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Data Science Education at Carnegie Mellon University: Demand for Analytics Skills

By   /  December 15, 2016  /  No Comments

eg_cmu_112416The wide acceptance and demand for Data Science education is reflected in the variety of graduate programs at Carnegie Mellon University. There are nine degree programs offered through four schools, emphasizing different aspects of analytics. Two degrees, the Master’s in Machine Learning and Master’s in Computational Data Science emphasize the computer science elements; the Master’s in Statistical Practice emphasizes statistics; and the remaining six programs emphasize applications across domains including business, public policy, and education.

Master of Public Policy and Management, Data Analytics Track

Heinz College offers a Master’s in Public Policy and Management program that prepares graduates to apply analytics to the challenges of government at federal, state, and local levels. Most students in the program have an undergraduate degree in business or a scientific, technical, or engineering discipline. The program takes two years to complete.

The focus on public policy adds a unique challenge to Data Analysis: the data do not lead to a decision based on the bottom line, but feed into the democratic process, where multiple stakeholders have input. The program includes courses on decision frameworks and methods to prepare students for this environment in addition to typical analytics coursework in statistics, programming, Machine Learning, and data mining. Students participate in summer internships and a semester-long project to apply their skills to real problems.

Master of Information Systems Management, Business Intelligence, and Data Analytics Concentration

Heinz College also offers the Master’s of Information Systems Management degree, which blends business and technology. The MISM at Heinz program is ranked #1 on the US News & World Report graduate school rankings for Information and Technology Management. Graduates of the program find employment across industries including banking, consulting, and technology.

There are several approaches to completing the MISM/BIDA program. The traditional MISM program takes three semesters and includes a summer internship. Those students who come to the program with significant work experience can omit the internship and obtain the degree within a calendar year. Students can also choose to extend the program of study over two years, with one year in Adelaide, Australia and the second year on the Pittsburgh campus.

Students take courses that form the MISM core, the BIDA core, and BIDA electives. Courses span business and technology, covering topics such as databases, programming in R and using Hadoop, professional writing and speaking, data mining, econometrics, data visualization, and managing analytics projects. A project capstone has students working in teams to solve real-world problems for a business client.

Master of Business Administration, Business Analytics Track

The Tepper School of Business at CMU offers an MBA degree with a business analytics emphasis, preparing graduates for career in consulting, IT, analytical marketing, or financial data analysis. The degree requires two years to complete. There are four core courses required for the analytics track, including operations research, data mining, strategic IT, and an analytics project. Students also fulfill MBA requirements that provide a foundation in probability and statistics, economics, marketing, and finance, among other business skill, and also practice the necessary leadership and communication skills in focused workshops.

Master of Computational Data Science

The School of Computer Science’s Language Technology Institute offers the Master’s in Computational Data Science, a year-and-a-half long program resulting in a professional master’s degree that qualifies students for software engineering jobs at technology companies. The program emphasizes technical topics including databases, distributed algorithms, Machine Learning, and human-computer interaction. Internship and capstone projects place the coursework into a real-world context. Due to the technical content, the MCDS requires an undergraduate degree in computer science, computer engineering, or related fields.

There are three majors within the MCDS program, systems, analytics, and human-centered Data Science; the required classes vary by major. The standard course of study requires 16 months to complete the degree, though an extended 20-month program or accelerated 12-month program are also possible. The school also allows part-time study that completes the coursework over several years.

Admission to the School of Computer Science is competitive. Students must have a GPA 3.0 or higher, submit GRE scores, and submit official transcripts from every university attended. Non-native English-speakers must also submit TOEFL scores; a minimum score of 100 is necessary. In addition to the academic documentation, students need to provide a resume, statement of purpose, and three letters of recommendation.

Master of Intelligent Information Systems

The Language Technology Institute also awards the Master’s in Intelligent Information Systems. This program, for students with a computer science or related technical background, prepares graduates for work in software engineering jobs at technology companies and takes 16 months to complete. The degree focuses on processing and analytics techniques applied to semi- or unstructured data such as text, image, and speech.

Students spend about half their time in graduate courses related to language and Machine Learning; the rest of the program requires advisor-supervised project work in constructing systems using new algorithms. In addition to research projects with faculty, students complete an internship and a team capstone project.

Master of Language Technologies

While the Language Technology Institute’s other degrees are professional programs preparing students for careers, the Master’s in Language Technologies is a research degree that prepares students to continue with Ph.D. studies as well as work in industry. The program focuses on areas such as speech and language processing, Machine Learning, machine translation, information retrieval, and computational biology.

Requiring two years to complete, students in the program take 10 graduate courses and optionally complete a Master’s thesis.

Master of Education Technologies

Also within the School of Computer Science, the Human Computer Interaction Institute offers a Master’s in Educational Technology and Applied Learning Science. Students with backgrounds in psychology and education as well as computer science and information technology and business are qualified to enroll. The program consists of seven core courses around e-learning and interfaces, plus five electives, along with a capstone project for an external client, and takes one year to complete.

 Master of Machine Learning

The Machine Learning Department within the School of Computer Science offers a Master’s in Machine Learning to students with background in computer science, statistics, or related fields. The one and a half year program can serve as preparation for a career in industry or for additional academic study. There are five required courses related to machine learning, statistics, algorithms, optimization, and databases. A data analysis project is also required.

Master of Statistical Practice

The Department of Statistics within the Dietrich College of Humanities & Social Sciences offers a one-year professional Master’s in Statistical Practice. A strong math and statistics background is required, with programming knowledge an additional necessity. The program teaches statistical methods and data analysis, along with professional skills. A client project is also required for the degree. Admission to the program is competitive, with fewer than 15 percent of applicants accepted. Graduates find positions as data analysts and data scientists in industry and in government.

Assess Your Goals to Select the Most Appropriate Program

The wide variety of Data Science education programs at CMU requires that prospective students carefully evaluate their preparation and their goals in order to select the program most appropriate to their background and their ambition. Whether students wish to work in business, government, or academia, one or more of CMU’s Data Science master’s programs will provide the knowledge required for success.

About the author

Elissa brings a practitioner's insight to her writing about information technology. She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from Cornell University and an M.S. in Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where her thesis dealt with testing expert systems. Before becoming a writer, she put her technical training to use as a software developer and project manager at a defense consulting firm, a major telecommunications company, and one of the largest financial institutions in the United States.

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