Skip to main content

Explore your training options in 10 minutes

Best Doctorates in Data Science: Top PhD Programs, Career Paths, and Salaries

Joana Ferreira - June 19, 2022

If you are tech-savvy and like to stay up-to-date on the latest developments in the computing field, you might be interested in getting a data science job. The industry is interdisciplinary, with those working within it proficient in statistics, computer science, and operations research.

As such, this career isn’t pursued casually, as extensive education is required to become a data scientist and enter the industry. While some jobs can be obtained with a master’s degree, earning one of the best PhDs in Data Science is a much better option if you want the freedom to be able to conduct your own research.

Within your data science PhD studies, you will spend the latter two years of the four-year program doing your own unique research and writing a dissertation on your findings, preparing you to do the same in the real world. Those with a master’s degree, by contrast, don’t have as many creative liberties and don’t usually develop their own research, but rather analyze existing studies.

Get offers and scholarships from top coding schools illustration

Find Your Bootcamp Match

  • Career Karma matches you with top tech bootcamps
  • Access exclusive scholarships and prep courses

By continuing you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy , and you consent to receive offers and opportunities from Career Karma by telephone, text message, and email.

With the amount of schooling and skills required to work within the field, you might be wondering what a PhD in Data Science Salary looks like. Below, we’ll discuss the top schools for getting a PhD in Data Science, as well as the career outlook once you get your degree.

What Is a PhD in Data Science?

A PhD in Data Science is a four- or five-year, full-time degree pursued after a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Faculty in university PhD programs often like students to have a prior master’s degree, but if not, they might offer integrated master’s and PhD studies.

Within a PhD in Data Science program, you’ll spend the first two years of your program learning foundational knowledge, taking advanced courses in statistics, computer programming, data mining, research methodology, and so much more. The latter two years of the degree involve conducting your own unique research. You will then record your findings in a dissertation and defend your research before a committee to get your doctorate.

How to Get Into a Data Science PhD Program: Admission Requirements

You can get into a Data Science PhD program by meeting a university’s admission requirements, which will differ between each school. Typically, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in a related STEM degree, but most programs prefer a prior master’s degree.

If you don’t have a master’s degree, it is highly recommended to at least be proficient in a coding language and to have taken classes in calculus, statistics, and engineering. You will also need to have a minimum 3.0 GPA across your postsecondary studies and send the school your academic transcripts. There are also supplemental materials you would need for an application. These include a statement of purpose, two or three letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a professional resume.

PhD in Data Science Admission Requirements

  • A postsecondary degree in a related field
  • Academic transcripts
  • Graduate record examination (GRE) scores
  • Coursework in data structures, algorithms, calculus, and linear algebra
  • A background in a programming language
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Admission essays
  • Personal statement

Data Science PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Data Science?

It can be hard to get into a PhD program in Data Science. PhD programs within universities are very exclusive. While they receive a sea of applications, most schools only accept about a dozen of them. For example, Yale, one of the best schools in the country, had over 300 applicants but only made around 13 offers. As such, it is wise to apply for multiple PhD programs in order to increase your chances of getting an offer of admission.

How to Get Into the Best Universities

Every year, Northwestern University receives tens of thousands of applications from qualified applicants around the world. For you to stand a real chance of being ...

Read more

Harvard is the oldest college in the United States and is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Named after the scholar John ...

Read more

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ranked second place on the US News 2022 Best National University Rankings report, tied with Columbia University and Harvard ...

Read more

Best PhDs in Data Science: In Brief

School Program Online Option
Arizona State University PhD in Data Science, Analytics, and Engineering No
Bowling Green State University PhD in Data Science No
Chapman University PhD in Computational and Data Sciences No
Clemson University PhD in Biomedical Data Science and Informatics No
George Mason University PhD in Computational Sciences and Informatics No
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology PhD in Data Sciences No
Indiana University-Purdue University PhD in Data Science No
Kennesaw State University PhD in Analytics and Data Science No
University of Nevada PhD in Statistics and Data Science No
Yale University PhD in Statistics and Data Science No

Best Universities for Data Science PhDs: Where to Get a PhD in Data Science

Since data science is a new field of scientific inquiry, it can be difficult to find the best universities for getting a data science PhD. In order to help you on your educational path, we’ve listed the 10 best schools for a data science PhD, below.


Arizona State University

Tempe, AZ

Arizona State University (ASU) was ranked the nation's most innovative university by US News & World Report. Originally founded in 1885, ASU has grown to now offer more than 160 programs at the graduate level in everything from art to engineering. The graduate school is well-known for its research work.

PhD in Data Science, Analytics, and Engineering

This program is geared toward those who want to work in either the data science industry, academia, or government to solve real-world problems through data-informed methods. The 12 credits of core courses within this program include data mining, statistics, security and assurance of information, and database management.

If you want to focus on engineering, you’ll take nine credits across cloud computing, database systems, and databases for web and other multimedia. If you want to focus on analytics, you'll take Machine Learning Statistics, Regression Analytics, and Data Visualization.

As a culmination of your studies, you’d produce a thesis. This requires you to propose a topic of study to the dissertation supervisory committee, and upon passing their comprehensive exam, you can begin your research. Ten days before you are to defend your dissertation, which must come less than a year after completing your 60th credit, you’ll submit a version of it to the committee for review.

PhD in Data Science, Analytics, and Engineering Overview

  • Program Length: 4-6 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 88% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition: $11,720/year (in state); $23,544/year (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Awards, fellowships, and scholarships

PhD in Data Science, Analytics, and Engineering Admission Requirements

  • Application
  • Application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Letter of intent
  • GRE scores


Bowling Green State University

Bowling Green, OH

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) offers more than 20 PhD programs in a variety of disciplines including engineering, psychology, business, and music. Since its beginnings in 1910, BGSU has been noted for its engineering and scientific research, being one of eight universities in the nation with the Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification.

PhD in Data Science

This research-oriented program is interdisciplinary, incorporating teachings from applied statistics, operations research, and computer science. A unique aspect of BGSU’s program is that you’ll need to take ethics classes in order to understand the moral ramifications of gathering data and in communications to learn to effectively present their findings. Before beginning your 16- to 30-credit dissertation, you will need to pass the qualifying examination that involves oral and written sections.

PhD in Data Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 79% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $523/credit (in state); $856/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Assistantships, scholarships, fellowship

PhD in Data Science Admission Requirements

  • Payment of $45 application fee
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Official or unofficial transcripts from previous institutions
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
  • Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) scores
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Resume


Chapman University

Orange, CA

Chapman offers a variety of graduate programs, with 66 master’s and seven doctoral degrees in disciplines like business, law, education, and health sciences. It was founded in 1861 and is known for its research, with more than 31,000 citations from its 5,283 publications. Chapman University is also known for its strong alumni network, which can help graduates find jobs and networking opportunities.

PhD in Computational and Data Sciences

The PhD in computational and data sciences is designed for students who want to work in fields like population genetics, earth systems, biotechnology, bioinformatics, and economic science. The curriculum includes coursework in mathematical modeling, mining data, data analysis, and computational science, as well as research and thesis guidance from faculty.

The program is structured so that students can specialize in an area of computational science that interests them, such as scientific computing, data science, or machine learning, allowing students to also choose their dissertation topic. Before becoming doctoral candidates, students take qualifying exams for their core curriculum and do presentations on their elective courses.

PhD in Computational  Data Sciences Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 60% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $32,400 tuition
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Assistantships, work-study, loans

PhD in Computational and Data Sciences Admission Requirements

  • Proof of satisfactory coursework in computer programming, differential equations, and statistics
  • $60 application fee
  • Official transcripts
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Resume
  • 750-word statement of interest


Clemson University

Clemson, SC

This circa 1889 school offers more than 130 programs at the graduate level, with 1,687 students currently taking on one of its 50-plus doctoral programs. The school has various innovation clusters of research types, including those related to environmental sustainability, innovations in health, data science and cyberinfrastructure, transportation, and advanced manufacturing.

PhD in Biomedical Data Science and Informatics

This joint program through the college and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) aims to teach students how to remedy issues in medicine through the combined study of information and computer sciences. Courses within the program will cover statistical theory, data management, machine learning, and bioinformatics.

Students spend the first two years doing coursework, the third year completing professional development training and research electives, and the fourth year solely researching. Research, seminars, and lab rotations will consist of 24 credit hours. Before completion of the program you’ll need to take a qualifying exam alongside proposing, writing, and defending your dissertation.

PhD in Biomedical Data Science and Informatics Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 49% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $691/credit (in state); $1491/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Assistantships, scholarships and fellowships

PhD in Biomedical Data Science and Informatics Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in a STEM field, with one year of calculus and biology classes
  • Graduate record examination (GRE) scores
  • Prior computer programming work experience or coursework
  • Work or research experience (recommended)
  • Personal essay
  • Resume
  • Two or three letters of recommendation


George Mason University

Fairfax, VA

This university provides more than 30 doctoral programs just within the College of Science. Something unique to the circa 1949 school—known for its research in physics, immunology, molecular medicine, and biodiversity—is that its staff encourages research teams to incorporate members across various disciplines, bringing the insight and strengths of those respective fields together.

PhD in Computational Sciences and Informatics

Throughout this 72-credit program in the Department of Computational and Data Sciences, you’ll choose two out of four core courses in statistical and scientific visualization, advanced computing, databases, or numerical methods, and then choose from a rotating list of emphasis courses. Emphasis classes might cover topics like knowledge mining, statistical inference, or Bayesian inference decision theory.

By the end of your first year, you’ll need to obtain a research advisor, then get your proposal approved by the department committee to be considered a candidate for a PhD. A month before defending their dissertations, students conduct a pre-defense to get final revision recommendations.

PhD in Computational Sciences and Informatics Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 91% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $12,594/year (in state); $33,906/year (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Fellowships, assistantships, lecturer positions, faculty grants, scholarships, work-study

PhD in Computational Sciences and Informatics Admission Requirements

  • Minimum GPA of 3.0
  • Mathematics background
  • Knowledge of programming languages such as C, C++, and Python
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement


Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

Harrisburg, PA

Though Harrisburg only joined the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2001, the private, not-for-profit university has grown to have an enrollment of 4,000 students from over 100 countries. While it only offers three PhD degree programs in data science, computational science, and information systems engineering, it is known for its impressive research in supercomputer datamining, aquaponics, and virtual reality.

PhD in Data Sciences

This program strives to teach PhD candidates diverse methods of data science and train them to be able to apply their analytical knowledge across disciplines beyond data science. The first two years of the program are Harrisbug's Analytics Master's Degree, and students apply for the actual PhD in the final semester of that program.

If, however, students have a prior master’s degree from Harrisburg in computer science, they can transfer those credits and complete this four-to-five year doctoral degree in a shorter period. After completing the classwork portion of the degree, taking labs, seminars, classes, and doing fieldwork, they’ll begin their dissertation research. The defense of their dissertation will function as their final exam.

PhD in Data Sciences Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: N/A
  • Tuition and Fees : $800/credit hour (in state); $4,800/credit hour (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Scholarships, grants, loans, work-study

PhD in Data Sciences Admission Requirements

  • GRE/GMAT (strongly recommended)
  • Personal statement
  • Essay on career goals
  • Proof of research potential (courses or projects)
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Minimum master’s degree GPA of 3.3
  • Official transcripts
  • Resume
  • A letter of intent


Indiana University-Purdue University

Indianapolis, IN

The 1969-founded Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) is an eponymous merger between the two schools and offers 550 programs across all levels. Of those, 57 are PhDs, covering everything from American studies and economics to addiction neuroscience and epidemiology. Some of their latest research breakthroughs were in the fields of informatics and computing, cardiology, nanosystems, and artificial intelligence.

PhD in Data Science

With data science being a field in its infancy, IUPU’s School of Informatics and Computing strives to have its graduates be leaders within this ever-evolving industry. Students will take classes in system analysis and design, monitoring social media, and data mining and visualization.

PhD candidates can collaborate with professors on groundbreaking research in information infrastructures, Android science, computer security, machine learning, dataset integration, and computational social science. After earning this interdisciplinary degree, doctoral graduates will be ready to work in academia, health care, or even business intelligence.

PhD in Data Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 84% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $425/credit (in state) ; $1,350.00/credit (out of state)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Faculty grants, work-study, loans, internal funding, foundation or corporate funding, funding agencies

PhD in Data Science Admission Requirements

  • GPA of 3.5 or higher
  • GRE scores in the 70th percentile or higher for all sections
  • Bachelor’s degree (master’s degree preferred)
  • Completed classes in computer programming, statistics theory, linear algebra, and multivariable calculus
  • Online application
  • Resume
  • 500- to 750-word statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation


Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw, GA

Founded in 1966, Kennesaw provides more than 170 programs to its 40,000-plus students. Its 11 doctoral programs include studies in computer science, education, engineering, international diplomacy, business administration, and more. The core of the university's studies relates to technology and computing, medicine, human well-being and development, and sustainability.

Doctoral Degree in Analytics and Data Science

This interdisciplinary program combines business, math, stats, and computer science to make for well-rounded PhD candidates. Furthering that mission, the school also teaches written and oral communication skills to help graduates thrive in business or research fields.

In the 78-credit program, students will take classes on machine learning, mining data, analyzing big data, and graph theory in their first year. This is followed by 21 credits of electives in their second year. Though students often participate in research projects during their first two years, the latter two of their programs will involve independently-led studies for their dissertation.

Doctoral Degree in Analytics and Data Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4-5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 82% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: Qualified students are given a research stipend and waived tuition
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Foundations and institutes, corporate programs, scholarships, grants, loans, clearinghouses, coalitions, research stipends

Doctoral Degree in Analytics and Data Science Admission Requirements

  • Master’s degree in computational-related discipline
  • If no master’s degree, apply to the combined Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics or Computer Science program
  • Strong proficiency in a programming language like Python
  • Online application and $60 application fee
  • Official transcripts from previous colleges or universities
  • The graduate record examination (GRE) scores
  • Resume
  • Statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Completion of math courses through Calculus II
  • SAS Certification (preferred)


University of Nevada

Reno, NV

This 1874-founded school has 150 graduate programs, with 50-plus PhD programs in disciplines like medicine, physics, economics, and chemical physics. They have research programs in more than just pure and applied mathematics, as they also perform studies on wildfires, disinfectants, and autoregulation.

PhD in Statistics and Data Science

Prospective employees in academia, business, or government should consider this interdisciplinary research-based program in the Department of Mathematics and  Statistics in the College of Science. The 72 credit hours of this degree are broken up into 48 hours of classwork covering topics like linear models, statistical theory and computing, and quantitative methods, 30 of which should be at the 700-level. There are 24 dissertation credits and 24 master’s classes from a previously finished graduate degree.

In order to continue within the PhD program after the third year, candidate hopefuls will need to pass a written qualifying test. After the qualifying test, students need to score highly on an oral exam in their chosen concentration before submitting and defending their dissertations.

PhD in Statistics and Data Science Overview

  • Program Length: 4-6 years (8 years max)
  • Acceptance Rate: 88% for overall school
  • Tuition and Fees: $305.50/credit
  • PhD Funding Opportunities: Work-study, assistantships, scholarships, stipends, tuition waiver, subsidized medical plan

PhD in Statistics and Data Science Admission Requirements

  • Online application
  • Bachelor’s and master’s degree transcripts
  • Graduate record examination (GRE) scores
  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose
  • Mathematics test scores (recommended)
  • Financial aid application


Yale University

New Haven, CT

Founded in 1701, Yale University is one of the oldest universities in the United States and is ranked fifth-best school in the nation by US News & World Report. Yale has 12 different professional schools and 73 different graduate degree programs. The university is especially well-known for its research in the humanities, environmental science, social sciences, and biotechnology.

PhD program in Statistics and Data Science

Students entering this degree program will focus on probability, statistics, information theory, data mining, machine learning, neural networks, and more as their foundational studies. After that, students take elective classes on one-off special topics classes that change between semesters.

Those in the program need to take an oral and practical exam in their first year and begin their dissertation work in either their second or third year. This is usually a five-year program, with students getting a dissertation fellowship in their fifth year. Yale is a very exclusive school, and last year only made between 12 and 14 offers to the 300 applicants it received. As such, applying to other schools, in addition to Yale, would be a wise choice.

PhD program in Statistics and Data Science Overview

  • Program Length: 5 years
  • Acceptance Rate: 5% (school acceptance rate)
  • Tuition and Fees: $45,700/year (waived through provided fellowship)
  • PhD Funding Opportunities : PhD students get a fellowship that covers all tuition through first five years in addition to an annual stipend of $36,000, Teaching fellowships, stipends, and health care benefits

PhD program in Statistics and Data Science Admission Requirements

  • Graduate record examination (GRE) scores (optional)
  • Strong mathematical background
  • Personal statement
  • Unofficial transcripts from previous colleges
  • Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation

Can You Get a PhD in Data Science Online?

Yes, you can get a PhD in Data Science online. There are a few fully-online PhD programs in data science provided by schools like Northcentral University. If you wish to pursue your PhD online but haven’t been accepted into a program for data science, you can consider a computer science program that has a concentration in data science. Since data science is a subset of computer science, you would learn the same foundational skills in either program.

Best Online PhD Programs in Data Science

School Program Length
Capitol Technology University Online PhD in Business Analytics and Data Science 3-4 years
Northcentral University Online PhD in Data Science 3-4 years
Northcentral University Online PhD in Data Science and Technology Management 4 years
The University of Rhode Island Online PhD in Computer Science 4 years
University of North Texas Online PhD in Information Science 3 years

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Data Science?

It typically takes four to five years to complete a PhD in Data Science. While four years is the standard for most schools, some programs take a fifth year to complete due to the exhaustive research conducted. Most of the programs we’ve covered above require students to complete between 70 to 80 credits.

While that only requires between eight and 10 credits per semester, students’ schedules are filled with doing research, being a teacher’s assistant, and completing a fellowship. The amount of coursework required, the research component, and the dissertation are all factors that can affect the time it takes to earn a PhD in Data Science.

Is a PhD in Data Science Hard?

Yes, a PhD in Data Science is hard as it involves taking incredibly technical classes and conducting your own novel research within data science. The academic discipline is the merging of computer science, statistics, operations research, and more, meaning that successful students must be proficient in a wide range of technical skills.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Data Science?

It costs, on average, $19,314 per year to get a PhD in Data Science , according to the National Center of Education Statistics. The cost will change depending on the type of school a student attends. If a doctoral student studies at a public university, the tuition is only $12,171, on average. By contrast, if a doctoral student studies at a private institution, tuition costs about $14,208 at for-profit universities, and $27,776 for nonprofit universities.

How to Pay for a PhD in Data Science: PhD Funding Options

There are many different avenues students can look into to pay for a PhD in Data Science. Some schools, such as Yale and Kennesaw State University, waive tuition for eligible students, and might even give students a yearly stipend. Another common option is to do an assistantship, in which you’d work within your data science department by teaching or doing research.

Students can also apply for various scholarships or grants to help cut down the cost of tuition. While scholarships for undergraduate students are typically merit-based, PhD funding is achieved through a student’s specific field, supporting their research and cutting tuition costs.

Best Online Master’s Degrees

Do you want to know about the best online business administration master’s degrees? This guide reviews online Master’s Degrees in Business Administration (MBAs), the best ...

Read more

The field of cyber security requires experts who can apply their technical skills and professional experience in combating cyber threats that plague our global economy. ...

Read more

Data science careers are ideal for those fascinated by the way information influences the global market and consumer habits. The best online data science master’s ...

Read more

What Is the Difference Between a Data Science Master’s Degree and PhD?

The difference between a data science master’s degree and PhD is that the former program only takes about two years to complete, while the latter is the educational step past a master’s degree that takes at least four years to complete. In fact, the first two years of a PhD program are usually a master’s degree program.

As such, some schools prefer applicants to have master’s degrees to cut down on the length of time. A master’s degree, and the first two years of a PhD program, are more so classroom-based. For PhD students, this is when students learn the foundations they’ll need to conduct their own research in the final two years of their program.

Master’s vs PhD in Data Science Job Outlook

The job outlook for people with a Master’s or PhD in Data Science is very positive. Data science is a new scientific field, so workers within its industries are in high demand. For example, computer and information research scientists , which have a minimum requirement of a master’s degree, should see their careers grow by 22 percent between 2020 and 2030, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Medical scientists , which have a minimum educational requirement of a PhD, should see job growth of 17 percent between 2020 and 2030. While The PhD job outlook is lower in this instance, a PhD is highly desirable, which is evident by the salary discrepancy below.

Difference in Salary for Data Science Master’s vs PhD

A PhD typically leads to a higher salary than a master’s degree. For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer and information research scientists average $131,490 per year, while medical scientists in the scientific research and development services industry make $129,800. By contrast, those with a master’s degree tend to earn an average salary of $106,000 , according to PayScale.

While the BLS states that the minimum educational requirement for that job is a master’s degree, typically those with master’s degrees work in analyzing existing data. With a PhD, you can conduct research within this innovative field.

Related Data Science Degrees

Read this guide to getting a Bachelor's Degree in Data Science, including the best schools, career paths, salaries, and more.

Read more

In this article, you'll learn about the best online data science bachelor's degrees and what data science jobs are available to you postgrad.

Read more

Discover the top schools and programs for a Master’s in Data Sceince. It also covers the jobs and salaries you can get with a data ...

Read more

Why Should You Get a PhD in Data Science?

You should get a PhD in Data Science because you will be one of the pioneering leaders in this budding field. While a master’s program teaches students how to analyze data, a PhD program empowers students to do their own research. Read below for why you should get a PhD in Data Science.

Reasons for Getting a PhD in Data Science

  • Lead the Field. Data science is a new field, so those that get a doctoral degree will be at the forefront of new developments. As you’ll be analyzing data, it’s incredibly exciting to think that your PhD research will be groundbreaking.
  • Ever-evolving job: Technology is constantly advancing at incredible speeds, so being the one to learn about these advancements will never get old. With artificial intelligence technologies on the rise, one can only imagine in just 10 years’ time how different our understanding of data science will be.
  • Specialize in interest. As students go along their educational paths, they go from learning foundational knowledge to increasingly specific information. Thus, if you’re passionate about a subset of data science but didn’t get to focus on it in your bachelor’s or master’s degree program, a PhD is the perfect opportunity to study, research, and work within your interests.
  • High salaries. As the field of data science grows, the need for data science experts will also increase. PhD graduates will be uniquely equipped for the industry’s changing landscape and will be highly sought-after.
  • Research opportunities. While this is an enriching hands-on experience, it lays the groundwork for you to be able to conduct your own studies in the latter two years of your program. You will be able to follow your passions rather than just helping a faculty member succeed in their work.
  • Job Market. The BLS projects that job openings in computer and information research sciences will grow by 22 percent from 2020 to 2030. In getting a PhD, you will be a more competitive applicant than those with a lesser degree. It’s likely that you can even negotiate higher salaries because of your specialties.

Getting a PhD in Data Science: Data Science PhD Coursework

A data scientist student programs on a laptop. 
Programming languages are the tools that data scientists use to manipulate and extract insights from data.

Data science is an interdisciplinary field, involving bioinformatics, computer science, statistics, and operations research. As such, the coursework PhD students undertake is diverse, including data mining, bioinformatics, ethics, and data visualization. Below, we’ll discuss some of the common classes found throughout most PhD programs in data science.

Introduction to Data Science

This class will teach you the baseline information you’ll need to know to advance in your data science career. Since you’re in an advanced degree program, you’ll likely be working with real data from case studies. You’ll take that information and learn how to build and manage databases, visualize data, and run statistical analyses.

Data Mining

Raw data, though important, isn’t useful until it can be contextualized and analyzed. Data mining is also called “knowledge discovery,” meaning that mining is the process of digging through mounds of data to learn information. Students will code, select and visualize data, use machine learning, and clean information to make novel findings.


As the combination of terms implies, bioinformatics is where biology and informatics meet and involves the study of biological data. This field of study is essential for those that want to go into medicine as data scientists. If you haven’t yet completed your bachelor’s degree, pursuing one of the best undergraduate degrees in bioinformatics is a wise choice.

Ethics of Data Science

Since data science involves collecting and storing information, mostly on people, there are possible moral ramifications to this. Within an ethics class, you’ll learn the proper methodology for conducting research to assure that your work meets codes of conduct.

Data Visualization

An important aspect of conducting research is being able to articulate your discoveries. Through visualization in programming languages like R, you’ll learn how to plot data and make reports. This process helps you organize your findings as well as snuff out any errors made during computation.

Best Master’s Degrees

The best biotechnology master’s degrees can help you stand out from the competition in the job market and prove to employers that you are serious ...

Read more

There are a lot of opportunities for math education graduates. With a master’s degree, you can become an actuary, professor, consultant, bank manager, financial director, ...

Read more

Robotics is a dynamic field in the tech industry. With each passing year, new technological innovations are conceived and implemented. Your success in the robotics ...

Read more

How to Get a PhD in Data Science: Doctoral Program Requirements

You can get a PhD in Data Science by meeting your chosen university’s degree requirements. Though these can vary, there are commonalities across different schools, such as completing a set number of credits, taking exams, and crafting a dissertation. We’ll now go into more detail about these common components of the doctoral degree.


Complete Minimum Credit Hours

Data Science PhD programs typically require the completion of 70 and 80 credit hours. This is often split down the middle, with the first half of credits being done in a classroom, and the latter half being done through your research and dissertation.

While full-time undergraduate students take 15 or so credits per semester, the number of PhD students is lower as they conduct work outside of classroom hours through assistantships. Candidates typically complete this degree studying full-time for four to five years, taking between eight and 10 credits per semester. Most schools have a cap on the maximum number of years a student has to complete their PhD. For example, University of Nevada’s maximum allowance is eight years.


Complete the required coursework

Before entering a PhD program, students already have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a relevant STEM discipline. With the basics in coding languages, a statistical method, calculus, and engineering out of the way, doctorate students can take a deep dive into more difficult and focused courses. Some examples of classes PhD students will take include machine learning, data visualization, and bioinformatics.

Often students will be able to choose a specialization to narrow the focus of their research. This allows them to take more niche classes on topics like asymptotics, stochastic processes, and Bayes theorem. After completing two years of classwork, students then begin their dissertation studies.


Passing a qualifying exam

In order to be considered candidates for a PhD, students will need to pass exams between the first and third year of their degree program. The tests, which often consist of a verbal exam and written assessment, determine what the candidate-hopefuls have learned so far and whether they will be effective researchers with the school’s department.


Thesis for PhD in Data Science

After completing two years of coursework and passing their qualifying exams, PhD candidates begin research for their eventual dissertations. Candidates collaborate with a chosen faculty member to help guide them in their approved topic of study. Students then write about their findings in a dissertation or thesis, which they will need to defend in front of a committee before being considered doctors.

Potential Careers With an Data Science Degree

Azure developers take advantage of cloud architecture to design and create cloud-based applications, products, and services with Microsoft Azure. These developers ensure ease of database ...

Read more

All digital businesses need to ensure their databases, networks, applications, and devices are secure by hiring a cyber security analyst. Cyber security experts can have ...

Read more

Market research and statistical data are important tools for companies today. This is because they help businesses make informed decisions. Research analysts are professionals employed ...

Read more

PhD in Data Science Salary and Job Outlook

The salary and job outlook for those with a PhD in Data Science is very positive. The field of study is fairly new, and while there might not be many jobs that specifically require a PhD, having a terminal degree will make you a competitive applicant for prospective employers.

Data science PhD holders can work as medical scientists in the scientific research and development services industry or as information and computer research scientists. For the former industry, which requires a PhD, there will be a 17-percent increase in job openings between 2020 and 2030, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The US BLS reports that computational and informational research sciences will see a 22-percent increase in job openings during that decade. Average salaries for those professionals are $116,430 and $131,490, respectively.

Though the salary for those in computational and informational research sciences is higher and typically only requires a master’s degree, those with a PhD are more likely to work in those positions. This is because PhD holders often conduct research, having done so in their doctoral programs, while former graduate students often analyze existing findings instead.

What Can You Do With a PhD in Data Science?

With a PhD in Data Science, there are a plethora of jobs within reach . The field of study is interdisciplinary, meaning that you’d be equipped with the skills to thrive in careers relating to computer science, bioinformatics, engineering, data management, and so much more. Let’s discuss further some of the highest-paying jobs that you can get with a PhD in Data Science.

Best Jobs with a PhD in Data Science

  • Computer and Information Research Scientist
  • Mathematicians/Statistician
  • Medical Scientist
  • Machine Learning Engineer
  • Data Scientist

What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Data Science?

The average salary for a PhD in Data Science is around $131,000. Payscale reports this is the average salary for those with a PhD in Computer Science, and since data science is a specialization of computer science, one can infer the salaries would be similar.

While $131,000 can be the expected salary for those with a Doctorate in Computer Science—and data science, by extension—the average salary you might earn will depend on a few variables. These include the amount of work experience you have, the industry you are working in, the organization you are working for, and the region of the country you are working in.

Highest-Paying Data Science Jobs for PhD Grads

Data Science PhD Jobs Average Salary
Computer and Information Research Scientist $131,490
Mathematicians and Statistician $129,800
Medical Scientist $116,430
Machine Learning Engineer $112,709
Data Scientist $108,660

Best Data Science Jobs with a Doctorate

The best data science jobs with a doctorate are as a computer and information research scientist, mathematician or statistician, medical scientist, machine learning engineer, or data scientist. All of the above careers earn over $100,000 per year, but the actual salary a job might offer can differ.


Computer and Information Research Scientist

PhD Salary: $131,490

These professionals are found across health care, corporate, and scientific fields and work to optimize the computer systems for their organization. This is done through distilling overly-complicated algorithms, troubleshooting issues with other engineers, and conducting research into developing new electronic programs.

Though these jobs usually have a minimum education requirement of a master’s degree, those with a PhD are likely to also populate this sector and will likely be given preference by employers. This is because those with a PhD conduct research more frequently than those with a master’s degree, who usually analyze existing data.


Mathematicians and Statisticians

PhD Salary: $129,800

While both statisticians and data scientists analyze sets of information, a difference between the two is that while the field of computational statistics can be broad, data science is more focused on computer science and machine learning. They do, however, use the same methodology for analysis, so with your PhD in Data Science, you’d be equipped to be a statistician in a variety of industries.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, statisticians and mathematicians that work in technical, professional, and scientific services make on average $129,800, and those that work in life, engineering, and physical science development and research earn $114,770 per year.


Medical Scientist

PhD Salary: $116,430

Working in what the BLS calls the “ scientific research and development services industry ,” you could use your data science know-how in the medical field, especially if you concentrated or did your dissertation in health care. You’d likely data mine through patient information, analyzing it to then make recommendations to those in your health system organization.


Machine Learning Engineer

PhD Salary: $112,709

Artificial intelligence is growing alongside the data science field. Pursuing this career would allow you to be able to help foster artificial intelligence (AI) programs. You’d code your own AI system, teaching it how to analyze large amounts of data and how the system should respond to it.


Data Scientist

PhD Salary: $108,660

Those that work within this field combine their knowledge of informatics, computer programming, data mining and management, and more to conduct research by studying data sets. Data Scientists can work in business, devising avenues to optimize profits by looking at care, presenting their studies to guide decisions bettering the medical system; and academia, working to innovate this budding field of study.

  • Salary with a Data Science PhD: $108,660
  • Job Outlook: 22% job growth from 2020 to 2030
  • Number of Jobs: 105,980
  • Highest-Paying States: New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Washington, California

Is a PhD in Data Science Worth It?

Yes, a PhD in Data Science is much worth it. Though not all data science jobs require a PhD, with some upper-level careers only requiring a master’s degree, you would have an advantage over others with lower levels of education. You’d have experience conducting your own research method, which would prepare you for running your own studies in the real world.

Most with master’s degrees don’t actually develop their own studies, rather, they analyze existing information. A PhD would give you a competitive edge, making you a more impressive candidate to prospective employers. You’d be more likely to get hired, and more plausibly able to negotiate a higher salary.

Data science is a new field of inquiry, so by having a doctorate in it, you would be at the forefront of the technological advancements within the industry. You would likely make at least $100,000 yearly in data science and have the interdisciplinary skills to work in other industries if you desire.

Additional Reading About Data Science

More beginners are looking to learn data science. Start by exploring one of the best introduction to data science courses in this guide.

Read more

Data science jobs offer high salaries, job security, and career development opportunities. Our guide shows you how to get a job in data science, and ...

Read more

This article describes the different types of data science degrees you can pursue, from associate to master's degrees.

Read more

PhD in Data Science FAQ

Do data scientists have PhDs?

Yes, many data scientists have PhDs, but it is not a requirement for many jobs in the industry. Some require only master’s degrees instead, but there are advantages to having a PhD. With a PhD, you’ll have conducted your own research to get your doctorate, allowing you to more easily create your own studies in the real world. Those with a master’s degree, by contrast, usually only analyze existing studies, giving you less creative liberties with what you work on.

What can I do with a PhD in Data Science?

There are many career options for those with a PhD in Data Science, as the course of study is interdisciplinary. This means that those with the degree are taught technical skills that can apply to multiple different industries. Often, those with a data science degree go on to work in either business, medicine, or academia.

How much do PhD data scientists make?

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary for data scientists is $131,490 . This report states that those within this job often have a master’s degree, meaning that with your PhD, you’d be a more impressive candidate and be able to negotiate a higher salary. Additionally, the BLS estimates that demand for data scientists will grow by 22 percent from 2020 to 2030, a much higher rate than the national average of eight percent.

What degree is best to become a data scientist?

A PhD is the best degree to become a data scientist if you want to conduct your own studies. Many within data science have lesser degrees, usually a master’s and sometimes a bachelor’s, which in turn gives them less responsibility within the field. If you have a scientific inquiry that you are passionate about and want the freedom to study what you want, a PhD is the best degree to obtain.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

What's Next?

Joana Ferreira

About the author: Joana is an expert content writer and world traveler. Experienced in content optimization and other tech topics, she contributes to the Career Karma blog's informative technical content. Joana has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism.

Skip to main content