Northwestern University Online Master of Science in Data Science, Illinois

Why Northwestern University?

The online Master of Science in Data Science offered by Northwestern University emphasizes the tools and techniques of data science within business environments, with a special focus on management skills for data-intensive processes and teams. Northwestern University, a large private research university in Evanston, Illinois, does not require standardized test scores for application, with the exception of TOEFL scores if applicable. A minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.00  is expected.

Program Snapshot

University Name Northwestern University
Location Evanston
State Illinois Grade A+
Name of Degree Master of Science in Data Science
School or Department Administering Program School of Professional Studies
Credits 36
Cost per credit $1,984
Tuition for Entire Program $71,424
Test Requirements TOEFL if applicable
Minimum GPA 3.00
Prerequisite Courses and Skills None
Campus Visit Required? No
Typical Time to Complete Two years
When Can Students Start the Program? Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring
Program Concentrations
  • Analytics and Modeling
  • Analytics Management
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data Engineering
  • General Data Science
Synchronous Classes No
Required Courses
  • Math for Data Scientists
  • Applied Statistics with R
  • Introduction to Data Science or Data Science in Practice — Database Systems and Data Preparation
  • Practical Machine Learning
  • Decision Analytics
  • Project Management or
  • Business Leadership and Communications
  • Capstone or Thesis
Does the Program Include a Capstone? Yes
Does the Program Include a Practicum or Internship? No
Other Features that Make the Program Unique
  • Interesting electives in sports analytics, analytics entrepreneurship, analytics consulting
  • Interesting specialization in analytics management
Program Objectives (quoted directly from the program) none provided
Program Description This 36 credit program offers students training in fundamental skills and approaches of data science at all stages of the data lifecycle. Students learn the fundamentals of math and statistics for data science, database systems and data preparation, practical machine learning, decision analytics, and project management and business leadership skills. Five concentrations are offered:  Analytics and Modeling, Analytics Management, Artificial Intelligence, Data Engineering, and General Data Science.  A capstone or thesis is required.

What will I Learn?

The Northwestern program offers a balance between electives and required courses.  The emphasis throughout is learning the skills and techniques of data science throughout the data lifecycle in order to enable organizations to make data-driven decisions. Students begin with the program by taking a course in Math for Data Scientists and then learn programming in a course on Applied Statistics with R.  They are also required to take Introduction to Data Science or Data Science in Practice, as well as Database Systems and Data Preparation. Advanced techniques of data science are taught in Practical Machine Learning and Decision Analytics.  Students gain skills and experience in attacking business problems through required courses in either Project Management or Business Leadership and Communications.  Students then have an opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge they have learned through a final capstone project exploring a data-intensive problem. 

The Northwestern program offers four specializations or concentrations. The Analytics and Modeling concentration teaches students the tools of predictive modeling and forecasting in the fields of finance, marketing, and other business disciplines. The Analytics Management Specialization is aimed at students who wish to take management roles in data-intensive businesses, preparing them with the communication and management strategies to bring teams together and use data science to improve business processes and results. Artificial Intelligence Specialization focuses on the technique of machine learning to teach students to perform tasks in computer vision, natural language processing, and software robotics. The Data Engineering Specialization focuses on the systems underlying data science, including data collection, security, and organization. Students may also choose to pursue a non-specialized degree. 

The Northwestern University program also has the distinct advantage of allowing students to apply credits that they have earned in an online Micromasters from Edx. Therefore students can try out the data science field in a risk-free way by taking one or two courses from Edx and then decide to pursue the Micromasters and finally, the masters from Northwestern. Students can first take the MIT EdX Micromasters in Statistics and Data Science, and then if they have completed that program, they can take nine more courses from Northwestern to attain the degree. Some concentrations are not offered through the Micromasters pathway. 

How much will the program cost?

Students finish their degree within two years and pay $1,984 per credit for a total of 36 credits, or just over $70,000.

How does the program fit into my life?

All courses are asynchronous, meaning that instructors create learning materials such as lectures, activities, quizzes, assignments, and group discussions in weekly modules, and students are responsible for completing the module on their own schedule within the given week.  The program can be completed 100% online, and no campus visits are required.  The program is usually completed in 2 years. Students can begin the program in Summer, Fall, Winter, or Spring.


The Northwestern University program offers a distinctive mix of required courses and electives, including specialized electives in sports analytics, and analytics entrepreneurship, and analytics consulting.  It will especially appeal to students who are aspiring to management or leadership roles within organizations, particularly if they choose the specialization in Analytics Management.  The opportunity to use credits from the Edx Micromasters in Statistics and Data Science will also make the degree very appealing to students who want more flexibility as they start graduate study, or who have already completed some courses within the Micromasters program. 

The emphasis within the Northwestern program on business processes and results may be less relevant to the goals of students who wish to work in science or in nonprofits. The program is also at the high end of the price range for data science master’s programs, but some students may find that they are willing to pay a higher price for the Northwestern curriculum and for the Northwestern name.