UMass Amherst Now Offering Master of Science Degree in Data Analytics and Computational Social Science

Degree and related certificate program allow students to meet growing demand for data science career trajectories, estimated to reach 175,000 jobs in Massachusetts by 2024
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AMHERST, Mass. – The University of Massachusetts Amherst has announced that it will offer a Master of Science degree in Data Analytics and Computational Social Science (DACSS) as part of an interdisciplinary academic program taught by over 50 faculty members, which includes cooperation from 13 departments from different schools and colleges across its campus.

A competitive one-year degree, DACSS is designed to train students to fill roles that require cutting-edge data analysis and computational social science training, as well as involve regular interaction with trained computer scientists and other data science professionals. Having received final approval from the Massachusetts Department of Education in early August, the DACSS program will be offered remotely and online through University Without Walls starting in Fall 2020.

The program’s central emphasis is on increasing diversity in STEM and data science, with a focus on attracting women and other under-represented students, especially from Massachusetts, says Meredith Rolfe, DACSS program director and associate professor of political science at UMass Amherst.

“DACSS is one of the first computational social science master’s degree offered in the U.S.,” Rolfe says. “We expect the program to grow rapidly and be particularly attractive to women and other underrepresented social groups that have historically not enrolled in STEM and data science programs.”

Massachusetts is a tech-corridor with a huge demand for data science career trajectories, including analyst and consulting positions in public policy, market research, public relations, corporate communications, population studies and survey research, Rolfe says.

“By 2024, almost 175,000 Massachusetts jobs will require data analytics skills in occupations related to the social sciences,” says Rolfe. She notes that Massachusetts is tied with California and Washington as states with the highest relative demand for data analytics professionals.

The degree curriculum has been carefully designed to prepare students for the workforce and reflects current industry standards for data science professionals. The master’s degree ensures a steady demand for advanced research methods courses that will be available to all UMass students, in particular doctoral students in the social sciences. The four core courses will ensure students are able to meet industry standards for data collection, programming and data management, statistical data analysis, data visualization and communication and effective evidence-based decision-making.

A related certificate program gives students the opportunity to explore the field of data analytics and computational social science without committing to a complete Master’s degree. Coursework in the certificate program will expose students to the core data management, research design and quantitative analysis skills introduced as part of the DACSS core graduate curriculum.

Data science education will be accessible to the entire UMass community, including undergraduates and alumni, and students will have access to an RStudio computing platform for easy online learning.

While most of the faculty affiliated with DACSS are drawn from social science departments in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, students will also have access to courses and faculty in the math and statistics departments as well as the geographical information systems program housed in the department of environmental sciences. Many of the faculty involved are also associated with the Computational Social Science Institute, a diverse interdisciplinary community that uses computational models and methods to help understand the social world.

“We’re looking to the future and plan to expand the program going forward to also open up more training in computational social science to more undergraduate programs,” Rolfe says. “It’s the number one demand in the alumni survey each year that students wish they had learned. This is a step towards making that possible.”

Information about the DACSS master of science and certificate programs, including registration details, can be found at https://www.umass.edu/sbs/data-analytics-and-computational-social-science-program.