Big Data.  It’s a term you may have heard a lot in the past few years, a buzzword in news stories on subjects as varied as health care, the NSA, and the outcome of sports events.  And as Big Data becomes increasingly entwined with our everyday lives, it creates job opportunities in the lucrative new field of data analytics. According to a Forbes article from last December, the demand for Computer Systems Analysts with big data expertise increased 89.9% in 2014 alone, and it is on track to grow even more in the coming years.

So how can you get the experience needed for a data analytics career? There are tons of options out there through MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), including the Udacity Data Analyst Nanodegree ($200 a month, for 9 to 12 months part time); DataCamp’s courses in data visualization, data manipulation, and R ($25 a month, with some options for free intro courses); or Coursera’s specialization in Big Data ($444 for six courses, with options to take any single course for less). You can also try to go it alone; plenty of websites offer tips on what to read and how to plan your own course of study in data analytics. But if you want a more immersive, structured learning experience, there are two main ways to go: bootcamp or master’s program.

Finding Your Perfect Fit
Bootcamps are short, immersive programs designed to give their participants a set of practical skills quickly. Lasting anywhere from six days to three months, a bootcamp is designed to supplement a programming, math, or other quantitative background with targeted skills. Data analytics master’s programs are generally more expensive and much longer than bootcamps. However, the more traditional degree they offer may be more useful in helping you get types of analytics jobs where prestige matters. Additionally, many master’s programs provide more career assistance and networking opportunities, as they have the full resources of their university to draw on. Here’s a quick comparison of some popular data analytics masters and bootcamp options.


Level Bootcamp from Northeastern University Boston, Seattle, Charlotte, Silicon Valley $7000-$8000 for 8 weeks full-time (scholarships available) Certificate of Completion, project portfolio Bachelor’s Degree and proven capability in analytical aptitude Career day, employer network capstone projects with employer partners
General Assembly Data Science Bootcamp Boston $4,000 for 10 weeks, 6 hours/week Letter of completion at the end of the course. Understanding of college-level statistics and probability. Knowledge of a programming language such as Python or R. No
Data Science Dojo Bootcamp Seattle, Austin, Chicago, New York, Silicon Valley, Toronto $3,000 for 5 days No, but final group project for portfolio. Knowledge of at least one programming language No
Metis Bootcamp New York City, San Francisco $14,000 for 12 weeks No, but final group project for portfolio and career resources available. Applicants must have some previous experience programming (writing code) and studying or using statistics. Career day, interviewing workshops, and access to employers.
Zipfian Academy Bootcamp San Francisco $16,000 for 12 weeks No, but but capstone project for portfolio and career assistance A strong working knowledge of at least one programming language, and  background in a quantitative discipline Career day where students showcase capstone projects and interview with local companies
Thinkful Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Washington DC $7990 for 6 months No No formal prerequisites, but students should know at least some stats or some Python. Career Services, Interview Prep, Access to Employers




Bentley University Boston Area About $35,000 for 1.5 to 2 years full-time M.S. in Business Analytics B.A. or B.S. Corporate advisory board of professionals provides advice for students
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Boston Area $45,100 for 1 year or more (33 credit hours) M.S. in Data Science Bachelor’s Degree with a strong quantitative and computational background Industry partnerships, students present findings of Graduate Qualifying Projects to executives
University of San Francisco San Francisco $43,575 for 1 year M.S. in Analytics B.A. or B.S., high grades in prior coursework in probability and statistics, linear algebra, and computer programming. Practicum program with companies in the SF Bay Area.
St Joseph’s University Online About $29,220 – 36,064

2 years full time (30 -36 credit hours dependent upon concentration)

M.S. in Business Intelligence & Analytics B.A .or B.S. – a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.5 required N/A, but graduates of the program will receive a Business Intelligence Certificate from SAS, Inc.
North Carolina State Charlotte $22,170 NC residents,

$40,020 (non-residents) for 10 months, full time

M.S. in Analytics B.A. or B.S. with strong studies in mathematics, statistics, engineering, science, computer programming, or economics. Assistance with resume writing, interview and presentation skills, and professional networking; interviews with top companies on campus
UNC Charlotte Charlotte $20,600 (NC residents), $39,100 (non residents), M.S. in Data Science and Business Analytics B.S. or M.S. in any scientific, business, or engineering discipline with a good academic record. Active advisory board and a practicum or internship requirement that connects students with industry leaders.

Building skills in data science can lead to jobs that are lucrative and fascinating for the right person. If you have technical skills and analytical leanings, you may want to consider the different costs, commitments, and certificates of programs in this hot and emerging field.

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