Data Science Certificate

Students in the Data Science Certificate will develop abilities such as data management, reproducibility, modeling strategies, and ethical considerations of data science to be paired with their knowledge gained from their major or domain area.  The certificate is a great fit for students who like programming, want to learn data analysis, and seek to be high-end users of data science tools in domain areas.

Data Science is one of the fastest growing career sectors in Wisconsin and across the nation. By its very nature, the field of data science is one that teaches novel and cutting-edge ways to engage in the “continual sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

The Data Science certificate is only available to UW-Madison undergraduate students who are pursuing their bachelor’s degree. You can find the certificate curriculum in the Guide here. Questions can be directed to

Planning Your Data Science Certificate

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NEW Summer 2024 & Fall 2024 Enrollment Information

Click here to view the summer 2024 enrollment newsletter.

Click here to view the fall 2024 enrollment newsletter.

Please go to to enroll in courses. You can visit this website if you need assistance navigating Course Search & Enroll. Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to the Data Science advisors via email, an appointment, or drop in advising as listed above.

Certificate Requirements

The Data Science certificate requires a total of five courses that add up to at least 16 credits. Please view the full curriculum in the Guide page here. Scroll down to the next section to read out about how to declare the certificate.

If you are interested in adding the Data Science certificate with another Stats/DS program, please review this combination chart first to see which combinations are allowable and not allowable.

Course Planning Guides

We recommend taking 1-2 Data Science courses each fall/spring term (one Data Science course maximum for summer term). Remember that a certificate is meant to compliment your major!

We have sample course plans for the following majors (click the major to view) – Economics, Computer Sciences, Mathematics, Statistics, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, Biology, Pharmacology/Toxicology, and Consumer Behavior & Market place Studies.

Pacing for completing the certificate in three semesters. 

  • (Semester 1) Programming; (Semester 2) Programming + Elective; (Semester 3) Elective + L I S 461

Pacing for completing the certificate in five semesters.

  • (Semester 1) Programming, (Semester 2) Programming; (Semester 3) Elective; (Semester 4) Elective; (Semester 5) L I S 461

Graduation Information

When students apply for graduation, only one major will be listed on their application. It is normal to not see Data Science certificate on your application; you do not need to take any extra steps. Your graduation application applies to all your declared majors and certificates. Instructions on how to apply for graduation are on the Office of the Registrar’s website.

How to Declare the Data Science Certificate

Declaration Process

  1. Not declared in the Data Science major or Engineering Data Analytics Certificate (click here to learn more).
  2. Complete a Data Science advisor meeting requirement via ONE of these options.
    1. Drop-in Hours (Thursdays 2-3 PM CT via Zoom)
    2. Individual Appointment on Starfish
    3. Group Declaration Session via Zoom (only during peak advising)
  3. Review the Department of Statistics Advising Expectations webpage.
  4. Submit the online declaration form.

Declarations will be processed in 1-2 business days and will be reflected in your Academic Navigator. There are no exceptions to the declaration process.

Declaration Meeting Checklist

  1. Review the Data Science certificate requirements on the Guide.
  2. Run a “What-If ” DARS Report to assess what courses you still need.
  3. Bring any questions/concerns to your appointment.

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Why is it recommended to declare early?

Declared students will…

  • receive priority enrollment for courses in the initial enrollment period
  • easily track your progress and  make adjustments to your course plan as needed
  • receive weekly newsletters of data science opportunities

Meeting progression as an Engineering student

Engineering students are required to meet progression in an engineering program before declaring the certificate. Students in this situation who need to declare for data science course access but cannot, should schedule a meeting with a Data Science advisor.

Advising & Contact Information

Plia Xiong

Plia Xiong

1239 Medical Sciences Center or 

Plia joined the Statistics Department in July 2021. She is a Badger Alumna with a B.S. in Human Development & Family Studies. She enjoys volleyball, badminton, watching movies, and singing.

UW-Madison students can schedule a in-person, phone, or Zoom appointment with the Data Science Certificate Advisor via Starfish. Individual appointments are great for multiple questions surrounding course planning, career outcomes, or exploring if the Stats certificate is right for them.

Spring 2024 Drop-In Hours: Thursdays from 2-3 PM Central Time. Click here to join the Zoom room.

Students will be seen first-come, first-served and a wait of up to 10 minutes may be expected. Please have your 10-digit campus ID number ready for advisors.

Drop-in hours are only for students who intend to declare or have questions about the Data Science certificate. Students switching from the Data Science certificate to Data Science major, should follow the declaration steps on the Data Science major page.

In-person drop-in advising is not available.

My office is located in the Medical Sciences Center (MSC), 1300 University Ave.  The easiest way to access my office is via the main entrance on University Ave, then enter the 1205 suite in MSC and head towards the back of the suite.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Certificate Program Questions

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What is the difference between the Data Science certificate and the Data Science major?

The Data Science certificate provides foundational data analysis and programming skills for high-end users of data science tools. It does not require any calculus, only fulfillment of Quantitative Reasoning A. Having some math or algebra background is helpful. It is a great fit if you want to apply your Data Science skills to specific areas such as your major or a career field you are interested in pursuing post-graduation.

The Data Science major combines advanced math and programming skills to solve data rich problems, develop data science tools and produce meaningful insights from data. It requires Calculus 1, Calculus 2, and a linear algebra course. It is a great fit if you are interested in analyzing data on all scales such as building algorithms, math underpinnings, and video programming.

In summary, the certificate is a good fit if you will be a high-end user of data tools and the major is a good fit if you want to be a developer of data tools.

What is the difference between the Data Science certificate and Computer Science certificate?

If you want to learn data analysis, you can do that with learning R and Python with the Data Science certificate. If you want to develop more computer science skills like computer engineering, software design, etc. then it would make sense to do the Computer Science certificate to learn Java.

In summary, DS works more in analytics and using data to answer questions whereas CS is more technical application and web development in creating computing tools. It really depends on what skill set you hope to develop.

What is the difference between the Data Science certificate and Statistics certificate?

Statistics provides a mathematical approach to answering data questions at all scales. The Statistics certificate is a good fit for students who want to develop knowledge in statistical skills and analysis to apply it to their major or field (e.g. conducting field trials). Students are required to be proficient in math and statistics.

Data Science provides a computational approach to answering large data questions. The Data Science certificate provides foundational data analysis and programming skills for high-end users of data science tools (e.g. doing large scale genomic analysis). It does not require any calculus, only fulfillment of Quantitative Reasoning A but having some math or algebra background is helpful.

Both certificates provide skills in extracting and analyzing data. It really depends on if you want to develop statistical analysis skills with a foundational background in math or data analysis skills with a foundation in computer programming.

Are there any negative repercussions for cancelling/dropping the certificate?

There are no repercussions for cancelling the Data Science certificate. Majors and certificates only appear on your transcript for the academic terms for which you are declared in (there is no DR notation like a dropped course). Students are encouraged to submit the cancellation form if they no longer wish to continue the certificate.

Certificate Requirements

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How much math or statistics is required for the Data Science certificate?

Completion of math or statistics is not a requirement to declare the certificate. However, having completion of calculus 1 or introductory statistics can provide more elective options so that you are able to complete the certificate. If math or statistics is a concern, please schedule a Starfish appointment with the certificate advisor to discuss your course options.

Math: We do not require any level of math, only fulfillment of Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A). If you plan to enroll in STAT 340 Data Science Modeling II to fulfill an elective requirement, you must have MATH 211, 217, 221, or 275 completed.

Statistics: The only introductory statistics course that counts for the certificate is STAT 240. If you have taken STAT 301 or 371, they meet requisites for some of our domain electives. Click here to view the differences between our introductory statistics courses.

How much programming is required for the Data Science certificate?

Completion of a programming course is not a requirement to declare the certificate.

All three of our introductory programming courses (COMP SCI 220, STAT 240, and E C E 204) presume no previous programming or coding background. COMP SCI 220 and E C E 204 are Python programming courses and STAT 240 is R programming.

Students who have COMP SCI 300 completed, should take COMP SCI 320 as their foundation course.

What is the difference between a fundamental elective and a domain elective?

Students are required to take two electives that add up to at least six credits. There are two options for completing certificate electives:

  • Option 1: Take one fundamental elective and one domain elective
  • Option 2: Take two fundamental electives

Fundamental electives build more directly on existing skills of foundation courses whereas Domain electives where you use your DS skills to apply it to a specific area or field.

I see that there is a course that overlaps with my major and the DS certificate, can I have it count for both?

Yes, you are welcome to take courses that count for both your major and the Data Science certificate.

I have a class that I would like to be considered as a certificate elective, what is the process?

Please send a syllabi and your rationale for counting it as an elective to the email. Your request will then be forwarded to the Data Science Programs Committee (DSPC) for review. The decision process will take 2-3 months approximately.

Courses & Enrollment

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Can STAT 301, 324, or 371 be substituted for STAT 240?

We do not allow any substitutions for STAT 240. Click here to view the differences between our introductory statistics courses.

Though STAT 301, 324, and 371 teaches introductory statistics, STAT 240 different because it is a 4 credit course focusing in depth on the R programming language, data management, analysis, and modeling. Students who have taken STAT 324 previously will be well prepared for STAT 240 and will learn additional concepts that will prepare them for future courses such as STAT 340.

If your major requires a Statistics course and you are interested in the Data Science certificate, please check with your major advisor if STAT 240 can fulfill your major’s statistics requirement.

Please note that STAT 240 is not a required course for the certificate. If you wish to not take STAT 240, you can opt to take E C E 204 and COMP SCI 220 to fulfill the two courses needed for the foundation programming requirement.

What is the difference between COMP SCI 220, 300, and 320?

COMP SCI 220 is first semester Python where you will learn the Python program and data management. COMP SCI 300 is Java II where you will learn the Java program and build basic computer science skills to prepare you for future CS courses. COMP SCI 320 is second semester Python which requires completion or COMP SCI 300 or COMP SCI 220.

We do not recommend taking COMP SCI 220 and 300 in the same semester since they are really intensive coding classes and has similar content. Students who love coding are welcome to take the Python sequence of COMP SCI 220 and 320. By taking this route, COMP SCI 220 will fulfill a foundation programming requirement and COMP SCI 320 will fulfill an elective for the Data Science certificate.

Students who have taken COMP SCI 300 before or in the Computer Sciences major, can continue on to COMP SCI 320. By taking only COMP SCI 320 (and not 220), then COMP SCI 320 will fulfill a foundation programming requirement. You will then need to identify two elective courses, one programming course, and L I S 461 to finish the rest of the Data Science certificate requirements. A reminder that COMP SCI 320 can only count for either foundation programming or elective, not both.

Should I take L I S 461 Data Ethics & Policy for 3 or 4 credits?

L I S 461 can be taken for 3 or 4 credits so please pay careful attention when enrolling as you will not be able to switch sections after.

Taking it for 3 credits (also known as the non-ComB section) will count as Humanities with one lecture section and no discussion section. Taking it for 4 credits (also known as the ComB section) will count as Humanities and Communication B with one lecture and discussion section.

Why am I unable to enroll in L I S 461?

Priority to enroll in this course is reserved for students declared in Information Science Major, Data Science Major, or Data Science Certificate. Please plan ahead and complete the Data Science certificate declaration process before trying to enroll in the course.

Due to course and instructor capacity, students are advised to take this course in their late junior year or senior year. L I S 461 is also currently the ONLY data ethics course that is required for the Data Science major and certificate.

How do I know which elective I should take?

First think about what field or domain area you wish to learn more about or apply your foundational DS skills to. View all of our elective course options on the Guide here and note any course titles or course descriptions that speak to your interests. It is also important to view if you meet the prerequisites to enroll in those elective courses so that you can plan ahead if you are missing a prerequisite.

If you have questions or concerns about meeting prerequisites for elective courses, schedule a Starfish appointment with the certificate advisor to discuss your options. Always consult the semesterly enrollment newsletter (see planning your data science certificate section above) in case there are newly approved elective courses that might better fit your interests or graduation timeline.

Resources & Involvement

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I am interested in research, where can I get started?

Please see the Department of Statistics page on undergraduate research for more information about how to find research opportunities as an undergraduate at UW-Madison. Students can also explore the following research resources too.

What student organizations are related to Data Science?

Student organizations are a great way for Data Science students to get involved on campus. Find a list of current student organizations on the Wisconsin Involvement Network (WIN) website.  Use keywords that interest you when searching for organizations like “data,” “statistics,” “computer science,” “coding,” etc. Several student orgs that DS students may take an interest in are:

You may also check out the CDIS student organizations page here.

I am interested in study abroad, where do I start?

A great place to start is exploring the Major and Certificate Advising Page for Data Science. At the bottom of that page, there is a list of study abroad programs that students have been able to earn credits for the Data Science certificate. Typical courses that Data Science students take abroad are breadth courses, language courses, and data science elective courses including upper level Computer Sciences, Mathematics, or Statistics courses. We also recommend consulting with Study Abroad advisors for assistance with identifying and applying to programs that may have relevant Data Science courses.

What resources are available for careers and internships?

SuccessWorks is the career services unit for L&S students and a fantastic partner and resource for career and internship assistance. Data Science is part of the Technology, Data & Analytics Career Community. We strongly recommend checking out our Student Career Resources page for great resources and reading the weekly newsletter (once you are declared) for upcoming events.