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Data Science Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Data Science degree field consists of 12 courses (48 credits). The 3-week precapstone is required on campus.

To get started in the program:

  1. Learn about the curriculum and course selection.
  2. Determine your initial admission eligibility.
  3. Search for your courses, including the 2 courses for admission.

Required Courses

The degree assumes knowledge of Python (CSCI 7), Programming in R (CSCI 5A), and Calculus (MATH 15). Specifically, you need to be able to write functions in R and Python. If you don’t have these skills, you should complete the above courses before registering for any degree-applicable courses.

12 Graduate Courses

  • CSCI 101 Foundations of Data Science and Engineering
  • CSCI 106 Data Modeling or STAT 109 Introduction to Statistical Modeling
  • 4 data science core courses
  • 4 data science electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Precapstone (on campus)
  • Capstone

Capstone experience. In the capstone, you will collaborate with industry, government, or academic partners to investigate a real-world research topic using your data science skills. The topic is one that you had ample time to prepare for in the precapstone course.

At the completion of the capstone, you are able to demonstrate your ability to think critically about data, communicate with diverse audiences, and advance innovation in ways that benefit society.

Recent Capstone Topics

  • Using Machine Learning to Predict Lyme Disease (Canadian Healthcare Department)
  • Improving Climate Change Modeling Through Data Science and AI (Microsoft and NASA)
  • Computer Vision Models to Classify Endangered Species from their Footprints (Wildtrack NGO and Hasty.ai)

Capstone sequencing. You are required to enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters and in your final academic year. The capstone must be taken alone as your sole remaining degree requirement.

Search for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round. You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).

To find degree courses in the DCE Course Search and Registration platform:

  • Under Search Classes, scroll to Harvard Extension Degree, Certificate, and Premedical Course Search.
  • Select Graduate Degrees
  • Choose Data Science to explore program courses.

Admissions

Below are our initial eligibility requirements and an overview of our unique admissions process to help get you started. Be sure to visit Degree Program Admissions for full details.

Initial Eligibility

  • Prior to enrolling in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a 4-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent. Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated for equivalency.
  • You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in data science or a related field. Check your eligibility.

The Office of Predegree Advising & Admissions makes all final determinations about program eligibility.

Earning Your Way In

  • To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following 2 graduate-level degree courses (available online):
    • CSCI 101 Foundations of Data Science and Engineering
    • CSCI 106 Data Modeling or STAT 109 Introduction to Statistical Modeling

The 2 courses don’t need to be taken in a particular order or in the same semester, but each course must be completed with a grade of B or higher, without letting your overall Harvard cumulative GPA dip below 3.0.

You have 2 attempts to earn the minimum grade of B in CSCI 101 (a withdrawal grade counts as an attempt) and the course cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.

You also need to obtain a passing score on our online test of critical reading and writing skills or complete the program elective EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric with a grade of B or higher. 

Tip: Take the test of critical reading and writing right away, even prior to your first semester at Harvard, to help ensure timely admission.

Applying to the Degree Program

During the semester of your second degree course, submit the official application to the program. 

Don’t delay! You must prioritize the 2 degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • avoid the delayed application fee or the loss of credit for expired course work.
  • ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • gain access to exclusive benefits (see bottom of page).

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree. 

For details about full eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit Degree program Admissions.

MITx MicroMasters® Credential Admissions Pathway

If you have earned the MicroMasters® Program credential in Statistics and Data Science, you may apply the credential toward admission and complete one additional course at the Harvard Extension School. Learn more about the MicroMasters Pathway.

The Harvard On-Campus Experience

Many courses can be taken online, but you are required to come to Cambridge for the precapstone course, which offers you in-person access to faculty, campus resources, and the academic community.

The precapstone is ordinarily offered:

  • On campus during the 3-week January session or
  • On campus during the 3-week summer session.

International Students Who Need a Student Visa

To meet the on-campus requirement, you study with us in the summer for a minimum of 3 weeks. You can easily request an I-20 for the F-1 student visa through Harvard Summer School. For more details, see International Student Study Options for important visa information.

To Complete Your Degree

Required 3.0 GPA, 2 Withdrawal Grade Limit, and Repeat Course Policy

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the 2 degree courses required for admission and a B– or higher in each of the subsequent courses. In addition, your cumulative GPA cannot dip below 3.0.

Withdrawal Grades. You are allowed to receive 2 withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. See Academic Standing.

Repeat Courses. We advise you to review the ALM program’s strict policies about repeating courses. Generally speaking, you may not repeat a course to improve your GPA or to fulfill a degree requirement (if the minimum grade was not initially achieved). Nor can you repeat a course for graduate credit that you’ve previously completed at Harvard Extension School or Harvard Summer School at the undergraduate level.

Courses Expire: Finish Your Coursework in Under 5 Years

Courses over 5 years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree. As stated above, CSCI 101 cannot be more than 2 years old at the time of application.

Further, you have 5 years to complete your degree requirements. The 5-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any 2 degree-applicable courses, regardless of whether or not you have been admitted to a degree program.

Potential degree candidates must plan accordingly and submit their applications to comply with the 5-year course expiration policy or they risk losing degree credit for completed course work.

Additionally, admission eligibility will be jeopardized if, at the point of application to the program, the 5-year degree completion policy cannot be satisfied (i.e., too many courses to complete in the time remaining).

Graduate with Your Harvard Degree

When you have fulfilled all degree requirements, you will earn your Harvard University degree: Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) in Extension Studies, field: Data Science. Degrees are awarded in November, March, and May, with the annual Harvard Commencement ceremony in May.

Degree Candidate Exclusive Benefits

When you become an officially admitted degree candidate, you have access to a rich variety of exclusive benefits to support your academic journey. To learn more, visit degree candidate academic opportunities and privileges.