Data Science FAQs

Frequently asked questions about applying for a Harvard master's degree in Data Science.

When and how can I apply? Does the program have rolling admissions?

The SM in Data Science uses the online application for the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You will find it here:


We do not have rolling admissions. There is a single application deadline each year - December 15th.

What does the application ask for?

The application asks for biographical information, information about your previous eductaional background, transcripts, GRE general test scores, a personal statement, and 3 letters of recommendation. TOEFL or IELTS scores are also required for all students whose undergraduate degrees are from institutions where the primary language of instruction was not English.

How do I find the SM in Data Science degree in the GSAS application system?

You will find the Data Science master's degree in the GSAS online applicationunder the listings for Engineering and Applied Sciences. On the Degree Program Selection page choose "Engineering and Applied Sciences" as the program, "Data Science" as the Area of Study, and "S.M." as the degree.

What academic background do I need to apply to the Master of Science in Data Science program? Am I eligible to apply to this program if my undergraduate degree is in Economics, Business, or some other non-STEM field?

As an interdisciplinary field, data science attracts students with varied backgrounds. We welcome applicants with undergraduate training in a wide range of academic disciplines.

What prerequisites are necessary for applicants?

Prerequisites we expect from applicants include knowledge of calculus and linear algebra, familiarity with probability and statistical inference, fluency in at least one programming language such as python or R, and an understanding of basic computer science concepts.

If my undergraduate degree is not in a STEM field, how can I show in the application that I have a sufficient technical background?

If your training in Computer Science, Math and/or Statistics is not reflected in your the courses listed on your transcripts, you will need to find other parts of the application to make your training clear to the Admissions Committee. The Additional Materials section of the application is available to upload relevant information. You can also describe your training at one of your jobs or thorugh self study in your personal statement.

Do all of my letters of recommendation have to be from academic sources?

You should get letters of recommendation from the three people you think will be able to make the best case for why you are an outstanding applicant for this degree program. These should be people who know you and your capabilities very well. Former professors can certainly be valuable sources of recommendation letters, but letters from managers or colleagues from your work experience can also be helpful.

Is a writing sample a required part of the application?

No, a writing sample is not required.

Is there a minimum score for the GRE? Or for the TOEFL or IELTS?

We do not use a cutoff for GRE scores. We take a holistic view of the application and consider GRE scores in the context of everything else provided in the application materials.

There are minimum scores required for the TOEFL or IELTS. International students required to take those tests must achieve at least a sore of 80 on the TOEFL or 6.5 on the IELTS.

Can I pursue the Data Science master's degree part time while I am working?

The Data Science master's degree is a full-time on-campus program. All students are required to be registered full-time (i.e. take four 4-credit courses each semester). All of the courses students will take while in the program are offered during the day and require students to be present on campus.

Can I apply to both the Data Science and Computational Science and Engineering programs?

No, applicants should not apply to both the Data Science and Computational Science and Engineering programs. Applicants should select the program that best fits their preparation and interests and apply to that particular program.