Data Science Masters

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we get from prospective students of the program, broken down by category. These are great to review in detail if you are planning to apply, as they may help you craft a stronger application. Be also sure to check the admissions articles on our blog for helpful tips about application materials and the kinds of students we seek.

Admissions Policies

Does the MSDS program admit for winter/spring/summer quarters?

No, the program admits once per year, for the autumn quarter. We do not have winter, spring, or summer admissions.

Do you accept transfer applications/transfer credits?

No, we do not accept transfer applications, or transfer credits from other institutions or programs. Occasionally, students may substitute other coursework for courses they have already completed elsewhere, but the total credit requirement to complete the MSDS program remains at 45 credits.

Do you have rolling admissions? Priority deadlines?

No, the program does not have rolling admissions, or priority deadlines for consideration. We do have slightly different deadlines for international students versus domestic students. All applications are due by the final application deadlines listed on our admissions page.

Most of our evaluation process begins after the deadline, though occasionally we will do some basic checks for application completeness in advance to get a jump on our complex holistic admissions process.

Can I apply late or get materials in after the deadline?

No, the deadlines are hard deadlines. We do not accept late applications or materials–all materials are due by the deadline. The one exception is that there is a grace period of two weeks after the deadline for recommendations.

Can I change or add to my application after I have submitted it?

No. Once you submit your application, we are not able to change or add materials. The one exception to this is that you can still change your recommenders if you run into problems, by logging back into MyGrad and editing them.

Can I be conditionally admitted to the MSDS program?

No, the program does not have conditional admissions. You must meet all minimum requirements for admissions before applying, except for completion of your undergraduate degree. You can have your undergraduate degree in progress when you apply, as long as you will complete it by the time you would start the program in late September of the cycle.

Can I apply before I am finished with my undergraduate degree?

Yes, you can have your undergraduate degree in progress when you apply, as long as you will complete it by the autumn MSDS program intake in late September.

Can I apply if I already have another graduate degree?

Yes! Every year we admit students to the program who already have other graduate degrees.

Do I have to complete all the prerequisites before I apply?

Yes, applicants must complete and have grades for all the prerequisites by the application deadline, as we use grades from these in the admissions process. The admissions committee is unable to consider applicants with missing or incomplete prerequisites.

If I am missing prerequisite courses, where can I take these?

Prerequisite courses can be taken at any regionally-accredited college or university, online or in person, as long as they are taken for college credit and a grade. These need to be finished and graded before applying, as we use these grades in the admissions process.

Most domestic applicants who are missing prerequisites look to a local college, community college, or university to find courses equivalent to UW CSE 142 and 143, and MATH 126 and 208. If you are in the state of Washington, you can find pre-negotiated equivalents to these classes at most Washington state community colleges by utilizing the UW Course Equivalency Guide. It is also possible, though more expensive and complicated, to apply to UW as a non-matriculated student and take the courses on the UW campus.

Is work experience required?

While many of our students have work experience, it is not required for admission to the program.

If admitted, can I defer admission to a different year?

No. The UW MSDS program does not offer deferrals from year to year. If you are admitted and decide not to attend, you may re-apply in the following year, and will need to pay the non-refundable application fee again. If admitted, you will need to pay the non-refundable enrollment confirmation deposit (ECD) again. Also, please note that future admission is not guaranteed just because you have been admitted in a past cycle.

My application was rejected. Can I get feedback on my application?

We are not able to provide feedback on rejected applications due to the high volume of applications we receive each year.

My application was rejected. Can I re-apply again next year?

Yes, applicants may re-apply to the program. We strongly recommend that reapplicants provide a response to the optional essay question, detailing how their candidacy has improved since their last application.

International Students

Is the UW MSDS program a STEM program?

Yes, we are a STEM-eligible program. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are options for MSDS students. Our CIP code is 11.0401.

If I enroll in the program, will I be eligible for OPT or CPT?

Yes, Curricular Practical Training (CPT) and Optional Practical Training (OPT) are options for M.S. in Data Science students. We are a STEM-eligible program.

Can I get a TOEFL waiver?

The MSDS program does not have a TOEFL requirement. We require that students demonstrate English proficiency one of several ways (per UW Memo 8):

  • Medium of Instruction: English. If you can document that your undergraduate education was completed in English, you have satisfied the requirement.
  • Degree from an English-speaking country and institution. If you received a bachelor’s, master’s, or Ph.D. from an institution in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, or other country where English is the official language, and the medium of instruction was English, you have satisfied the requirement.
  • TOEFL scores: minimum 106 total and 25 in each section. The TOEFL is one way of satisfying the requirement. Please note: our TOEFL minimums are higher than the central UW Graduate School’s. 
  • DuoLingo scores: minimum 125 total. DuoLingo is another way to satisfy the English proficiency requirement. Please note: our DuoLingo minimum is higher than the UW Graduate School’s. 

Do you accept IELTS?

No, we do not accept IELTS scores in the current cycle. The central UW Graduate School recently began accepting IELTS again, and the UW MSDS program plans to add IELTS in a future cycle.

If my undergraduate education was all in English, do I need TOEFL scores?

No. If your undergraduate education was completed entirely in English, and you can document this, you have completed the UW English Proficiency requirement. No TOEFL or other scores are needed or helpful in the admissions process. Documentation can be as simple as a note on your transcript that says the “medium of instruction was English,” or a separate letter from your institution to this effect. If you have a separate letter, combine this with your transcript into one file/.pdf, and upload this in the transcripts section.

Is there benefit in TOEFL scores if my medium of instruction was English?

No, there is no benefit in providing TOEFL or other scores, if you have already documented that your medium of instruction for your undergraduate degree was English.

What is the department code to send my TOEFL scores?

The UW handles scores from ETS differently than most universities, and does not use department codes. All scores go through the central UW Graduate School, who provide them to all UW programs to which you apply. You can choose any department code and your scores should get to us, as long as you designate the correct institution code for UW, which is 4854.

Can I apply with a 3-year undergraduate degree?

Sometimes. The UW Graduate School requires that all applicants have a minimum of a 4-year U.S. undergraduate degree or international equivalent. International equivalency can be tricky, and it is best to reach out directly to the UW Graduate School to check if your education meets the equivalence. They may recommend you complete additional schooling in order to meet this requirement.

Are there scholarships or funding for international students?

Most financial aid and funding in the US is primarily targeted at domestic students, so funding for international students can be scarce. We do consider all students automatically for a small number of internal, partial-tuition scholarships for our top applicants each cycle. However, the vast majority of our students finance their educations through a combination of their own resources and student loans from various sources, in anticipation of a strong industry salary upon graduation. There are some other resources you can investigate on our Tuition & Financial Aid page.

Application Materials

Why are GRE/GMAT scores not required?

The program does not consider GRE or GMAT scores in the admissions process. We found that GRE scores are an unreliable predictor of success in graduate school, our program, and the data science field. Furthermore, the high cost of the GRE/GMAT exams impede socioeconomically disadvantaged students from applying to graduate school, and research has indicated that standardized test of this kind may reinforce structural biases in education around gender, race, ethnicity, class and other issues related to equity and inclusion.

Is there any benefit in providing GRE/GMAT scores?

There is no benefit to providing GRE or GMAT scores in our admissions process.

Can you evaluate my profile/materials to let me know my chances?

No. We are only able to evaluate completed and submitted applications.

Do I need official paper transcripts to apply?

For the initial admissions process, all you need to do is upload unofficial, digital transcripts to the online application. These can be scans, .pdfs, or pics of your transcripts or mark sheets. If you are admitted and accept your offer of admissions, the central UW Graduate School will contact you much later in the process with instructions on where to send official transcripts and degree documents. Official documents are usually due in the early fall, after you arrive on campus.

Can you approve my prerequisite equivalencies in advance?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the staffing resources to evaluate the large number of applicant prerequisite equivalencies in advance of the formal admissions process.

The best thing to do is compare your class work to the course descriptions for UW CSE 142 and CSE 143, and UW MATH 126 and MATH 208. If the topics are a good match, they will likely work. Programming courses need to be completed in Python, C++, C#, Java, or Javascript to count. We don’t accept Coursera/Udemy, MOOCs, GitHub, boot camps, self-study, or ungraded/non-credit certificate classes for these.

You will be given a spot on the online application to list the courses you believe are equivalent to the above, as well as paste and/or link a short course description for each. The admissions committee compares these to our prerequisite requirements to see if there is a strong match.

There is also a way to complete the programming prerequisites with 5 or more years of professional programming experience, which you can read about on our admissions page.

Can I satisfy prerequisites with Coursera or similar courses?

We do not accept Coursera courses, Udemy, or Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). Prerequisite requirements can only be satisfied with graded for-credit courses from an accredited two- or four-year institution (or the international equivalent).

Can I apply with a GPA below 3.0?

A quick clarification on this requirement: we are looking for your GPA from the last approximately two years of graded, full-time study. This generally translates into 90 quarter credits, or 60 semester credits at US institutions.

If your GPA from the last two years of schooling is under 3.0, you can still apply as long as you address this in the Optional Essay. The minimum 3.0 GPA requirement is actually a requirement of all graduate students at UW, and we have successfully petitioned the central Graduate School for exceptions to this rule for otherwise outstanding applicants.

What languages satisfy the programming prerequisites?

We require applicants to take two introductory-level courses in programming. These courses must cover one or more of the following languages: Python, C#, C++, Java, or JavaScript.

Coursework in computational languages like R, SAS, MATLAB, or SQL cannot be used to satisfy the programming prerequisites.

What kind of recommenders should I have?

There is a great article with recommender tips that our former Admissions Specialist wrote in our blog. Generally speaking, we know that some applicants have primarily academic recommenders, and some have primarily professional recommenders, depending on where they are in their schooling and career. This is fine! It is more important to locate recommenders who intimately know your strengths and aptitudes, and can speak to your potential for success in our graduate program in data science.

Tuition & Financial Aid

Is tuition the same for in-state and out-of-state students?

The cost of the program is the same for all students regardless of residency status, including international students.

Does the program offer teaching assistantships?

The program does not offer teaching assistantships to students, though occasionally they can be found on campus in other departments, or in your second year of study.

The MSDS program is a professional master’s program. It prepares students for data science-related careers in industry, government, not-for-profit, and other fields. It does not prepare students for PhD programs or teaching careers in academia. As a result, we encourage students to gain professional experience by pursuing part-time internships during the academic year and full-time internships during the summer when classes are not in session.

How can I finance my degree?

Students generally finance their degree through a combination of employee benefits, veteran benefits, small scholarships, personal savings, student loans, and income from part-time or full-time internships.

Can I get an application fee waiver?

Application fee waivers are available from the UW Graduate School to some domestic students who demonstrate financial need. Unfortunately, international students planning to study on a student visa are not eligible for these fee waivers. The MSDS program does not offer application fee waivers on the program/department level.

Can I get free tuition as a Washington state employee?

Fee-based and self-sustaining programs, such as the Master of Science in Data Science, are not covered by the Tuition Exemption Program for Washington state employees.

Curriculum and Program Structure

Do you offer online courses?

We do not offer online courses for the most part. Our courses are held in the evenings on the University of Washington campus in Seattle.

What is the difference between the part-time and full-time tracks?

Part-time students enroll in one course per quarter. The typical part-time student completes the program in 2.5 years. Full-time students enroll in two courses per quarter. Full-time students graduate after 1.5 years.

Can I work full-time while enrolled in the program?

Our part-time students typically work full-time in industry while pursuing the MSDS degree.

Do students take courses in the summer?

While most MSDS students do not take courses in the summer, some part-time students may need to take a summer course to graduate on time.

How many students are in the program?

Each cycle, we aim for an incoming cohort of around 60 students.

Can I switch between part-time and full-time?

We don’t encourage this, but it is possible if your circumstances significantly change. Please work carefully with our academic advisor if you have a situation where you want to switch between part-time and full-time study.

Do you offer specializations in specific areas?

The UW MSDS program offers a broad-based core curriculum to prepare students to be professional data scientists in industry. While we offer an elective or two most quarters, we do not offer specializations or opportunities to deeply specialize in subfields of data science.

Can I do research? Does MSDS lead to a Ph.D.?

The UW MSDS program is NOT a research program, but rather a professional master’s degree to prepare students for jobs in industry. We do not prepare students for Ph.D. programs, and are not associated with any Ph.D. program at a department level.