University of Washington - Masters of Data Science Review

University of Washington- Masters of Data Science Review

University of Washington Master's in Data Science Review

Since launching in 2016, the University of Washington MSDS program has leveraged the university’s expertise and access to tech companies to become one of the best in the United States.

Six schools and departments were combined to form the MSDS, including the university’s highly regarded Paul Allen School of Computer Science and the Statistics program.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the UW MSDS program, including admissions, academic requirements, and fresh perspectives from UW graduates.

UW MSDS at a Glance:

  • Cost: $48,825
  • Time: 1.5-2.5 years (full-time vs. part-time)
  • Acceptance Rate: 13%
  • Cohort Size: 60 Students
  • Courses: 45 credit hours
  • Learning Platform: 100% In-Person on the Seattle campus
  • Upcoming Deadlines: Applications open in September 2023 for matriculation in Fall 2024

Key Benefits of the UW Program

Here are a few reasons that this is a popular Master’s of data science program:

  • Industry-Driven: The program has an Industry Advisory Board, which oversees curriculum changes and ensures that the MSDS degree continues to align with current industry needs and standards. This board is comprised of distinguished data science professionals from leading tech companies like Amazon, Boeing, Google, Microsoft, Meta, and more.
  • High Average Salary: From our survey of MSDS graduates, the average base salary for those with a Master’s degree is around $127K. UW reports that their graduates have a mean salary of $124K (base salary ranges from $91k-$186k), coming hot right out of the gate.
  • Broad Curriculum: Compared to other programs with narrower coursework, UW’s MSDS is designed to have students develop expertise in a wide range of fields, which we’ll describe further in the next section.

Program Overview

The first 40 hours of the program combine coursework from the following fields:

  • Statistical modeling
  • Data management and visualization
  • Machine learning
  • Software engineering
  • Research design
  • Data ethics
  • User experience.

Depending on the course, students can expect a strong emphasis on Python and R programming, as well as some assignments in Java.

The final five credits of the program are reserved for a Capstone Experience. This reflects the program’s desire to create data science practitioners, moving beyond just the learning of theory.

During these quarters, students work in small groups to solve real-world data science challenges in various sectors. At the end of these projects, students present their work to sponsoring organizations during a Capstone Event. Past sponsors include Adobe, Boeing, Microsoft, Zillow, and the Seattle Children’s Hospital, among others.

Admissions Requirements

Roughly 13% of applicants are admitted into the program, with 62 out of more than 1,000 applicants accepted for the class of 2022. In that year, roughly half of the admitted students were international. You do not have to take the GRE or GMAT for this program (they specify that there is no benefit to providing these standardized test scores).

To be considered for admission, applicants must have:

These requirements are typical for a program like this.

How are courses taught?

The program is 100% in-person, with no virtual options.

It is an interdisciplinary curriculum developed by leading faculty from six top-ranked departments and schools across the University of Washington:

Professors from each of these programs, as well as industry leaders, make up the faculty of the MSDS program.

Perspectives from UW MSDS Graduates

We talked with several UW MSDS graduates from the class of 2023 to learn more about their experiences in the program.

What was their background like before getting into an MSDS?

After completing degrees in fields like communications, computer science, and electronics, they found themselves drawn to the dynamic realm of data. Some had worked as data analysts for a number of years, which allowed them to build practical skills that served as a stepping stone into the program.

Some of these graduates had started off with data science internships, thanks to foundational skills like mathematics. Overall, COVID proved to be a major factor driving students into a full-time MSDS.

What made them want to pursue an MSDS program? How did they apply?

Most of our interviewees report feeling frustrated with gaps in their knowledge of data science, ML modeling, and other core concepts. They had started growing their skillset using Interview Query and LeetCode, which jumpstarted their move into the MSDS at UW.

How did the program help with their career?

Data science requires you to learn a million different skills, but you often find yourself going down online rabbit holes for good advice or information. It’s, therefore, really helpful to have structured Master’s programs, which bring everything together under one roof.

The UW MSDS also prioritized adding vetted external data science resources like Interview Query. With so much knowledge out there, our interviewees all agreed that they felt that a Master’s is the right way to move forward.

Are there any drawbacks to the program?

While the program is quite engaging, these graduates mentioned that they would’ve benefited from spending more time on job applications and less on solving linear algebra questions. With the rigorous coursework, they just didn’t feel like they had time to do extra interview preparation.

What other benefits did they enjoy from the program?

The Master’s program, in particular, is very complex, with exposure to quite a few disciplines. This has proved invaluable when applying for jobs where they could demonstrate familiarity with concepts and the capacity to learn, even without upfront mastery.

Would they recommend the program to others in the field?

Looking into the future, there’ll be greater in-person infrastructure in place to support UW MSDS students. The COVID-19 pandemic was tough for the 2021-2023 students since much of the coursework was moved online, and the program was developed to be purely in-person. Our interviewees think that this will definitely allow for more in-person networking.