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School of Information announces first online Master of Information and Data Science degree

The School of Information's new online degree program addresses the nation's "dramatically growing need for well-trained big-data professionals."

South Hall

Responding to the national shortage of data scientists, the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Information (I School) today announced the launch of the country’s first fully online Master of Information and Data Science (MIDS) degree program.

“This new degree program is in response to a dramatically growing need for well-trained big-data professionals who can organize, analyze and interpret the deluge of often messy and unorganized data available from the web, sensor networks, mobile devices and elsewhere,” said AnnaLee Saxenian, dean of the I School.

A 2011 study says we need even more people capable of connecting the dots in big data.

The United States may soon face a shortage of people who can connect the dots using the massive amounts of data critical today in finance, energy, health care and other fields, according to a 2011 McKinsey Institute report.

“These new professionals need an assortment of skills ranging from math, programming, communication to management, statistics, engineering and social sciences, not to mention a deep curiosity and an ability to translate technical jargon into everyday English,” Saxenian added.

By 2018, the U.S. may face a shortage of up to 190,000 people who have the analytical skills — and another 1.5 million managers and analysts with the know-how — to make wise use of virtual mountain ranges of data for critical decisions in business, energy, intelligence, health care, finance, and other fields, said the McKinsey Institute in the June 2011 report, “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.”

Dean Saxenian, author of “The New Argonauts: Regional Advantage in a Global Economy” and other books about Silicon Valley said, “The online MIDS program is ideal for today’s students, who are likely to have jobs working on globally distributed teams in roles such as data engineer, data architect, data and analytics officer, financial analyst and director of health analytics.”

With the new program beginning in January 2014,  the I School is staking out new master’s degree territory in educating data scientists. While other institutions provide individual classes, certificates, or associate master’s degrees in data science, the I School has designed a comprehensive and integrated suite of courses that pending approval by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges will culminate in a capstone course designed to solidify a student’s knowledge of the breadth of data science concepts and skills.

“We are awash with data, but the expertise to analyze and exploit that data is in short supply. The mission of the MIDS degree is to provide that expertise,” said Hal Varian, a professor emeritus at the I School and chief economist with Google.

A rigorous new 27-unit program aimed at the working professional, the MIDS program will also require a one-week immersion at the I School’s home in South Hall, where students can meet and explore the Bay Area tech environment.

Students will participate in live, face-to-face classes with fellow students and professors via the Web. Classes are small, with no more than 15-20 students. Additional coursework will include lectures, interactive case studies, and collaborative assignments. Classes will use 2U, Inc.’s online platform featuring high-quality I School faculty developed self-paced content and a state-of-the art learning management system.

I School faculty will teach their curriculum alongside experienced data science professionals. Classes will range from an introduction to machine learning (the intersection of computer science and statistics that focuses on finding patterns in data) and data storage and retrieval to the privacy, security, and ethics of data.

The I School currently offers a two-year professional master’s degree (MIMS) that prepares students for careers as information management and systems professionals, and a Ph.D. program for scholars interested in developing information management solutions and shaping information policy.

For more information on the MIDS program, please visit, call (855) 678-MIDS or follow the program on Twitter at @BerkeleyData. For more information on UC Berkeley’s I School, please visit