Master of Computer Science in Data Science

A flexible and affordable Data Science degree from one of the top Computer Science programs in the world, focused on one of the hottest fields of the new millennium.

Enroll in the Master of Computer Science in Data Science (MCS-DS) and gain access to the computational and statistical knowledge needed to turn big data into meaningful insights. Build expertise in four core areas of computer science—data visualization, machine learning, data mining, and cloud computing—while learning key skills in statistics and information science. This completely online degree is an affordable gateway to one of the most lucrative and fastest growing careers of the new millennium.

The MCS-DS is offered by Illinois Computer Science, a U.S. News & World Report top five CS graduate program, in collaboration with the University’s Statistics Department and top-ranked iSchool. Join our alumni network of entrepreneurs, educators, and technical visionaries, who have revolutionized the way people communicate, shop, conduct business, and are entertained. From the ILLIAC to Blue Waters, OpenMP to MPI, Mosaic to YouTube, and the first vectorizing compilers to LLVM, Illinois Computer Science has long been at the forefront of excellence in computing and education.

Who is this degree for:

Professionals who want to use big data to understand the world, discover new insights, and optimize their decision-making will find value in the MCS-DS program. Analyzing the rising tide of data has become important to a wide range of fields, including the humanities, medicine, and business, as well as engineering and the sciences. Students will gain a strong foundation that will enable them to bring data science to bear on these areas. The program is designed so that students can complete it at their own pace as they balance their personal and professional commitments. Most students complete the degree in less than three years, though it can be completed in as little as one year or, if needed, as many as five years.

Read our blog posts:

Sit in on an Illinois course:

Take one of these courses or Specializations to learn from Illinois MCS degree instructors and complete assignments that give you a head start on degree courses.


$19,200 ($600 per credit hour) plus additional fees:

Coursera fees: $79 per each open Coursera course that is applied toward the MCS-DS. (Each credit-bearing course of enrollment at the University of Illinois requires concurrent enrollment in two associated Coursera courses for lecture content and some assessments.)

Note: If the required Coursera course has already been completed before the credit-bearing MCS-DS course started, students do not need to pay again.

ProctorU fees: Exams proctored through ProctorU will be billed when an exam is scheduled, at $8.75 (30-min. exam), $14.75 (1-hr. exam), $21.50 (90-min. and 2-hour exam), or $30.25 (3-hour exam).

Amazon Web Services fees: Vary, depending on the course.

Though the department does not have any assistantships or scholarships available for this program, domestic students may qualify for Federal Student Aid, since the MCS-DS is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Office hours:

If you have any questions, please review our FAQ section below, or the FAQs on CS@Illinois, or feel free to email us at

Watch recent admissions webinar:

Illinois Master of Computer Science in Data Science Webinar: aired on May 3.

Learn more about the Master of Computer Science in Data Science degree, admissions process and upcoming deadlines.

Watch recording View presentation slides


  • 12 - 36 months
  • 32 credit hours (8 courses)
  • ~$21,000
    Total Cost
  • Completely online

Start your application

The next cohort starts on January 21st, 2020.

Final Deadline:

October 15th, 2019

Applications are open three times per year, for cohorts starting in the fall, spring, and summer.

Want to learn more before applying?

After answering a few short questions, we’ll be able to help you find out if you’re qualified to apply and give you more information about the degree program.



The MCS-DS is a non-thesis degree that requires 32 credit hours of coursework. Students can complete the eight courses required for the MCS-DS at their own pace, in as little as one year or up to five years. Students receive lectures through the Coursera platform, but are advised and assessed by Illinois faculty and teaching assistants on the rigorous set of assignments, projects, and exams required for university degree credit.

  • 32 credit hours (8 courses)
  • 12 - 36 months

What Every MCS-DS Student Learns...

Machine Learning

The core Applied Machine Learning course focuses on tool-oriented and problem-directed lessons in machine learning. Application areas include computer vision, natural language processing, interpreting accelerometer data, and understanding audio data.

Data Visualization

The core Data Visualization course shows how to present data effectively for human understanding, starting with database visualization tools like Tableau and concluding with programming with D3.js to create reactive web pages for narrative data storytelling.

Data Mining

The core Data Mining coursework can be focused on discovering patterns in structured data or retrieving information from unstructured data in the form of natural language text, and the program is flexible enough to allow students interested in data mining to study both.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is essential for learning, visualizing, and mining big data. The cloud computing coursework can be focused on the cloud programming for infrastructure or for applications, but students interested in cloud computing can study both.

The degree experience is...


The same kind of courses you’ll find on campus, with the flexibility to learn when and where you want.


Collaborate with a global network of classmates, instructors, and alumni.


Innovative courses with lectures from some of the world’s best instructors and hands-on projects.


Practical courses designed to help you master skills that you can start applying to your career right away.

When you graduate, you’ll be able to:

  • Success

    Utilize cloud computing to learn, visualize, and mine new insights from big data.

  • Success

    Analyze available data to inform critical decisions.

  • Success

    Study data scientifically, and use it to prove hypotheses.

  • Success

    Program effectively, using the right tools for the job.



Applicants for the degree program must have:

  • An eligible bachelor's degree (Check to see if your degree is eligible)
  • 3.0/4.0 undergraduate GPA or higher (from the last two years of bachelor's degree coursework)
  • Sufficient background in object oriented computer programming, data structures and algorithms (e.g. including a "data structures" course or comparable knowledge)
  • Not already completed a graduate degree in computer science. (Those who already hold a graduate degree in computer science can complete the program to earn a Master's Certificate in Data Science that they can list alongside their existing graduate degree in CS.)


Applicants for the degree program are recommended to have:

  • A bachelor's degree in a computing field or some upper-level computing coursework
  • 3.2/4.0 undergraduate GPA or higher
  • Programming experience with C++ and/or Java

Application Process

All applicants must submit an application form, supplemental form, three letters of reference (not required, but highly recommended), a statement of purpose, resume, and official transcripts from all completed university coursework. TOEFL / IELTS scores may be required for international applicants. Additional details about applying to the Master of Computer Science are available here.

Start your application

The next cohort starts on January 21st, 2020.

Final Deadline:

October 15th, 2019

Applications are open three times per year, for cohorts starting in the fall, spring, and summer.

About University of Illinois

Since its founding in 1867, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has earned a reputation as a global leader in research, teaching, and public engagement. With our land-grant heritage as a foundation, we pioneer innovative research that tackles global problems and expands the human experience. Our transformative learning experiences are designed to produce alumni who desire to make a significant, societal impact. Illinois is a pioneer in innovative distance and online education, led by the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. Illinois Computer Science has partnered with the School of Information Sciences and the Department of Statistics to offer the Master of Computer Science in Data Science.


Nobel Laureates


Global Alumni Network


Most Graduates Hired by Silicon Valley Employers (2016)


Ready to start your application?

The next cohort starts on January 21st, 2020

Final Deadline:

October 15th, 2019

Want to learn more before applying?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Yes. Students admitted to the degree program, who complete all degree requirements, will earn a Master of Computer Science degree and diploma from the University of Illinois. Transcripts will only indicate “Master of Computer Science,” and will not mention data science or the mode of delivery. You are free to refer to the degree as Master of Computer Science in Data Science on your resume, LinkedIn, or anywhere else that would be helpful.

  • MCS-DS topics include data visualization, machine learning, data mining, cloud computing, statistics, and information science.

  • To earn the accredited degree, you must be admitted as a degree-seeking student through the Graduate College at the University of Illinois. However, you may begin taking courses and Specializations on Coursera at any time, including prior to admission into the program. For more information visit Illinois application information page.

  • If you're sure you want to earn an accredited Master of Computer Science, apply for admission to the degree program. However, if you’re not certain that the full program is right for you, you can complete one or more Specializations prior to applying. If you decide to apply later and are admitted to the degree program, you'll still need to complete the for-credit courses to earn your degree, but you won't need to take the Specializations again.

    If you're even a little bit interested in the full degree program, we suggest requesting more information by completing the form above. This option allows you to learn more about the application process and program requirements, with no immediate commitment.

    Additional details about applying to the Master of Computer Science in Data Science are available on the application page.

  • Coursera financial aid is available for the Specializations component of the program only.

  • Yes, each course or Specialization is available separately, but you will not earn graduate credit at the University of Illinois.

  • To earn credit from the University of Illinois, you must be admitted as a degree-seeking student and registered for credit-bearing course(s).

  • We expect Masters-level CS students to be able to learn new languages in order to use the best tool to solve a problem, but we try to be flexible with languages when possible to allow students to program in the language they are most comfortable with. Students should already be proficient in at least one object-oriented programming language. Cloud Computing Concepts is best suited for C++ programming, whereas Cloud Computing Applications is best suited for Java. Applied Machine Learning and Statistical Programming use the R programming language, whereas Data Visualization uses JavaScript for web programming.

  • Sign up here to request more information. Additional details about applying to the Master of Computer Science are available at the application page.

  • No. You need to pay tuition when you enroll in each individual course. That means you’ll only pay for your courses as you take them.

  • Yes, you can get started with these Specializations and courses on Coursera to try out the degree program works before you apply. If you apply and are accepted to the program, your work counts towards your degree learning.

Coursera does not grant credit, and does not represent that any institution other than the degree granting institution will recognize the credit or credential awarded by the institution; the decision to grant, accept, or transfer credit is subject to the sole and absolute discretion of an educational institution.