Published: March 28, 2023

CU Boulder and the global online learning platform Coursera are seeing great success in the master’s in data science (MS-DS) degree they launched in 2021, with more than 1,300 students now enrolled per session. 

The MS-DS program, a joint interdisciplinary degree program of CU Boulder’s departments of Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Information Science and others, makes an advanced degree in a growing field more accessible through a streamlined, performance-based admissions process—which allows students to prove their ability to complete coursework instead of filling out an application—and a more affordable total tuition cost capped at $15,750. 

Working professionals can earn their degrees without taking on excess debt, and enterprises can reimburse full annual tuition for their employees.

“The enrollment numbers speak for themselves,” said Jane Wall, faculty director of CU Boulder’s data science program. “We are seeing marvelous success with this initial run of a degree that offers greater access to CU Boulder’s rich educational resources to the next generation of data scientists,” said Wall.

Defining features of the program include a flexible, asynchronous schedule that allows working professionals to engage with the coursework on their own time and the use of real-world industry datasets. Students in the MS-DS program can also participate in and earn credit toward an IBM Data Science Professional Certificate, which offers a hands-on opportunity to perform applied data science methods, models and techniques to a real-world problem.

As part of the collaboration with IBM, CU Boulder is offering graduate-level credit for those who have completed the professional certificate and who go on to finish a graduate capstone credit course in the MS-DS program. 

"We're thrilled to see the success of the master’s in data science degree from CU Boulder on Coursera and look forward to seeing it grow with this new IBM collaboration,” said Marni Baker Stein, chief content officer at Coursera. “This program exemplifies the learning experience that working adults want. Degrees like this can increase access to high-quality education while paving the path to new job opportunities for learners from all backgrounds.”

To receive 1 credit toward their MS-DS program at CU Boulder, students will need to upload their certificate of completion from the IBM Applied Data Science Capstone Course (the last course in the specialization) and also pass a graded assessment by CU Boulder faculty covering the material from the capstone course. Students can choose from one of two options to take advantage of earning both the IBM certificate and CU graduate credit. 

“IBM is delighted to collaborate with CU Boulder as part of their master’s in data science program,” said Leon Katsnelson, director and chief technology officer, IBM Skills Network. “We are very happy the thousands of graduates of the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate program will be eligible to go on to earn credit through the MS-DS program at CU Boulder.”

CU Boulder’s leadership was equally laudatory on how its collaboration is serving the campus’s teaching and learning mission. 

“CU Boulder is interested in online innovations that support our on-campus students, and a global student audience in pursuing their personal and professional goals,” said Robert H. McDonald, senior vice provost of online education. “We plan to build on this experience so we can continue to deliver educational offerings that put students first and that leverage the best of our world-class faculty.”