Data Science Master's Degree Kicks Off to Fill Growing Need Across Industries

The School of Information has officially started the first semester of its new Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) program. Delivered online, the MIDS program provides a multi-disciplinary curriculum that prepares students in any career to solve real-world problems across their organizations using complex and unstructured data.

“I applied to the MIDS program because I want to apply the concept of ‘Big Data’ to global development efforts, crisis relief, and human rights,” said student Erin Boehmer, a systems engineer for the United States Air Force, located in Somerville, Mass. “I think Berkeley’s practical and holistic approach to solving data problems will provide a critical basis for me to tackle the most important issues facing data science within the context of global development and crisis relief.”

“In a single day, I can fulfill my duties at the Air Force Base, discuss current events in data privacy during my live MIDS sessions, and then walk to the weekly Code for America hack session,” said Boehmer. “I am so thankful MIDS allows me to extend my understanding of data science academically at Berkeley while continuing my endeavors in Boston. Rather than having to put my academic ambitions on hold, I can multitask like a true ‘product of the 21st century’ and simultaneously pursue both a graduate degree and career experience.”

The first MIDS class is a diverse group of 27 students, living in eight different U.S. states, with backgrounds ranging from economics to operations, astronomy, and neuroscience. The students boast advanced degrees ranging from M.B.A. to J.D. and Ph.D., with an average of ten years work experience in their respective fields.

“Data science has rapidly emerged as a game changer in organizations across industries, which are helping to make highly informed and predictive decisions that have significant impact on planning, operations, and overall success,” AnnaLee Saxenian, dean and professor in the I School. “While the need for data scientists has grown steadily, the challenge is that a standard educational or professional roadmap to develop them hasn’t existed until now. Our faculty collaborated with data science professionals to pioneer a program to do just that — so we are all excited to put our plan into practice with the first-ever class of MIDS students this semester. ”

“Data science has rapidly emerged as a game changer across industries, helping to make highly informed and predictive decisions.”
–AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the School of Information

The new multi-disciplinary program was designed by leading faculty as a comprehensive and integrated suite of courses that culminate in a capstone course created to solidify a student’s knowledge of the breadth of data science concepts and skills. The 27-unit program also requires an on-site immersion at the I School’s home in South Hall, where students can meet classmates and faculty and explore the Bay Area tech environment.

The students participate in live, face-to-face classes with fellow students and professors online, with each class limited to 15-20 students. Additional coursework, which features high-quality, self-paced content, interactive case studies, and collaborative assignments developed and continually refined by I School faculty, will also be accessed online. Students will utilize an advanced learning management system developed by the I School’s technology partner, 2U, Inc., an enabler of leading online learning experiences.

“The live sessions are much more intimate than a traditional lecture room. The constant, personalized feedback makes the MIDS program much more engaging.”
–Erin Boehmer, US Air Force systems engineer and MIDS student

“The live sessions are much more intimate than a traditional lecture room,” said Boehmer. “I know my participation in the course is appreciated when my colleagues post comments on my forum entries or when my professor references an assignment I submitted during our live sessions. This constant, personalized feedback makes the MIDS program much more engaging.”

“I already feel as though I am a part of Berkeley’s uniquely innovative culture.”

The faculty teaching in the MIDS program will present their courses alongside experienced data science professionals. Classes include an introduction to machine learning (the intersection of computer science and statistics that focuses on finding patterns in data), data storage and retrieval, and the privacy, security, and ethics of data.

According to the McKinsey Institute’s June 2011 report, Big Data: The Next Frontier for Innovation, Competition and Productivity, by 2018, the U.S. may have a shortage of up to 190,000 people with the analytical skills — and another 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how — to make wise use of vast amounts of data for critical business decisions.

For more information on the MIDS program, see, call (855) 678-MIDS, or follow the program on Twitter at @BerkeleyData.