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New graduate programs aim to prepare future data scientists

Northeastern University will launch a new suite of interdisciplinary data science programs aimed at training the next generation of data managers and analysts, a particularly pressing need in light of the field’s ongoing talent shortage.

The suite will comprise four distinct programs, including graduate certificates in data science and urban informatics as well as master’s degrees in urban informatics and business analytics. In the future, Northeastern plans to offer additional graduate programs in fields like game analytics.

The programs will align with Northeastern’s focus on pursuing use-inspired, interdisciplinary research to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Indeed, the curriculum will harness the expertise of faculty members in three colleges: the College of Computer and Information Science, the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

Prospective students who have earned a bachelor’s degree may apply to any one of the four currently available programs, which will begin in either the spring or fall of 2015. Those who complete the certificate program in data science may transfer their credit to either of the master’s degree programs, while those who earn the certificate in urban informatics may transfer their credit to its graduate program.

Depending on the program, the courses will be delivered exclusively online or through a combination of online and on-campus instruction. In either case, all classes will leverage Northeastern’s signature experiential learning model, drawing on students’ professional experiences to make real-world connections with the subject matter.

A team of Northeastern faculty members designed the program’s curriculum to appeal to students who have little familiarity with data analytics. “Understanding and effectively presenting large volumes of data is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities faced by industries today,” added Bryan Lackaye, assistant dean of graduate programs at Northeastern. “The university’s data science programs were developed to address these emerging and critical needs.”

The programs will be rolled out at a particularly critical time, for the rapid evolution in the way businesses, research institutions, and governments produce, process, and analyze data has created a dearth of data science experts. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the demand for data analysts will exceed the supply by up to 60 percent by 2018, creating a need for 140,000 to 190,000 positions.

Northeastern’s new data science programs will train students to excel in these types of positions—which range from actuaries and internal auditors to database administrators and statistical modeling analysts—and prepare them to make an impact on how people view and understand data.

The graduate certificate in data science, for example, aims to improve students’ abilities to manage, analyze, and draw actionable insights from large volumes of data—core capabilities that can be applied to data driven decision-making in many disciplines.

“We designed the certificate program to appeal to a wide variety of students across the country and even around the world,” said machine learning expert Nick Beauchamp, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science who helped create the curriculum for the data science certificate. “We want Northeastern to become known as the place where you can learn a wide variety of skills for analyzing Big Data systematically.”

For more information on Northeastern’s data science programs, please visit

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