Data science is more popular than ever, and there’s no sign the industry’s growth is slowing down anytime soon. In fact, data scientists are the third fastest growing occupation in the entire country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In order to attract top talent, many companies are more than willing to dish out six-figure salaries—even for entry-level candidates. The mean salary for data scientists is $115,240, the labor bureau reports.
Even though there are a number of ways to gain the in-demand data science skills like data analysis, machine learning, and programming, obtaining a traditional graduate-level degree is one proven pathway that is likely to be rewarding. And while the field is relatively new, dozens of universities are increasingly creating master’s degree programs to address student interest in learning how to properly wrangle the vast amounts of data that is produced everyday.
This is why Fortune has compiled a list of the best in-person data science degree programs—to help you discern which programs may yield the best results for your education and career. In total, we ranked 29 programs for the 2024 ranking.
Our final ranking is made up of three components: Selectivity, Success, and Demand Scores.
Selectivity score (45%)
As more data science degree options get off the ground, it is clear that the best programs have both world-class faculty and relevant curriculum. But that’s not all: They should also attract some of the brightest and most driven students. The post-college success (or lack of success) of those alumni helps to shape how the outside world will view that program. It’s also why Fortune put so much weight on the strength of a school’s incoming class.
To calculate the Selectivity Score, the average undergraduate GPA of incoming students is considered. Then, we weighted each programs’ acceptance rate. Universities that are the most challenging to get accepted into tend to attract a stronger cohort of students.
Success score (40%)
Once students are in the classroom, a variety of factors can affect their willingness to stick it out until the end. What’s clear is that the quality and support systems within a program can affect student success, and the outcomes of a degree program is critical. That’s why we look at the retention and graduation rates of programs.
Demand score (15%)
In an increasingly competitive industry, being able to attract top students year after year is important. Not only is it indicative of program success, but it also helps build a strong alumni network. To look at demand, we considered both the enrollment size of programs and the number of applicants for the most recent year.
Prior to the release of the 2024 ranking, Fortune discussed the overall data science industry with leading experts. They provided insight into the growing importance of data, the skills needed to excel in the field, and what factors they would look out for when looking at educational pathways. While their perspectives helped guide Fortune’s methodology, they were not involved in the ranking of any programs.
Meghan Malas contributed to this piece.