Data Science at UW

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Data Science Education at the UW: A University-Wide Approach

Our society’s ability to generate data is growing at an unprecedented scale and rate. Advances in scientific instruments, the growing availability and sophistication of environmental sensors, the explosion of social media and web content, the growth in mobile devices and web applications that drive them, and access to increasingly powerful and inexpensive compute and storage resources are driving a growing number of disciplines to become data rich. Data analysis is at the heart of many scientific advances and industrial innovations and data science has emerged as a new discipline that college graduates must master.

At the University of Washington, we are deeply committed to ensuring the success of all our graduates and we consider data science to be a critical component of student education whatever major they choose to pursue. We have identified a core set of skills that form the heart of data science education but also recognize that data science education needs vary across disciplines.

Our vision has lead us to adopt an approach to data science education that takes the form of specializations within existing majors. These specializations are called “options” and are transcriptable in the sense that the “Data Science” specialization is listed on student transcripts. At UW, we expect students to pick their discipline of interest and, in the context of that discipline, acquire all necessary skills and knowledge to both utilize data science methods and contribute to the state-of-the-art in data science.

While not all majors on campus offer data science specializations today, the number of such disciplines is growing quickly.

Additionally, at the University of Washington, we offer data science specializations at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in addition to also offering a separate data science master’s degree. Find a list of our course offerings here on our website.

Inter-Disciplinary Data Science Specializations 

To develop data science specialization in a flexible yet coordinated fashion, faculty from different departments, colleges, and schools on campus worked together under the umbrella of the eScience Education Working Group. The developed programs are such that new departments can easily join and offer data science specializations within their majors.See below for the undergraduate and graduate specialization details.

How to Join 

The process for new departments to join the program and offer the data science specializations below at the graduate and undergraduate levels is straightforward. Interested departments should contact David Beck or Sarah Stone.


The University of Washington offers several pathways for undergraduates interested in learning about data science. The Data Science Option brings together departments to create a template for scalable, university-wide program for a data science option for undergraduates. The Data Science Minor helps students leverage familiarity with data science, and gain skills and fluency to work with data in their major domain of study.


Departments offer two complementary data science specializations. The Data Science Option targets students who seek to learn data science methods and how to use data science tools. The Advanced Data Science Option targets students who seek to develop new data science methods and tools

Professional Masters

University of Washington’s new Master of Science in Data Science gives current and aspiring data science professionals the technical skills needed to extract insights from large, noisy and heterogeneous datasets – and the practical skills to make analytics easy to understand and use.

Tutorials and Bootcamps

We offer ongoing tutorials, bootcamps, hackathons, and other short education events. We’re also a regional partner with Software Carpentry, a non-profit volunteer organization whose members teach researchers basic software skills.