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UCI’s New Data Science Masters Picks Up Steam

High Ranking by Fortune; 1st Grads in December

The new Master of Data Science program at the University of California, Irvine is already a force to be reckoned with.

The professional program, offered through the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences, was recently ranked No. 7 in the county by Fortune magazine. It was the only UC program to make the inaugural list of the country’s top in-person master’s degree programs in data science, and along with University of San Francisco the only schools in the state to make the Fortune list.

The UCI program only launched last year.

“UCI is consistently recognized as a leader, and this ranking solidifies our presence in the technology sector,” said program director Bryan Muñoz.

“Our master of data science program is taking proactive steps to consistently be recognized and attract high-caliber faculty to teach in our program and benchmarking our performance to adapt to market shifts quickly,” Muñoz told the Business Journal late last month.

There are currently 22 students in the program due to graduate in December. Another 46 started this fall.

“We are going into the second year of the program and are recruiting the third cohort for Fall 2023,” according to Muñoz.

Strongest Foundation

The program lasts 15 months and is designed to “provide students with the strongest possible foundation in data science.”

There is also a part-time option as well in addition to the full-time program.

Job prospects for the graduates are high, with expected starting base salary generally ranging from $85,000 to $120,000, depending on experience.

“Most students coming into the program have one domain—either CS (computer science) or stats/math—but lack the other. We bridge the gap between the two—so students become experts in both by the time they graduate,” the director says.

According to Fortune, students admitted to the UCI program for the 2020-2021 academic year had an average GPA of 3.45. Three letters of recommendation are required, and international students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. The acceptance rate for this program was 35.2% for the 2020-2021 academic year, the ranking said.

Muñoz said the program has been getting more selective.

OC Attraction

Tech is naturally attracted to Orange County because local talent, research, and sustainability are in abundance.

“Simply driving on the 405, you quickly notice the construction and advancement of headquarters of tech companies who are looking to make a home in a thriving economy,” Muñoz said.

He added: “As our Master of Data Science program grows, we want to be a partner to startups, mid-level, and enterprises across a spectrum of initiatives, from supporting our students through industry experience to being catalysts in increasing the representation of underserved populations.

This year, Fortune launched its first-ever ranking of the top in-person master’s degree programs in data science, noting that “data science is one of the fastest-growing fields today, and one of the best ways to break into the field is to pursue a master’s degree in the field.”

The Fortune list is based on selectivity and demand, according to UCI. The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor took the top spot on the 28-school list, followed by Harvard.

Muñoz added that UCI itself is a “heavyweight in the science community.”

In 2021-2022, UCI received $580 million in research funding, directly funding various projects from cancer research to community-based programs, he said.

Job landscape

Program student Adelynn Paik said: “I’m gaining useful skills while giving myself the chance to learn about the job landscape.”

The offerings include career counseling. Paik is set to graduate later this year.

In addition to offering real-world experience, the Master of Data Science program ensures students gain a strong foundation in statistical and computing methods.

It leverages pioneering faculty and researchers from the Department of Statistics and Department of Computer Science to provide hands-on training in applied probability and mathematical statistics, statistical modeling and computing, machine learning, data management and visualization, and artificial intelligence. n

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal

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