M.S. in Data Science (MSDS)

""The Master of Science in Data Science program is a STEM program that prepares graduate students for a professional career in the field of big data. Students will be equipped with fundamental knowledge and skills in data science and analytics, including:

  • machine learning,
  • modelling and quantitative analysis of massive datasets,
  • application of such technologies in strategic decisions,
  • critical skills for collecting and managing massive datasets, and
  • implementation of efficient solutions to real world big data problems using the most appropriate algorithmic techniques and software development tools available.

The program includes a set of core required courses and provides an opportunity for students to select from a wide range of electives related to data analytics, biostatistics, bioinformatics, business intelligence, and cyber security.

Program Basics and Timeline

The M.S. program consists of 30 credit hours including four breadth-requirement courses. Thesis (24 credit hours of CS course work + 6 credit hours of Thesis Research) and non-thesis options (30 credit hours of CS course work) are available.

A typical full-time student may complete the requirements of this M.S. program in one-and-a-half to two years. If you take a full course load in Summer, you may complete the degree requirements in three semesters (within 12 months). Many of our graduate courses are offered during the evening and some are offered online, which benefits our part-time working students.

Previously earned graduate credit with a grade of B or above while enrolled at another regionally accredited graduate school may be eligible for transfer into the student's current degree program if it has not been applied toward another degree (either at UAB or elsewhere). All transfer credit requests must be initiated by the student and require the approval of the graduate program director and the Graduate School. Transfer of Credit forms are available on the Graduate School website. Completion of this form does not guarantee that the transfer credit will be granted. No more than 12 semester hours of graduate credit can be transferred to UAB. Once transfer credit has been approved, it will be included in the calculation of the grade point average in the student's current UAB program.

Questions About the Program?

We invite you to explore the resources here on this website. If you still have questions that are not addressed here, please e-mail the graduate program director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

M.S. in Data Science (MSDS) Requirements

General Requirements

All MSDS students must take 30 credit hours in order to graduate. There are four required courses:

  • CS 667: Machine Learning
  • CS 510: Database Application Development or CS 610: Database Systems
  • CS 685: Foundation of Data Science or CS 680: Matrix Algorithms for Data Science
  • CS 652: Advanced Algorithms and Applications

Program electives include the other CS graduate courses such as big data computing, data mining, natural language processing, deep learning, data visualization, high-performance computing and computer security courses, and approved non-CS electives such as business intelligence, quantitative analysis for business managers, bioinformatics, biostatics, and graduate level statistical analysis courses. Course descriptions are available in the UAB Graduate Catalog. The program is defined in terms of either of two plans:

  • Plan I: 24 credit hours of courses and 6 credit hours of thesis research (CS 699: Master's Thesis Research). Among the 24 course credit hours, at least 15 of them must be CS graduate courses.
  • Plan II: 30 credit hours of courses (course work only; does not require a thesis), among which at least 21 credit hours must be CS graduate courses.

Most students choose the Plan II option. Plan I contains a significant research component and requires the student work closely with a faculty member on a research project. This project should be begun early in the program.

Suggested Study Plan

Four core courses and six electives are required. Electives can be any CS graduate courses, some of which can be taken from the following lists of courses, grouped by fields. No more than three 500 level courses can count toward the degree. At most three credit hours of special courses (CS 697: Directed Readings or CS 598: Practical Work Experience) can count towards the MSDS degree. PLEASE NOTE: required courses may change; please consult the graduate program director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for specific requirements.

Data Analytics

  • CS 616: Big Data Programming
  • CS 660: Artificial Intelligence
  • CS 662: Natural Language Processing
  • CS 663: Data Mining
  • CS 665: Deep Learning
  • CS 673: Computer Vision and Convolutional Neural Networks
  • CS 675: Data Visualization
  • CS 680: Matrix Algorithms for Data Science
  • CS 687: Complex Networks

Cyber Security

  • CS 623: Network Security
  • CS 636: Computer Security
  • CS 643: Cloud Security
  • CS 645: Modern Cryptography
  • CS 689: Cyber Risk Management

High Performance Computing

  • CS 632: Parallel Computing
  • CS 633: Cloud Computing

Non-CS Electives

Students may take up to three (9 credit hours) non-CS electives from the following list of courses, upon the approval of the graduate program director:

  • Business Intelligence
    • MBA 617: Data Science for Business
    • MBA 658: Applied Marketing Research
    • MBA 662: Quantitative Analysis for Business Managers
  • Bioinformatics
    • INFO: 601 Introduction to Bioinformatics
    • INFO: 602 Algorithms in Bioinformatics
    • INFO: 603 Biological Data Management
  • Biostatistics
    • BST 611: Intermediate Statistical Analysis I
    • BST 612: Intermediate Statistical Analysis II
    • BST 621: Statistical Methods I
    • BST 622: Statistical Methods II

NOTE: You must avoid taking both BST 611 and 621 because there is a lot of coverage overlap, neither for taking both BST 612 and 622.

Plan I (Thesis Option) Guidance

If you are interested in the Plan I (thesis option) M.S., below is a summary of steps toward completing the degree:

  1. Select a faculty advisor.
  2. Maintain good standing.
  3. Appointment of graduate study committee — complete and submit the Graduate Study Committee Letter (available on the Graduate School's Online Forms page).
  4. Obtain IRB and/or IACUC approvals (if applicable).
  5. Admission to candidacy — complete and submit the Master’s Degree Admission to candidacy” form at least one semester before graduation is expected (available on the Graduate School's Online Forms page).
  6. Apply for degree — see UAB Graduate School deadline dates.
  7. Work on preliminary version of thesis.
  8. Request Thesis or Dissertation Approval Forms (available on the Graduate School's Online Forms page).
  9. Undergo final examination, including defense of thesis.
  10. Submit a PDF of the defended, committee-approved thesis to UAB/ProQuest submission website no later than two weeks (10 business days) following the public defense.
  11. Degree is conferred.

M.S. in Data Science (MSDS) Program Admissions

Application Deadlines

  • Spring Admissions: October 1
  • Fall Admissions: April 15

Applicants will have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited four-year college or university or a recognized university from abroad.

  • A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).
  • A TOEFL score of 80 or better (internet exam) OR IELTS Overall Band Score of 6.5 or better OR Duolingo of 120 or better. The English exam is waived for students whose native (first) language is English or earned a degree from a U.S. institution. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to request such a waiver.

The following courses, or their equivalents, are required of all applicants before they can apply to this program:

  • CS 103: Introduction to Computer Science in Python (waived for applicants with two years of working experience in the computing/IT field). Any Introduction to Programming course that uses a 3rd generation programming language such as Java, C/C++, Basic, and Pascal, can be counted as an equivalent of this course.
  • CS 203: Object-Oriented Programming
  • CS 303: Algorithms and Data Structures

A mathematics background equivalent to two terms of calculus (differential and integral calculus) is also required. Online equivalents of these prerequisites may be acceptable, if they provide the same (or more) coverage. You can learn more about these courses in the UAB Undergraduate Catalog.

CS 355/555: Probability and Statistics in Computer Science is also required but can be taken after the student is admitted. It may be taken at the 500 level and counted toward the MSDS degree.

Instead of taking the above CS prerequisite courses, students can also choose to take and pass a comprehensive exam offered by CS/UAB that covers selected topics from the prerequisites. This option is reserved for students from the local area with at least two years of IT working experience and not available for international applicants. Alternately, applicants may enroll in UAB’s post-baccalaureate program to acquire the required knowledge in computer science.

Cyber Security Certificate

The graduate-level certificate in Cyber Security is intended for students who are interested in training in the core areas of cyber security and digital forensics. It is a 9 credit hour program intended to develop fundamental skills, including familiarity with industry practices, methods, and problem-solving skills critical for success in the areas of cyber security. This certificate program also seeks to provide to current employees in the public and private sectors an opportunity to obtain training in the core areas of cyber security, which may help in career advancement.

CIS student in a darkend computer lab. The Cyber Security Certificate focuses on:

  • Fundamental knowledge in major computer security topics — including cyber threats, malware, information assurance, authorization, applied cryptography, web security, mobile and wireless security, network security, systems/software security, database and storage security, user-centered security, and best security practices and countermeasures.
  • Skills to apply this knowledge to solve basic real-world cyber security problems.

This certificate serves as a badge testifying that you have mastered fundamental knowledge in major cyber security topics and essential skills in investigating and remedying cyber security threats and events. Students who earn this badge are also prepared to explore and investigate new emerging cyber security issues. Once you complete the certificate you can continue to complete a M.S. degree in Computer Science or a M.S. degree in Cyber Security jointly offered by Department of Computer Science and Department of Criminal Justice. Students who are already in the M.S. in Computer Science or M.S. in Data Science program are eligible to apply for the certificate as part of their effort to fulfill the degree requirements whereas those in M.S. in Cyber Security are not.

Certificate Program Requirements

The graduate certificate requires students complete three courses and earn a B or better in each course:

  • CS 623: Network Security
  • CS 636: Computer Security
  • and one of the following:
    • CS 537: Cybercrime and Forensics
    • CS 654: Malware Analysis
    • CS 643: Cloud Security
    • CS 645: Modern Cryptography
    • CS 646: Digital Currency
    • CS 657: Penetration Testing and Vulnerability Assessment
    • CS 689: Cyber Risk Management

Who is Eligible to Enroll?

Applicants are required to have completed a four-year baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher learning and have acquired substantial experience in studying, applying or developing computer or software based applications and systems.


Upon completion of the program requirements you will receive a certificate signed by the Department Chair of Computer Science and the Dean of College of Arts and Sciences. Since this is a Category B certificate, it will not be identified on a UAB transcript.


For more information about the Computer Forensics Certificate Program, please contact Dr. Chengcui Zhang.