Methodology for Fortune’s ranking of online data science programs

BY Lance LambertJanuary 19, 2022, 7:19 AM
Illustration by Martin Laksman

By 2025, all the data in the world is projected to grow to a staggering 181 zettabytes. That’s 129% above 2021 levels, and 2,600% above levels we saw 10 years ago.

This exponential growth in data has, of course, translated into demand for data scientists that greatly outpaces how fast universities can train them. Don’t expect that to abate anytime soon: Through 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects data science-related jobs will grow by 28% per year. And those who do make it into the field can expect some hefty paychecks. Indeed, according to the BLS, the average wage for data scientists is $103,930—a figure that rises to $148,680 in the Bay Area.

But what are the best options if you’re looking to break into data science and don’t have time for in-person classes? To answer that question, Fortune built our first-ever ranking of online data science graduate programs. In total, we ranked 15 data science master’s programs.

Our final ranking is made up of two components: Selectivity Score and Demand Score.

Selectivity Score (85%)

The best data science programs have both world class professors and a top-notch curriculum. But that’s not all: They should also attract some of the brightest 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, we started by looking at the average undergraduate GPA of incoming students. In addition, we looked at the average number of years of work experience (the higher, the better) of those same students.

Finally, we weighted the program’s acceptance rate. Simply put: Programs that are challenging to get accepted into, attracted a stronger cohort of students.

Demand Score (15%)

If programs aren’t successful, they won’t be able to continue to attract and graduate top students year in and year out. Not to mention, a larger student body also means a larger alumni network. That’s why we measured both the total enrollment size of the program, and the number of applicants for the most recent year.

See how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-timeexecutive, full-time, and online MBA programs.