MS Degree - Data Science Option (MS-DS)

What is data science?

Data science is the study of extracting knowledge from data. Our MS-DS combines a background in statistical theory, methods and practice related to data science with communication skills to train a new generation of leaders who will use data effectively for planning and decision making.
Data science concepts enable students to translate vague questions about complex data into pragmatic analysis steps using statistical thinking. We build from basic methods that compare groups and relate measurements, to more complicated models that depend on the way data are gathered. In practice, planning and decision making involve choices about how to analyze data and communicate findings. These concepts will be grounded at key points with projects that involve real data and/or realistic simulated data.

Primary goal:

Graduates will build data analysis reasoning and communication skills in realistic inter-professional strategic planning settings that involve making sense of complex data to realize organizational objectives.

Learning objectives

Graduates of the program will be able to address complex data problems in a holistic way with a range of skills. Specifically, graduates will be able to:
• Learn about data in context of how they were gathered.
• Summarize and visualize data to reflect context and elicit insights.
• Use models to guide analysis and explain statistical thinking.
• Grasp concepts behind mathematical foundations of statistics.
• Gain computing expertise with complex data analysis.
• Interpret and critique key ideas of an analysis approach.
• Narrate results integrating text, graphics, and statistical reasoning.
• Develop as a professional who leads team decision processes with data.

Who can apply?

The program is being designed for the following types of students:
1) students participating in the statistics or mathematics Visiting International Student Program (VISP) here at the University of Wisconsin;
2) post-graduate students with 5 or more years experience in the workforce; and
3) students who have a BS/BA degree or expected to obtain a BS/BA degree prior to the first semester as an MS-DS student.

       Please see below the document "Statistics MS Data Science (MS-DS) Option Regulations" for prerequisites and requirements of the MS-DS degree.

      What other masters degree options are available?

      Our general (statistics) and biostatistics MS options are aimed at excellence in collaborative research. See for details.

      How to apply

      The official deadline for MS-Data Science applications is December 1 for admission for the following fall semester. Applications that were submitted by the December 1 deadline will be considered through March 15th. Applications received after the December 1 deadline will not be considered.

             If you are currently not a statistics VISP student at the University of Wisconsin:

      • Before applying to the Statistics Department, read the Graduate School Frequently Asked Questions. Note that there is a non-refundable application fee, and that applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English, must provide an English proficiency test score (TOEFL, MELAB, or IELTS). For information about this Graduate School requirement, see Send English proficiency test scores to institution code 1846.
      • Application Fee: Begin the electronic application at and pay the application fee.
      • Three (3) letters of recommendation are required. These must be submitted electronically through the online application system:
        • List your references in the online application for admission. A recommendation request will be sent, by email, to each of your references. The email will include your name with a link to each department's electronic recommendation form. The request can be sent at any time providing you meet department deadlines. You can change references or send a reminder through your application.
        • It is common practice to contact your references ahead of time so that they expect your request.
        • After you have submitted your application, you can view receipt of your recommendations through the online status system.
      • Supplemental application is required (part of the online application):
        • Are you applying to the Biostatistics option? (MS-DS applicants should choose “no”)
        • One electronic copy (PDF format) of each official transcript that you send to us
        • A list of all mathematics and statistics courses taken to date, your grades in them, and the titles of the main text(s) for these courses
        • Copy of your CV or resume
        • Statement of purpose
        • Additional information on awards or published papers
      • GRE scores are required:
        • Please note: The subject GRE is not required, but we do require the general GRE which includes verbal, quantitative and analytical writing assessment
        • GRE scores should be sent electronically to institution code 1846
      • Transcripts:
        • Official transcripts may be sent either with your application, or the applicant can choose to wait to send the official transcript until after the department makes its admission decision (as long as we have an electronic copy uploaded with your supplemental application).
        • When sending official transcripts, we require only one set. If the original is not in English, please have a copy in English sent also.
        • The address that official transcripts should be sent to is: UW-Madison, Department of Statistics, 1300 University Ave., 1220 MSC, Madison, WI 53706 (USA).

        If you are a current VISP student at University of Wisconsin-Madison:

        • The admissions process for VISP students is different than for post-graduate students with workforce experience, since VISP students are already here at UW-Madison taking classes at the time of application.
        • Application Fee: Begin the electronic application at and pay the application fee.
        • TOEFL: VISP students are not required to provide TOEFL scores with their application since they will have completed two full-time semesters of study at UW-Madison by the time of the application term.
        • GRE: Not required. If you are requesting GRE scores to be sent, please follow the instructions given above for post-graduate students with workforce experience.
        • Letters of recommendation: Not required. If you would like to request one or more letters of recommendation to be sent, please follow the instructions given above for post-graduate students with workforce experience.
        • Supplemental application (part of the online application):
          • Are you applying to the Biostatistics option? (MS-DS applicants should choose “no”)
          • Electronic copy of your grades and current enrollment at UW-Madison in PDF form (a grade report from your “MyUW Student Center” is sufficient)
          • Scanned (PDF) copies of your home institution transcript in both English and the language of instruction.
          • Statement of purpose
          • Copy of your CV or resume
          • Additional information on awards or published papers
          • Important notice regarding tuition, campus assistantships, and enrollment in other programs:

            Tuition for students in the program will follow the graduate student rates found at

            Students enrolled in the MS-DS option are not allowed to accept research assistantships, teaching assistantships, project assistantships or other University appointments which grant waivers of tuition and/or academic fees. Accepting an assistantship or tuition waiver while enrolled in the program may lead to removal of the student from the MS-DS program. Corporate tuition support is not included in these categories, nor is the waiver of tuition due to veteran status.

            Additionally, students enrolled in the MS-DS are not allowed to be concurrently enrolled in another university program, and may not enroll in any additional courses outside of the MS-DS curriculum. Doing so may lead to removal of the student from the MS-DS program.

        • Transcripts: Provide an original, official copy of your undergraduate institution transcript (in both English and the language of instruction) to the Statistics Administrative office in 1220 MSC.
      • If we recommend you for admission:
        • We do not require an official UW-Madison transcript to be sent.
        • After you receive your Bachelor’s degree, please scan and electronically send a PDF of your degree certificate to Note that your final admission is contingent upon your success in obtaining the Bachelor’s degree. You will need to bring an updated final copy of your Bachelor's degree transcript (again, in both English and the language of instruction) with you to UW-Madison in the fall. You will need to show this official copy to the Graduate School (228 Bascom Hall).
      • For other issues, VISP students should consult the Graduate School Frequently Asked Questions ( or email
PDF icon MS-DS-regulations2016.pdf90.68 KB