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MRU offers Alberta’s first undergraduate degree in data science

Surging demand for data scientists across the province has lead to the creation of a first-of-its-kind degree in Alberta.

Mount Royal University will be the first post-secondary institution in the province to offer a four-year bachelor’s degree in data science, starting in winter 2024.

“Governments, organizations and businesses have access to larger quantities and more kinds of data than ever before. Employers have told us that graduates who can extract valuable insights from datasets are increasingly sought after,” said Dr. Jonathan Withey, dean of the faculty of Science and Technology at MRU.

The university is accepting an initial 50 applications for the program, which will then ramp up to 100 at the start of each fall semester.

Students will be taught mathematics, statistics, computer science, and domain knowledge said MRU. Degree concentrations, specialized data science courses, and work integrated learning are also being offered by the institution for degree students.

MRU said that it will have seven new courses that focus on foundational mathematics, statistical and computer courses that differentiate the degree from traditional computer science, mathematics, or statistics degrees.

“With the explosion of data that is generated in part through our everyday online interactions, organizations have mountains of data and now they’re trying to figure out what they can do with it, how can they extract some meaningful information,” said Dr. Brady Killough, associate professor and chair of the department of Mathematics and Computing at MRU.

“That’s where you get into these large-scale applications of either traditional statistical methods or some of the machine learning algorithms that are also in the news a lot these days.”

The university said that the degree would give graduates possible careers as data scientists, data analysts, machine learning developers, or statistical programmers.

The new degree was developed with the support of faculty that have data science experience they said.

MRU said that new faculty will be hired for the Faculty of Science and Technology to deliver the data science program, which would be funded in part by the Alberta government’s Targeted Enrollment Expansion funding.

The degree was given ministry approval by the Ministry for Advanced Education in July of this year.

“We are thrilled that this degree has been approved after significant effort by faculty and university staff to develop a program that puts MRU ahead of the curve,” said Dr. Withey.

Admission into the program will be competitive, with minimum grades of 60 per cent in English Language Arts 30-1, and 65 per cent in Mathematics 30-1, with a final overall grade average of 65 per cent from five high school courses.

For more information, see www.mtroyal.ca/ProgramsCourses/FacultiesSchoolsCentres/ScienceTechnology/Departments/MathematicsComputing/Majors/Data-Science/index.htm.