The MS in Computer Science-Data Science specialization at Maharishi University of Management recently received the unique distinction of being named the best master’s program of its kind in Iowa.
In its first annual review of all 290 accredited schools in the U.S. offering similar grad degrees, DataScienceGraduatePrograms.com found MUM to be among the very best, giving us the #1 spot for Iowa on its list of Top Data Science Graduate Programs for 2018.
To come up with these recommendations, reviewers sifted through a list of 290 data science master’s and graduate certificate programs by hand.
As much as possible, they looked for programs that included multiple required courses covering core subjects such as:
Inferential and Descriptive Statistics
Linear and Logistic Regression
Time Series and Forecasting
A multi-disciplinary program including courses and instructors from computer science and applied mathematics or statistics departments ranked more highly than single department programs.
Because data science blends together essential elements from at least those fields (and often from others, including biostatistics, which draws on heath and medical education) they judged that programs built by professors from both houses were more likely to cover all the bases.
Database and Data Theory Education
The secret sauce that makes data science, data science, is the use of automated data processing elements in statistical analysis. So they searched for programs that included an education in data structures and database theory.
Hands-on work with relational and non-relational data stores were a big plus, in their view, to build on that theoretical education. Dedicated data modeling courses and capstone projects that required genuine database creation or manipulation were also excellent signs of a useful education.
Coding Courses With Teeth
The other aspect of data processing is coding. Data scientists apply their analytical training to information stored in data structures through expressions and algorithms crafted in programming languages heavily used in the profession, like R, Python and Java.
They selected programs that included genuine, hands-on programming work. Although most data science programs require some coding experience as a condition of entry, they looked for those gems that also continued the education in the more specialized aspects of languages and coding specific to data science.
This also extended to coverage of the latest techniques used in data analysis. Data mining, machine learning, and advanced visualization were important courses they looked for.
Instructors With The Right Stuff
Data science is a new field and it’s one that is largely being defined in practice rather than theory. That means that the big players are active in government, industry, and academia alike. On-the-ground experience working with the systems that are collecting, processing, and analyzing big data is invaluable when it comes to training others how to do the work.
So reviewers looked for programs that included faculty with current or recent experience in real-world projects outside academia, where the practical considerations of employers and users come into play. Adjunct professors with day jobs working with big data were a big plus.
Since data science is so new, they had to look at some proxy elements to judge programs. They always like to consider reputation in the industry, and in many cases they had to look at the parent department or college generally instead of the individual program. However, they did try to account for graduate placement as an indicator of reputation and preparation.
If the school had a dedicated data lab where professors and students partnered with outside businesses and agencies, they also counted that highly.
To a much lesser extent, website and the availability of information played a factor. Data science draws people who like data and have an interest in technology. It’s 2018, and if an academic department dealing in a computational science puts together a website that looks like a 12-year-old built it in 2001, or can’t provide easy online access to course descriptions and offerings, it’s time to run the other way.
The Very Best Data Science Grad Programs by State
Maharishi University of Management
Although the Maharishi program is focused first on a traditional computer science education, with all the emphasis on core networking and programming skills that entails, it’s also a unique world center for the integration of traditional self-development with this most modern area of technical study. The inclusion of proven meditation techniques here only reinforces how serious this program is about preparing students for real-world work in data science. The optional 8-month internship for full credit provides genuine on-the-job experience, building your resume and putting you into direct contact with real data scientists doing real work, all before you graduate.
The base program specializes in training on software systems and development and the data science option piggybacks on this strength with concrete training in hot data analysis technologies like R, Hadoop, Spark, Flume, and HBase. Overviews of other NoSQL approaches and cloud-based tools like AWS and Cloudera are also taught. Finally, you’ll work with IBM’s SPSS modeler application, diving into text analytics and data mining to learn predictive modeling skills.