Skip to main content

Best Master’s in Data Science Programs for 2024: UCI Ranks #6

UCI moves up a spot on Fortune’s list of the top master’s degree programs in data science.

#6 Best in Master's in Data Science, Fortune 2024

“Data scientist” is the third fastest growing occupation, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic, with a median pay of $103,500 per year. “Data science is more popular than ever, and there’s no sign the industry’s growth is slowing down anytime soon,” reads a Fortune article explaining the methodology behind its 2024 ranking of the top in-person master’s degree programs in data science. The article goes on to explain the three components of its ranking: selectivity, success, and demand.

Coming in at #6 is UC Irvine’s Master of Data Science (MDS) professional graduate program, offered through the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). The program, which welcome its first cohort in 2021, moved up a spot from Fortune’s inaugural 2022 ranking and remains the only UC school on the list.

“Our program has an ambitious goal of being first in class for data science — not only on the curriculum side but also in terms of being integrated within the local orange county ecosystem,” says MDS Program Director Bryan Muñoz. “We want to be the epicenter for tech talent.”

Designed for High Impact
The program combines a solid curriculum with practical experience and professional development. With pioneering faculty from the Department of Statistics and the Department of Computer Science, both housed in the School of ICS, students receive hands-on training in applied probability and mathematical statistics, statistical modeling and computing, machine learning, data management and visualization, and artificial intelligence. Then they apply those skills in two capstone project courses, addressing real-world problems, and receive one-on-one support from the MDS career services team.

“Being part of this program has really opened my eyes regarding the vast applications of data science,” says Sebastian Algharaballi-Yanow, a student in the current cohort serving as an MDS program ambassador. “Our balanced and relevant curriculum, along with stellar support from program management, has led me down a pathway of exploration and growth that has been simply invaluable. I’ve never felt more prepared to make an immediate impact in the industry.”

Fellow student and program ambassador Pranav Agarwal agrees. “MDS @ UCI has effectively bridged the divide between computer science and data science through its comprehensive curriculum and well-designed syllabus, which swiftly covers statistical concepts applicable in everyday life,” he says. “The program’s ranking speaks to its wealth of resources and opportunities.”

Students standing in front of a wall at UCI with artwork portraying two strong arms. The students are raising their arms as well, showing their strength.
MDS ambassadors show their UCI pride: (from left) Pranav Agarwal, Serena Alvarez, Angela Lombard and Sebastian Algharaballi-Yanow.

A Program for Change
Only in its third year, the program is experiencing remarkable growth, welcoming its largest cohort yet.

“The last three years have been extremely rewarding for our program — from the initial ranking to this new ranking — we continue to grow,” says Bin Nan, Chancellor’s Professor in Statistics and MDS Faculty Director. “We have spent our effort focusing on offering the most rigorous and industry-forward curriculum, something our Statistics and Computer Science Departments play a pivotal role in.”

Yet the focus isn’t only on growth. “While our cohorts have grown, we also focus on the social challenge of the tech landscape by being a program for change,” stresses Muñoz. For example, through its capstone project course, the program has supported Advance OC, a local nonprofit working to address inequities throughout Orange County. The program also supports underrepresented students with its Empowering Diversity Scholarship and Veteran’s Scholarship. “MDS is a changemaker, and we will continue the work to produce the best talent from around the world.”

Shani Murray