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Data Science Master’s Degree Requirements

The Master of Liberal Arts, Data Science degree program is offered online with one 3-week course required on campus here at Harvard University.

Getting Started

Explore Degree Requirements


Upcoming Term: Summer 2024

Course registration is open March 4 – June 20. Learn how to register →

Fall 2024 courses and registration details will be live in June.

Required Courses

  • Two people on a zoom call.

    Online core and elective courses

  • School building.

    On-campus precapstone course

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    Capstone project

12 Graduate Courses (48 credits)

The degree assumes you can write functions in Python and are comfortable with calculus. If not, we recommend you take CSCI 7 Introduction to Computer Science with Python and MATH 15 Calculus 1 before registering for any degree-applicable courses.

The program covers a broad range of data science topics and culminates in a precapstone and capstone. You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters in your final academic year.

Online courses are primarily asynchronous, providing flexibility for international students and those with variable work schedules.

Required Core & Elective 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

Browse Courses →

Precapstone Course: The 3-Week Harvard On-Campus Experience

Nearly all courses can be taken online, but you are required to come to Cambridge for the precapstone course, where you and your team, along with an industry partner, create the research design/protocol for your final capstone project.

The precapstone course is offered:

  • On campus in the 3-week January session
  • On campus in a 3-week summer session through Harvard Summer School. The Summer School offers, for an additional fee, housing, meal plans, and a prolonged on-campus experience at Harvard University. Learn more about campus life at Harvard.

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.

Capstone Course & Project

In your final online course, you complete a team-based capstone project. The capstone is taken as your sole remaining degree requirement, in the semester immediately following the precapstone.

Capstone Experience:

In the capstone, with your project team and industry partner, you execute a real-world data science project that you crafted and developed in the precapstone.

The team format allows you to strengthen your communication, collaboration, and project management competencies, which are critical skills demanded by employers.

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

Optional Microcertificate

You can choose to concentrate your degree to earn a Data Modeling and Ethics microcertificate along the way.

In-Person Co-Curricular Events

Come to Cambridge for Convocation (fall) to celebrate your hard-earned admission, Harvard career fairs offered throughout the year, HES alumni networking events (here at Harvard and around the world), and, of course, Harvard University Commencement (May).


  • Diploma.

    Confirm your initial eligibility with a 4-year bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent.

  • Person climbing toward a flag.

    Take two courses in our unique “earn your way in” admissions process that count toward your degree.

  • Checking off a box.

    In the semester of your second course, submit the official application for admission to the program.

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

Earn Your Way In — Courses Required for Admission

To begin the admission process, you simply register — no application required — for the following two, four-credit, graduate-level degree courses (available online).

These prerequisite courses count toward your degree once you’re admitted; they are not additional courses. They are investments in your studies and help ensure success in the program.

  • CSCI 101 Foundations of Data Science and Engineering
    • 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.
  • CSCI 106 Data Modeling or STAT 109 Introduction to Statistical Modeling

Course sequencing and grading. The two 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.

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 two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll:

  • Avoid the loss of credit due to expired course work or changes to admission and degree requirements.
  • Ensure your enrollment in critical and timely degree-candidate-only courses.
  • Avoid the delayed application fee.
  • Gain access to exclusive benefits.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree. Applicants can register for courses in the upcoming semester before they receive their grades and while they await their admission decision.

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

Search and Register for Courses

The Division of Continuing Education (DCE) offers degree courses all year round to accelerate degree completion.

  • You can study in fall, January, and spring terms through Harvard Extension School (HES) and during the summer through Harvard Summer School (HSS).
  • You can enroll full or part time. After qualifying for admission, many of our degree candidates study part time, taking 2 courses per semester (fall/spring) and 1 in the January and summer sessions.
  • Most fall and spring courses meet once a week for two hours, while January and summer courses meet more frequently in a condensed format.

To Complete Your Degree

  • Trophy on a computer monitor.

    Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher.

  • Clipboard with a pen.

    Complete your courses in five years.

  • Graduation cap and diploma.

    Earn your Harvard degree and enjoy Harvard Alumni Association benefits upon graduation.

Required GPA, Withdrawal Grades, and Repeat Courses

GPA. You need to earn a B or higher in each of the two 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 two withdrawal (WD) grades without them affecting your GPA. Any additional WD grades count as zero in your cumulative GPA. Please note that a WD grade from a 2-credit course will count as one of your two allowed WD grades. 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 Five Years

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

Further, you have five years to complete your degree requirements. The five-year timeline begins at the end of the term in which you complete any two 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 five-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 five-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.