10 Best Online PhD in Data Science Programs [2020 Guide]

If you have a passion for mining information from large amounts of data, you should consider exploring PhD Data Science online programs.

Online PhD in Data Science

Furthering your education in this field can take your career to the next level. By earning your PhD, you can increase not only your knowledge but also your salary.

Best Online PhD in Data Science Programs

Data science is exactly what it sounds like – the study of data. Data scientists look at sets of data and notice patterns that emerge. They identify key information that data presents which may not seem readily apparent at first.

If you are someone that notices the small details while also keeping an eye on the bigger picture, a career in data science could be right for you. If you find trends and patterns in large amounts of data, you may be well-suited for this field.

What kind of job can you expect to have as a data scientist? In the last few years, Glassdoor has continuously ranked data scientist as one of the best jobs to have in the United States. The options for specific jobs are numerous and varied.

For example, one data scientist may work as a statistician and interpret statistical information for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Another data scientist may be a business intelligence developer for Discover, creating strategies for businesses to make more informed decisions about their company.

Data Science Pros and Cons

data engineers working together on a project

As with any financial and length time investment, you should consider both the pros and the cons of earning your PhD in an online data science program.



Data science is a field that is booming in the twenty-first century. Jobs are plentiful and many companies incorporate data scientists to help boost their sales and offer the best customer experience.

Data scientists earn a significant salary compared to some other careers. The mean data scientist salary is $134,222.



Earning your PhD is not a matter of taking a course or two. PhD programs can be lengthy, and you can expect to devote several years to completing the courses and research required. Consider whether you are willing to devote a significant amount of time and energy to your education.

While earning your PhD can help you make more money in the long run, you will be spending time researching rather than working and making a paycheck.

All salary data in this table was provided by Glassdoor.

Choosing to pursue an online PhD in a data science program is decision that must be taken into careful consideration, but there are many benefits to completing a program.

Data Science Curriculum & Courses

Systems Analyst working on her computer

Curriculum for data science programs is heavily focused on analysis and research. Examples of courses offered by universities like Dakota State University and the University of North Texas are listed below.

  • Information Systems – In this course, you will learn about the role information systems have for businesses and other organizations.
  • Applied Statistics – You learn how to use statistical software to study data samples and make inference based on the data presented.
  • Project and Change Management – Students learn the underlying principles for managing information systems. You will learn how to utilize software for project management.
  • Technology for Mobile Devices – You will study the process for developing apps for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
  • Advanced Network Technology and Management – In this course, you can expect to learn how to work with a model network environment, including how to find solutions for problems with the network.
  • Seminar in Research and Research Methodology – You will develop a research proposal and participate in a research study.
  • Knowledge Management Tools and Technologies – This course introduces you to a variety of technologies including those associated with knowledge management and IT infrastructure.
  • Seminar in Communication and Use of Information – As a student in this course, you will discover what role communication plays at various levels in society.
  • Readings in Information Science – You will study texts which emphasize methodological and theoretical issues.
  • Medical Geography – In this course, students study the correlation between location and health care and work on their own projects.

Exploring the curriculum offered by different universities can help you determine which online PhD program is best suited for your interests and your needs.

Data Science PhD Admissions

data science student studying online

Before applying for a PhD program, you will want to ensure that you have all the application materials on hand, including the commonly required materials listed below.

  • Reference letters – You should request these documents well before your application deadline as mentors may not be able to honor a last-minute request due to time constraints.
  • All transcripts – These grades will include both undergraduate and graduate level courses.
  • Letter of intent – Be prepared to explain in writing why you want to enroll in the program and what you plan to do after its completion.
  • Application fee – Fees to cover administrative costs of reviewing your application can add up, so make sure to budget for the costs of each one.
  • Resume – Schools want to know your background in not just education but in the job market as well.
  • Specific program application – Your prospective school will most likely have its own unique application on its official website.

Save yourself the stress of anxiously waiting to receive documents from an institution or mentor in time and compile them well ahead of the due date.

Data Science PhD Careers & Salaries

Data Science PhD Careers & Salaries

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information research scientists earned a median of $118,370 a year. Data scientists as a group earn increasingly high salaries in various industries including research laboratories, government departments, and a variety of companies focused on technology.

Some of the top companies that utilize data scientists are IBM, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Oracle, Google, and Apple. These multi-billion dollar companies are consistently hiring data scientists to interpret the large amounts of data, or “big data,” that is collected via their services.

Data scientists can expect to work in roles where job duties include designing data models, organizing data from multiple sources, and identifying trends in data.

Data scientists use a comprehensive process for gathering and analyzing information including asking questions, acquiring data, storing data, using models to interpret it, and presenting their findings to stakeholders in the community.

The table below contains salary information for other job titles in the data science field.

Careers Average Annual Salary
Chief Data Officer $213,500
Machine Learning Engineer $144,085
Data Engineers $132,653
Director of Research $116,713
Data Architects $108,278
Business Intelligence Analyst $90,150
Statistician $87,021
Database Administrators $78,779
Systems Analyst $73,574
Laboratory Researcher $54,411

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Whatever the job title, data scientists continually earn a significant amount more than employees in other fields. Glassdoor currently lists over 6,300 data scientist jobs available in the California area at this time, and 2,570 in the state of New York.

Data Science Accreditation

Data Science Accreditation

Before clicking the “submit” button on your application to a PhD program, you will want to ensure that the university you are applying to is accredited, meaning it is recognized as a legitimate program that offers quality coursework and research opportunities.

If you decide to apply to a program related to computer technology or engineering, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) determine which schools offer suitable coursework and requirements for these fields. Also be sure that your prospective university is regionally accredited, the gold-standard for accreditation in the United States.

Search on your prospective schools’ website for information regarding their accreditation status. You will want to ensure that the schools you apply to are regionally accredited to make sure you get the most out of your PhD experience and that your credits will transfer should you switch schools while studying.

Data Science Professional Organizations

data science professionals meeting at a conference

Joining a professional organization can help to advance your career by connecting you with other individuals who work in the same field.

Professional organizations offer a multitude of benefits, including networking opportunities (which may help to connect you with future employers), and they can also provide inspiration for completing your PhD program, decreasing feelings of isolation that can accompany students.

While some organizations may have a yearly membership fee, the potential gains for job opportunities and professional development through these groups can easily offset those costs.

Financial Aid

financial aid for data science students

Across the nation, the average cost of obtaining a PhD online is between $4,000 and $20,000.  As a student in a PhD program, you can expect to have costs from tuition, books, personal supplies, transportation, etc. Without the time or energy for a full-time or often, even part-time job, you should explore all financial aid options available.

Financial aid for PhD students can come in the form of loans, scholarships, and grants. Grants and scholarships typically do not have to be paid back, but loans are borrowed money which may accrue interest and should be a last resort for students.

Some specific scholarships and grants are designed with scientists, including data scientists, in mind. For example, the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship is designed to support students who are pursuing research-based doctoral degrees.

Previous recipients include Nobel Prize winners, a U.S. Secretary of Energy, and the founder of Google.

Another common source of money comes from taking on teaching assistant positions within your university or becoming an assistant lecturer. Both positions are great for gaining experience teaching in your academic department while generating income to offset the costs incurred from your years of study.

How long does it take to get a PhD in data science?

data administrator working on her tablet in data room

It takes an average of 71 credits to complete a PhD in data science. On top of this, students may also have responsibilities to research and/or teach, which can make the process take even longer.

It is not unusual for some PhD programs to take anywhere from four to five years to complete.

Is a PhD in data science worth it?

Whether or not a PhD in data science is “worth it” depends on a number of factors. Do you have the time available for next few years (possibly longer) to invest in this opportunity? Are you motivated enough to complete coursework while also on a shoestring budget?

Search for employment positions you are interested in and take a look at the education requirements employers are requesting.

Can I do a PhD in data science?

Whether or not you complete a PhD in data science depends on your ability to stay focused and motivated. PhD programs are notoriously intensive, and they are not for everyone.

You should have a better reason for applying to a program than simply not knowing what to do in today’s job market.

Universities Offering Online Data Science Doctorate Degree Programs

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer data science doctorate degree online.

#1  Capella University

Capella University campus

Founded in 1993, private Capella University offers online doctorate, master’s, and bachelor’s degrees. The Minneapolis-based school’s 38,000 enrolled students represent 50 states and 61 countries. Doctoral students account for more than 27 percent of Capella University’s student body.

  • DBA in Business Intelligence – Data Analytics

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#2  Capitol Technology University

Capitol Technology University campus

Capitol Technology University is a private university located near the nation’s capital in South Laurel, Maryland. Established in 1927, the university now offers undergraduate and master’s programs in business, computer science, cybrsecurity, and engineering.

Capitol Technology University is a military-friendly school founded by a Navy veteran. It holds the prestigious 2020 SC Media Award for Best Cybersecurity Higher Education Program. The school’s annual enrollment is approximately 850 students.

  • PhD in Business Analytics and Data Science

Capitol Technology University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#3  Colorado Technical University

Colorado Technical University campus

Colorado Technical University was founded in 1965. This private university offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees in business management and technology.

The school has earned the U.S. News & World Report “Best for Veterans” designation, the Council of College and Military Educators (CCME) Institution Award, and recognition as a center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense from the NSA and Department of Homeland Security.

Annual enrollment stands at around 26,000 students.

  • Doctor of Computer Science – Big Data Analytics

Colorado Technical University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Columbia University

Columbia University campus

New York City’s Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university founded in 1754. It stands today as the oldest university in New York City. Columbia operates four undergraduate schools and 15 graduate/professional schools.

Bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD programs covering business, medicine, liberal arts, technology, and political science are available. Student enrollment at Columbia stands at roughly 33,413.

  • PhD in Data Science

Columbia is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#5  Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Grand Canyon University is a private Christian college based in Phoenix, Arizona. With a student enrollment of 70,000 students, it is considered to be the world’s largest Christian university.

Grand Canyon University offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business, education, health sciences, liberal arts, and nursing. The school offers a total of 200 academic programs throughout its nine colleges.

  • DBA in Data Analytics

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#6  Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

Harrisburg University campus

Founded in 2001, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is a STEM-focused institution with campuses in Harrisburg and Philadelphia.

This private university offers bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and certificate programs. The nearly 6,000 students enrolled study degree paths related to applied science and technology.

  • PhD in Data Sciences

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#7  Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana University - Purdue University - Indianapolis campus

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis is a public research university offering more than 225 options for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees across 18 different schools. The university’s campus is based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The more than 30,000 students enrolled pursue degrees in majors like art and design, business, education, engineering, law, liberal arts, medicine, nursing, and social work.

  • PhD in Data Science (on-campus)

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#8  Northcentral University

Northcentral University campus

Northcentral University is a private university based in San Diego, California. The school offers a range of bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, and certificates in business, education, marriage and family therapy, psychology, and technology.

Approximately 10,000 students are enrolled at Northcentral University. The school boasts a 100-percent doctoral faculty.

  • PhD in Data Science

Northcentral University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

#9  Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology campus

Located in Hoboken, New Jersey, Stevens Institute of Technology is a private research institution with an enrollment of approximately 6,125 students. Founded in 1870, the school has been named among the “Best Value Colleges” for 2020 by the Princeton Review.

Additionally, the Princeton Review ranks Stevens Institute of Technology among its “Top 15 for Internships” for 2020. The school’s undergraduate and graduate students represent 47 states and 60 countries. Students can pursue bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and certificate programs.

  • PhD in Data Science (on-campus)

Stevens Institute of Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#10  University of Central Florida

University of Central Florida campus

Located along Orlando’s Space Coast, the University of Central Florida is a public research university with a student enrollment of approximately 69,525. It offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs.

Students can pursue degrees in arts and humanities, business, engineering, computer science, health science, medicine, and nursing. The University of Central Florida has been ranked as a “Best Southeastern College” by the Princeton Review.

  • PhD in Big Data Analytics

The University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Getting Your PhD in Data Science Online

PhD in Data Science student studying online

Obtaining your doctoral degree in data science is not an easy task, but it is also not an impossible one. If you are serious about pursuing your PhD, talk to experts in the field. The admissions departments at prospective universities can help put you in touch with recruiters who can give you more information about the program.

Joining a professional organization can help you connect with individuals who are working in the field, many of whom will have obtained their higher education degree. With careful planning and the right information to make informed career choices, you can further your education and your sense of accomplishment.

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Taylor Burgess
Taylor Burgess