an assistant professor of computer science.

“For instance, in marketing, data science is being used to target advertising, predict customer behavior and develop new products and services,” he said.

“That’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades,” said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google and UC Berkeley professor of information sciences, business, and economics.

Indeed, data scientists are in tremendous demand across industries and around the world. Large local companies like Boeing, Volvo, Bosch, Booz Allen Hamilton and Mercedes-Benz Vans employ data scientists and provide internships for CofC graduate students. The median starting salary for those with a master’s in data science hovers around $100,000.

Who Studies Data Science?

The master’s in data science and analytics at College of Charleston accepts students from diverse academic backgrounds with competency in the areas of statistics, linear algebra, calculus, and computer programming. Dr. Hashemi says the admissions process is primarily focusing on evaluating applicants’ background in the areas of statistics, linear algebra, calculus and computer programming. The degree can lead to careers in artificial intelligence, machine learning, business intelligence, national security, genomics, drug informatics, biomedical informatics and many other fields.

The master’s degree is 30 credits and can be completed in 12 months, though most students, particularly those who are already working full-time, take 18 months or two years to graduate. It includes six required courses and two electives, and either a thesis or practicum experience. If students choose the thesis option they work with a professor on a research project to complete a dissertation. If they choose the practicum option, they are involved in a real-world project working with an industry advisor.

Ashley Dowd had her practicum at the global automotive engineering firm Bosch, and parlayed that into her current position. She says the data engineering course she took at CofC, which examines the architecture behind data analysis, has helped her understand the underlying logic of her analysis. She says the attention she received from her professors in the master’s program gave her an edge.

“I’m working as a data analyst but already using everything I did in the master’s program,” she said. “CofC offers such an individualized experience and professors’ connections that they are willing to share with you.”

The final deadline for applications for the fall semester is July 1. For more information, visit