ALLAS TX/USA - MAY 21 2016: Joseph Wylie Fincher Building at Southern Methodist University. SMU is a private research university in Dallas University Park and Highland Park Texas.

Southern Methodist University Online Master of Science in Data Science

Why Southern Methodist University?

The online  Master of Science in Data Science offered by Southern Methodist University combines a technically-oriented curriculum with lots of opportunity for personal attention and collaboration. Southern Methodist University,  a large private, nonsectarian university in Dallas, Texas Applicants to the program should have a strong technical background and knowledge of computer science. They should also have completed at least one course in statistics; and two courses in calculus.

The GRE is required, but it can be waived, provided the applicant has at least five years of related work experience.

Program Snapshot

University NameSouthern Methodist University
LocationDallas
StateTexas
Niche.com GradeA+
Name of DegreeMaster of Science in Data Science
School or Department Administering ProgramSeveral
Credits33.5
Cost per credit$1,704
Tuition for Entire Program$57,084
Test RequirementsGRE but waived with at least five years of related work experience.
Minimum GPANot indicated
Prerequisite Courses and SkillsStrong technical background

knowledge of computer programming

One course in statistics

Two courses in calculus

Campus Visit Required?Yes, a three-day immersion experience
Typical Time to Complete20-28 months
When Can Students Start the Program?May, August, January
Program Concentrations
  • Machine Learning
  • Technical
Synchronous ClassesYes
Required Courses
  • Doing Data Science
  • Statistical Foundations for Data Science
  • Applied Statistics: Inference and Modeling
  • Visualization of Information
  • File Organization and Database Management
  • Machine Learning I
  • Quantifying the World
Does the Program Include a Capstone?Yes
Does the Program Include a Practicum or Internship?No
Other Features that Make the Program Unique
  • Capstone is a two-semester group project and results are presented at the on-campus immersion near the end of the final semester of the program
Program Objectives (quoted directly from the program)
  • Machine Learning Specialization
    • Pursuing highly technical careers
    • Understanding the structure of data through the use of an iterative approach
    • Utilizing advanced computational algorithms to build models that expand machine cognitive functions
    • Advancing automation and pattern recognition
    • Applying algorithms and models to solve complex problems
  • Business Analytics Specialization
    • Managing information and high-level business strategy
    • Synthesizing results and opportunity to meet business needs
    • Effectively visualizing and communicating results to diverse stakeholders
    • Translating technical analysis to qualitative action items
Program DescriptionThis 33.5-credit program offers a comprehensive curriculum and a unique on-campus immersion experience as part of the capstone project in the final semester. Students in the Machine Learning concentration are prepared for highly technical careers through the development of skills in modeling, automation, pattern recognition, and experimentation. Students in the Business Analytics concentration are prepared for careers using data analytics to inform business decision making, developing skills in information management, analytics, visualization, communication, and translating concepts for a range of stakeholders. A capstone, including a campus visit, is required. 

What will I Learn?

The Southern Methodist data science master’s degree is structured around two concentrations, with different program goals for each concentration. However, students in both concentrations take the same suite of required courses. All students take an introduction to the field called Doing Data Science and learn fundamental mathematical skills in Statistical Foundations for Data Science. They dive more deeply into data problems in Applied Statistics: Inference and Modeling, and learn the ropes of data management in File Organization and Database Management. They learn to communicate about data and explore it visually in a course on Visualization of Information and explore advanced algorithms in Machine Learning 1. Finally, they consolidate their knowledge of data wrangling, accessing data through APIs, performing analysis, and visualization in a course called Quantifying the World. Electives offered include Natural Language Processing, Data and Network Security, and Cloud Computing.

The SMU program offers two concentrations. Students in the Machine Learning concentration supplement the core courses with coursework preparing them for technical careers performing data analysis through machine learning, modeling, experimentation, and other methods. Students in the Business Analytics concentration are focused on future careers as managers, project managers, and team leaders performing as translators between technical functions and business functions.  Students in this concentration focus more on communication and management skills, while still becoming conversant in core concepts and techniques in data science.

All students in the Southern Methodist program must complete a capstone group project based on a real-world data problem. The results of this project are presented and discussed by instructors and students during the required on-campus immersion experience, scheduled near the end of the final semester of the program.

How much will the program cost?

Students finish their degree within 20-28 months and pay $1,704 per credit for a total of 33.5 credits, or just over $57,000.

How does the program fit into my life?

The Southern Methodist University program requires more scheduling than some other programs. Some course material is presented synchronously or at scheduled class times. This model allows students to engage in discussions in real-time with classmates and instructors, including in small group activities. Some other classes may have some asynchronous content, 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 schedule within the given week.

Summary

Students in the Southern Methodist University Master of Science in Data Science can expect to benefit from the resources and faculty of the well-respected Cox Business School and Lyle School of Engineering at this Dallas-based research powerhouse university. The program offers a greater degree of in-person and real-time instruction and student support than many other similar programs, and this higher involvement from instructors is reflected in the program’s high price tag. SMU enjoys a strong relationship with many Texas business and industry partners, and students interested in pursuing employment in the South or Southwest may have success in partnering with a dream employer for their required capstone project.

If you are looking for an online-only degree with lots of flexibility and a low cost, the SMU program will not meet your needs. As well, the two concentrations offered do not provide an in-depth focus on data science within a specific domain, such as health analytics or marketing. Students interested in a more domain-focused degree should look elsewhere.