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Ramya Shankar | 04 Jan, 2023

Kickstart a Data Science Career: Top Coursera Programs

Data science is a hot field right now, promising tons of career opportunities, lucrative salaries, and relevance to countless industries. 

Lately, we’re seeing upticks in data scientist hiring in the finance, IT, healthcare, and media industries. But as a rapidly growing field, data science is a sure path to a meaningful career in any industry. 

If you’re interested in a career in data science, you might consider standing out with a master’s degree. Our advice? Computer science or data science – two master’s degrees Coursera offers through reputable universities. 

Today, we’re excited to offer the University of Michigan’s Master of Applied Data Science (MADS) and the University of Illinois’ Master of Computer Science - Data Science Track (MCS-DS) – both completely available online through Coursera!

Let’s talk about salary and career potential, program specifics, and how our unique data science offerings can help you thrive in an innovative field. 

Data Science For Your Future

Imagine turning thousands or millions of data points into actionable insights. In simplest terms? Data scientists use analytics to achieve growth. Every business has customer and purchase data that can inform future strategies. Data science uses machine learning, experiments, and analysis to leverage that data and improve business decisions. 

Every successful business uses data science to some degree. HBR discusses how Convoy uses data science to improve the trucking industry; Buzzfeed uses it to optimize headlines; and so on. The use cases are abundant, and businesses need this useful skill set to scale and stay ahead of their competitors. 

Now, how much can you take home as a data scientist? An average of $94,280, which is over double the national average. But you can make even more with specialized skills and real-world experience — two of many selling points for Coursera’s MADS and MCSD. 

Let’s start with our Data Science master’s from the University of Michigan. 

Data Science Master’s: 5 Ways Coursera’s MADS Promises Success

Of course, Coursera offers plenty of data science courses and similar degrees. You might already be familiar with our MBA in Business Analytics or MS in Data Science and Machine Learning — two notable educational paths toward a successful career. 

But our latest program offered by the University of Michigan offers some unique selling points.

  • Top National Public Research University 

The University of Michigan is the United States’ #1 public research university. The school boasts impressive alumni, like 38th US president Gerald Ford, Google co-founder Larry Page, and award-winning violinist Xiang Gao. Specifically, the university’s School of Information places high in countless national rankings and attracts students from all over the world, including the top 10 US News Information Studies Program.

Some of the University of Michigan’s research initiatives have a greater impact and address relevant world issues. Women in STEM, privacy in AI, and nutrition in “food deserts” are a few of many significant research areas. Additionally, Coursera’s program offers students access to the University of Michigan’s respected, expert faculty through live office hours and emails. 

  • Leadership Focus

Real-world examples and experience are vital for excelling in a data science career. That’s why this Master of Applied Data Science degree includes computer science theory as well as opportunities to apply knowledge through data visualization, presentation, and contextual inquiry. 

One data scientist interviewed by HBR emphasizes the importance of communication and presentation skills for today’s data scientist. Since one of this program’s key topics is persuasive communication with an end-to-end perspective, students will gain some of the most relevant skills necessary for a data science career. Just look at how MADS grads from Coursera’s program are using data visualization to save the Great Lakes!

“I really love how innovative and engaging I’ve felt the content has been so far. It really is like no other education I’ve had before.”

– Ani M. 

  • Dive Deep into Data Science

On top of the program’s unique leadership focus, students will enjoy an engaging curriculum covering all relevant data science topics. For example, privacy and ethics are key curriculum components — a pertinent challenge in the data science field. 

Other curriculum topics include: 

  • Data communication and presentation
  • Big data computational methods
  • Data visualization
  • Machine learning and natural language processing (NLP)
  • Real-world applications, like search and recommender systems and learning analytics
  • Portfolio-building major projects

For more information about the program, check out our MADS Academics page

  • A Flexible Data Science Degree

Coursera offers flexible online formats for all course specializations and degree programs — the MADS is no exception. You can complete your studies in 2-3 years, depending on your workload. With on-demand lectures and quizzes, flexible office hours, and engaging discussion boards, you can enjoy immense flexibility and study at your own pace. 

Many of our students have full-time jobs and balance their degree with other responsibilities. 

  • Accessible and Welcoming of Diverse Backgrounds

Our MADS degree is relatively accessible, welcoming students from diverse backgrounds. While students need an undergraduate degree for admission, their specialty doesn’t have to be in a science or math discipline. 

As long as you have proficiency in Python statistics and programming, your arts or otherwise unrelated bachelor’s is a welcomed experience. For a full list of program prerequisites and admission requirements, check out the MADS admissions page

“The big draw of this program was that it was an online program for students with diverse educational backgrounds. I am amazed at how much I have been able to learn in such a short amount of time. 

– Jenna M. 

Now, let’s take a look at an alternative route to a data science career: Coursera’s Master of Computer Science.

Computer Science Master’s: 4 Ways Coursera’s MCS-DS Benefits Your Data Science Career

Coursera knows the value of a computer science master’s — that’s why we offer programs like the MCS from the University of Arizona and related Master of Computer and Information Technology from Penn State.

But our latest MCS-DS from the University of Illinois is the best graduate computer science degree for aspiring data scientists. Here’s why: 

#1. Unique Data Science Track

Imagine combining the benefits of a computer science master’s with a data science master’s. The University of Illinois’ MCS-DS degree program makes you unstoppable in a data science career. While preparing you with all the same competencies as a regular MCS, this stream tacks on curriculum in: 

  • Cloud computing
  • Data visualization
  • Data mining
  • Machine learning

In addition, students who take this degree specialization will benefit from interdisciplinary data courses that combine expertise from the university’s School of Information Science and the Department of Statistics.

#2. A Leader in Computer Science

The University of Illinois’ Computer Science Department is part of every academic conversation regarding innovation in computer science. Ranking highly in the US News’ Top Five CS Graduate Programs, the school is a leader in computer science innovation. 

The school receives an impressive $35 million in funding every year for research expenditures, funding initiatives to explore data revolution, social media algorithms, and IoT — all relevant topics in data science. Moreover, the department itself taught alumni who led companies like, PayPal, and Netscape. 

#3. Learn with Flexibility

Similar to the MADS, Coursera’s MCS-DS master’s program is 100% online, allowing working students to balance priorities with ease. 

“I have a full-time job, so I couldn't go to campus. I couldn’t even go to evening classes. So, to have unlimited access to the material and to the lectures and to professors on demand. I’ve done my lessons at 3 in the morning, I’ve done them at 3 in the afternoon. Having that flexibility was really important for me.” - Ashish Kumar

#4. In-Depth Programming Curriculum

Compared to the MADS, this master’s program offers a much more comprehensive curriculum around computer science and programming. While proficiency in Python statistics and programming might be sufficient for your data science career, a more robust computer science background is certainly an asset. 

The MCS-DS offers an extensive computer science curriculum, covering topics like: 

  • Database and information systems
  • Parallel programming
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning
  • Software engineering
  • Programming languages
  • Graphics and visualization
  • Algorithmic principles
  • Mathematics foundations

Machine Learning A-Z™: Python & R in Data Science [2023]

“I've been able to use some of the skills that I've learned through the program actively in my work, especially in the aspects of data cleaning. It's helped make my work more productive.” - Brad Ballard

Our opinion? A computer science background has many data science applications, making it a valuable credential. Plus, more programming and coding experience gives you an extra edge in efficiency. 


Data science is a bustling field and a strong education is your first step toward a lucrative leadership role. 

Ready to explore data science as a career? 

Get Started with our Master of Applied Data Science

Explore our Master of Computer Science


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By Ramya Shankar

A cheerful, full of life and vibrant person, I hold a lot of dreams that I want to fulfill on my own. My passion for writing started with small diary entries and travel blogs, after which I have moved on to writing well-researched technical content. I find it fascinating to blend thoughts and research and shape them into something beautiful through my writing.

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