FAQs about DACSS
How is a Master's of Science (MS) in DACSS different from a Computer Science master's program?
While DACSS is a data science program, we emphasize substantive understandings of political, social, and economic behavior grounded in social scientific theories and methods. We offer courses using the same computational methods taught in a computer science program, but from a more applied perspective with an emphasis on the use of data science approaches to tackle specific real-world problems. The program provides students with a broad introduction to a range of methods used for data collection and interpretation with a focus on designing problem-driven research to support evidence-based decision-making.
The DACSS program also emphasizes the importance of visualization and communication in the evidence-driven decision-making process. Successful students will graduate from the program knowing how to collect, analyze, and make sense of data for government, business, and NGOs. Students who graduate from the program also have the skills needed to continue their education through a PhD program.
What are the degree requirements for MS in DACSS? What courses are offered?
Formal MS program requirements include successful completion of 10 courses (30 total credits): 4 required core courses, at least 3 technical electives, and up to 3 substantive electives.
The four core courses that ensure that students are able to meet industry standards in data analysis and communication and effectively use data to support decision-making:
- DACSS 601: Data Science Fundamentals
- DACSS 602: Research Design for Social Scientists
- DACSS 603: Introduction to Quantitative Analysis
- DACSS 604: Data-Driven Communication and Visualization
Technical electives provide advanced technical training in specialized methods of data collection and analysis: surveys, text as data, social networks, GIS, spatial statistics, lab and field experiments, time series, machine learning, and Bayesian statistics.
Substantive electives offer a substantive background in a range of social science topics. Courses include Public Opinion, Digital Labor, Social Life of Algorithms, Industrial Organization, and Media and Politics.
Note: These courses illustrate the types of courses that might be available at any given time; course titles and contents are subject to change. Please check updated listings available on SPIRE, through University Without Walls, or on the DACSS website for courses available during specific terms.
Can the MS in DACSS be completed as an accelerated master's degree?
All students who enroll in the MS in DACSS program are able to complete the degree on an accelerated 10-month schedule.
Additionally, current UMass Amherst students may apply for the 4+1 MS in DACSS option. The 4+1 degree allows students to transfer up to 3 courses taken during their senior year at UMass Amherst as an undergraduate into the MS program so long as the total credits earned in both degrees total 150 credits and otherwise meet University guidelines. UMass 4+1 students may finish the program in 9 months, and may use the additional time in the master's program to pursue advanced research and internship opportunities.
What is the duration of the MS in DACSS? Are there full-time and part-time completion options?
The MS in DACSS is a full-time, in-person program. Students can pursue a 10-month accelerated track that runs August–June, with 3-week intensive courses offered in August at the start of the degree and another 3-week intensive course offered in May–June at the conclusion of the degree. The accelerated track requires students to take 4 courses during both the Fall and Spring terms. The accelerated track is very intense and difficult to combine with outside work or other major commitments. Graduate students who take at least 3 courses per term are considered full-time students and can finish the degree in 18–24 months. Part-time options may be available under limited circumstances; please contact the program directly. International students enrolled in the in-person MS are not eligible for part-time status.
The Online MS in DACSS can be taken as a full-time or part-time program. Students can finish in as little as 1 year or take up to 4 years to complete the degree. Students must take 1–2 courses during both the Fall and Spring terms each year (and no required courses during the Winter or Summer terms) in order to remain active in the program.
What is the difference between the online master's and the in-person master's program student experience?
The coursework and degree outcomes are the same for both the MS in DACSS and Online MS in DACSS.
Is there an MS thesis requirement?
Students are not required to write an MS thesis, but may use up to 2 of their substantive electives (up to 6 credits total—one during each of the Fall and Spring terms) to work on an independent research project. Students may find faculty who are interested in working on a publishable project during their time at UMass, and this independent research track allows time to work on a conference paper, publication, or research-based report in lieu of a traditional thesis track.
How do I apply for the MS in DACSS program?
Applications to MS in DACSS (both online and in-person) are submitted via the UMass Graduate School application process outlined here. During the application process, you will be able to designate Data Analytics and Computational Social Science (DACSS) as your program of interest.
What types of students will be successful in MS in DACSS?
We are looking for students with a strong problem-solving mindset, a substantive background or interest in social science, strong communication skills, and a willingness to engage with mathematical and logical concepts. Prior experience with programming is not required for admission.
What are the prerequisites for the MS in DACSS?
There are no specific prerequisites to enter the MS in DACSS program. We are looking for students with a strong problem-solving mindset, a substantive background or interest in social science, strong communication skills, and a willingness to engage with mathematical and logical concepts. Prior experience with programming is not required for admission.
Do applicants need a strong background in computer science or math to apply for the MS in DACSS program?
Applicants to the MS in DACSS program do not necessarily need to come from a computer science background, nor do they need to have a background in highly technical mathematical skills.
What are the admissions requirements for the MS in DACSS program?
When you submit your application through the UMass Graduate School application portal, you will need to include the following materials:
- Personal statement. Your personal statement should address why you are interested in pursuing a degree in computational social science and what makes you a good fit for our program. Be sure to describe any relevant research or programming experience, whether obtained in the classroom or in another setting.
- Resume or C.V.
- Most recent official college transcript.
- Two letters of recommendation. While two recommendations are required, you may submit a third if you feel it would provide another perspective. Include at least one current or former professor. Submit only the names of the recommenders; we will send an email to each referee with instructions on how to electronically deliver the recommendation to the Graduate School. All recommendations will be considered non-confidential unless the applicant waives their right of access.
- TOEFL/IELTS. Required for international students without prior instruction in English
- GRE (optional).
- Writing sample (optional).
Is the GRE required to apply for the MS in DACSS program?
The GRE is not required. If you have not taken college level courses such as statistics or linear algebra, a GRE mathematics score can be useful in demonstrating your ability, but a poor GRE score will not detract from the rest of your application. The GRE is not required for current UMass students.
What is the Institutional code for UMass Amherst for submitting test scores?
If you are taking the GRE or TOEFL, the Institutional Code for the University of Massachusetts Amherst is 3917.
If I am admitted into the in-person master's program, when must I respond by?
Please let us know as soon as possible if you are accepting our invitation to join the DACSS program.
Summer/Fall on-campus priority/international applicants – please respond to the Graduate School no later than April 15 to indicate whether or not you plan to enroll. If you have not responded by April 15, we will assume you do not plan to attend and may offer your spot to later applicants.
Can I transfer credits from another university?
To transfer credits from another university, the following requirements must be met:
- Course credits must be graduate level.
- Course credits must have been earned at a regionally accredited institution in the United States.
- Course credits may not have been used previously to fulfill the requirements for any other degree, certificate, or diploma program.
- Grades received for courses requested for transfer must be "B" (3.00) or higher.
- Course credits must have been taken no more than three years prior to the student's acceptance into the master's program.
- An official transcript of the course(s) to be transferred is required.
If you are interested in transferring credits, please complete the relevant forms found here.
How do I apply for the certificate program?
Anyone may pursue either of the Certificate or Advanced Certificate in DACSS by enrolling as a non-degree graduate student through UMass University Without Walls. These certificate programs are designed as transitional certificates that are compatible with requirements for the master's degree. Online certificate recipients who are accepted into the full MS degree program through the normal application process will be able to apply all certificate courses towards completion of the full 30-credit master's degree.
If you intend to pursue one of the certificates, please let us know. While you are not required to inform us in advance of your intention to complete the certificate program, it will help us stay in touch with you to let you know about possible internship or career opportunities, changes to course availability, and events online and on-campus that may be of interest.
Students who have completed the certificate requirements should submit a certificate eligibility form found here to the Graduate Programs Office. The graduation eligibility deadlines can be found here for obtaining your certificate in the mail. Submit the certificate eligibility form to the DACSS Document Submission Form.
Note that students may pursue either the 3-course basic certificate or the 5-course advanced certificate, but may not be awarded both certificates. If you have completed the basic certificate and then continue to pursue the advanced certificate by taking the two additional required courses, only the advanced certificate will appear on your transcript.
What tests are accepted as proof of English proficiency?
The University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School accepts the following as proof of English proficiency.
- Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
- International English Language Testing System (IELTS) (Academic)
- Pearson Test of English (PTE Academic)
Scores are only valid if they have been earned on a test taken two years from anticipated date of entrance. Please note that Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are not accepted as proof of English proficiency. More information on this requirement is available from the Graduate School.
How do I provide my IELTS score?
To provide your IELTS score, please upload a copy of your IELTS score report via the Additional Materials page of the graduate school application. Note that this score report is considered to be unofficial. If you are accepted into the graduate school, at that time you will be asked to provide your official test scores. Official test scores must be transmitted electronically from the test agency to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Graduate School. Please consult directly with IELTS if you are unsure how to transmit scores electronically.
Is the Master's Program in Data Analytics & Computational Social Science (MS DACSS) STEM designated?
The MS DACSS program is STEM designated. Students accepted into the in-person MS program will be eligible for a 3-year STEM OPT (optional practical training) placement after 8 months of residency in the United States. Students who pursue an online MS are not eligible for STEM OPT.
Is financial aid available for MS in DACSS students (in-person)?
Any student who enrolls in at least 6 credit hours worth of coursework (each semester) is eligible for federal financial aid during that term, and we encourage all students interested in securing aid to submit the required FAFSA. The program will work with any student who is awarded federal work-study and try to find a position for them.
Additionally, funding is available for military personnel through the GI Bill. You can also contact vetbenefits [at] umass [dot] edu or call 413-545-5792 for more information.
Prospective students who are currently employed are encouraged to investigate whether or not their current employer offers full or partial tuition support through a tuition assistance or tuition reimbursement plan. Massachusetts Business Owners may be eligible to receive reimbursement for employee training expenses through the Workforce Training Fund.
Scholarships are not regularly offered by DACSS, but exceptional students with special hardships and demonstrated financial need may submit a request for consideration. However, it is highly unlikely for the program to offer direct financial assistance to admitted students. Submitting a special financial request will not be considered as part of the admissions decision, and will not adversely affect chances of being admitted.
Also note that after graduation, if you go on to work for a government or not-for-profit organization, you may be able to receive loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. See the Public Service Loan Forgiveness section of the federal student aid website.
Can I work while enrolled in MS in DACSS (in-person)? Can I accept jobs in other departments or units at the University?
Yes, students may accept hourly campus jobs or part-time jobs off-campus (if eligible, international students should confirm whether visa restrictions exist). However, please bear in mind that the accelerated program plan requires a heavy course load compared to 2-year degrees, and students should not expect to have much free time to work outside of class.
Any enrolled student who is working a full or part time job involving research and data analysis who finds a suitable faculty sponsor may enroll in up to 2 practicum courses (no more than 1 each term) and apply up to 6 practicum credits as substantive electives counting toward degree completion requirements.
Are any Research Assistant (RA) or Teaching Assistant (TA) positions available for students?
Students enrolled in the MS DACSS program will not be eligible for TA or RA positions that fall under the Graduate Employee Organization contract ("tuition-waiver" positions). However, there may be limited opportunities to work on research with faculty (primarily in unpaid positions), as well as the chance to earn course credit (via a faculty sponsored practicum or independent study) for work on guided individual research or a research-intensive internship (paid or unpaid).