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Data Science Degree Requirements

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

The degree assumes knowledge of Python (CSCI 7), R programming (STAT 104), 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 degree-applicable courses.

To get started in the program:

  1. Review the details below to learn more about the curriculum and course selection.
  2. Determine your admission eligibility.
  3. Complete the 2 courses for admission. Once you’ve been accepted, you’ll continue the remaining coursework—customizing your path to support your goals.

Required Courses

12 Graduate Courses

  • 1 Advanced Python for Data Science
  • 1 Data Modeling or Introduction to Statistical Modeling
  • 4 data science core courses
  • 4 data science electives
    • EXPO 34 is an elective option
  • Precapstone (on campus)
  • Capstone

You enroll in the precapstone and capstone courses in back-to-back semesters and in your final academic year.



Before you enroll in any degree-applicable courses, you must possess a four-year regionally accredited US bachelor’s degree. You cannot already have or be in the process of earning a master’s degree in Data Science or a related field. If you are unsure, and because the Admissions Office makes all final determinations about program eligibility, we strongly encourage you to inquire with us in advance of enrolling in any courses at Harvard Extension School.

Foreign bachelor’s degrees must be evaluated, and the Admissions Office makes final determinations about eligibility. Refer to Admission Requirements for International Students for more information.

Earning Your Way In

  • To begin the admission process, you simply register—no application needed—for the following two, graduate-level degree courses (available online):
    • 1 Advanced Python for Data Science
    • 1 Data Modeling or Introduction to Statistical Modeling

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! To achieve academic success and meet your expected graduation date, it is critical to prioritize the two degree courses for admission and apply before completing subsequent courses. By doing so, you’ll avoid the delayed application fee and gain access to exclusive degree candidate privileges.

Eligible students who submit a complete and timely application will have 10 more courses after admission to earn the degree. A complete application includes required Harvard courses, grades, cumulative GPA and a passing score on our online test of critical reading and writing skills or completion of the program elective EXPO 34 Business Rhetoric with a grade of B or higher. Tip: Take the test right away, in your first semester at Harvard.

For more details about eligibility, the application process, and application fees, visit 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 three 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

Maintain a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.0 or Higher

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, but be sure to maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher. 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. See Academic Standing.

Finish Your Coursework in Under Five Years

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. Moreover, courses over five years old at the point of admission will not count toward the degree.

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.

Independent Research Option

If you have completed 40 credits with a cumulative GPA of 3.8 or higher, you may be able to pursue an independent research project with a faculty member at Harvard University or MIT, instead of the capstone.

Students who intend to pursue independent study should discuss projects with Dr. Hongming Wang, research advisor for Data Science, for preliminary approval by November 1 for the winter pre-capstone course and by April 1 for the summer pre-capstone course.

You will write a research proposal during the pre-capstone. After Dr. Wang has approved your research proposal, you will be paired with a faculty member. In the following nine months, you will work with the faculty member to complete the independent research and submit your project.

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 Guidelines and Policies

Learn more about special academic opportunities, student privileges, and policies.