Master of Science in Communication Data Science

Program Director (Data Science): Yolanda Gil, PhD

Program Co-Director (Communication): Jessica Neff, PhD

The Master of Science in Communication Data Science is an interdisciplinary joint degree program offered by the Viterbi School of Engineering and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

This program prepares students for unique careers in the emerging field of data science for communication. Graduates of the Master of Science in Communication Data Science program will be able to:

  • Understand the theories and principles underlying human communication and the ways in which people utilize and engage with communication technologies.
  • Understand the technical underpinnings of emerging communication platforms, ranging from social media to enterprise collaboration platforms to virtual and augmented reality.
  • Develop systems for mining and integrating information to investigate and analyze large volumes of data generated by digital communication platforms.
  • Understand communication challenges in new domains, both traditional and digital, and develop innovative data science solutions to address them.

    There are many career opportunities for students completing the Master of Science in Communication Data Science degree. Traditional media outlets ranging from newspapers to network/cable news are hungry for individuals who understand the new technology-enabled social communication paradigms and can help translate this knowledge into new sources of information. An example is the coverage of natural disasters, where it is difficult for media to get on the ground, but where social media allows victims to relay experiences and provide accounts of these situations. How to collect, manage, distribute and capitalize from these news sources is a major challenge in current media.

    There are also careers in exploiting emerging communication platforms for marketing and communication. Many technology companies realize the value in employing experts who understand the reception of their products by the public. Communication is now so vital to the function of many products that success and failure are often determined by how well communication is performed, and how seamlessly it integrates into existing platforms. In the corporate world, the need to understand and capitalize on social media is pervasive, and the unique expertise this degree provides leaves graduates well positioned to design creative approaches to reach new audiences. In addition, as technology becomes ubiquitous in society, the role of the informed communicator has become very important in formal and informal formats. There is need for individuals who understand the basics of communication and have enough technology knowledge to provide analysis at a meaningful level. Finally, there are careers using data science to analyze online activities from a variety of contexts, including entertainment sites, online games, and mobile apps. Recommender systems, opinion mining, and social information diffusion are emerging technologies for the entertainment industry. Online games generate rich data about social interaction and individual behaviors. Many startups seek a combination of communication and data science skills to improve their products and reach new markets.

    The curriculum is designed to be accessible to students with any background, including students with a communication background and no computer science knowledge as well as students with a computer science background and no communication knowledge.  Students with undergraduate degrees in computer science, engineering, science or mathematics will acquire the necessary knowledge to analyze health data with diverse sources and purposes, and can request to replace introductory data science courses with more advanced ones.  Students with undergraduate degrees in communication, journalism, and related disciplines will acquire formal and practical data science skills, and can request to substitute introductory courses in communication with more advanced ones.  There is no requirement of prior knowledge of programming or computer science, as the curriculum is designed with special introductory courses that are accessible to students with diverse backgrounds.

    Students complete a core set of courses to provide a foundation in data science and communication, and choose electives to optimize their preparation for their preferred career path and unique professional opportunities. Students will learn a range of data science skills such as developing scalable data systems, using state-of-the-art software and infrastructure for data science, designing data analyses with statistical methods, applying machine learning and data mining techniques, designing effective visualizations, and working in multi-disciplinary data science teams.

    Throughout their course work, students will assemble a digital portfolio that will allow help them demonstrate their capabilities and skills for the job market.  Students will also have ample opportunities to be involved in practical public policy data science projects on campus.  Upon graduation, students will have both foundational and practical skills for a successful career in public policy data science.

    A minimum of 32 units are required for completion of this degree.