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Undergraduate data science degree programs approved

Starting this fall, Tar Heels can pursue either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts degree in the discipline.

The Old Well behind purple flowers and beneath a blue sky.

UNC-Chapel Hill will offer two new undergraduate degree programs in data science with classes starting fall 2024. The Bachelor of Science in data science degree will be in the School of Data Science and Society, while the Bachelor of Arts in data science degree will be in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The new degree programs were approved at the Feb. 29 UNC System Board of Governors meeting. Application submissions open March 1 for the B.S. program for the fall 2024 semester. The B.A. program does not require a formal application, but students are asked to complete a letter of interest.

This new B.S. degree is the first undergraduate degree for the School of Data Science and Society. This new school on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus introduced its first online graduate program last year. The Master of Applied Data Science gives students a holistic understanding of the data life cycle, preparing them to effectively — and ethically — collect, process, manage and analyze data.

The B.S. degree requires 60 to 62 credit hours and focuses on the rigorous quantitative foundations of data science; advanced computational, statistical and mathematical principles of data science; and interdisciplinary coursework.

“We are proud to launch the School of Data Science and Society’s first undergraduate degree,” said Stan Ahalt, dean of the School of Data Science and Society. “This new program will offer students an opportunity to dive into the depths of data science and look at how this science can be applied to different disciplines in order to solve our state’s greatest challenges. Data science is part of almost everything in modern society, and we hope to produce data scientists that will excel and continue to contribute to our world well into the future.”

The B.A. degree program will be based in the College of Arts and Sciences’ department of statistics and operations research. This degree emphasizes applied data science training for students pursuing a variety of career paths. It is well suited for students who want to double major or whose interests lie in fields as diverse as earth science, public policy or political science, geospatial analysis, or bioinformatics.

“When I meet with industry leaders, I hear again and again how they want to hire graduates with a firm grounding in the liberal arts but also the ability to understand, apply and interpret data,” said Jim White, Craver Family Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “Picture a political scientist analyzing polling data or a linguist working on large language systems for AI — these are the types of jobs our B.A. in data science will help our students prepare for.”

A minor in data science is also offered through the College and housed in STOR. This interdisciplinary minor, launched in 2021, introduces students to methods and applications that are used in basic and applied sciences, the humanities, social sciences and other disciplines.