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 curriculum is available in the Guide here. Students from any major and school/college are welcome to to declare the Data Science Certificate. Students declared in the Data Science major are not eligible to declare this certificate. Information on the Data Science major can be found here.

Planning Your Data Science Certificate

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Data Science Certificate Enrollment Newsletter for Spring 2023

Please view the Spring 2023 Enrollment Info Data Science Certificate PDF document for course information.

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.

General Recommended Pacing

Our general recommendation is to take 1-2 Data Science courses per semester.

Please see  below for the general pacing for completing the certificate in three semesters. 

  • Semester 1: Programming + L I S 461
  • Semester 2: Programming + Elective
  • Semester 3: Elective

Please see  below for the general pacing for completing the certificate in five semesters.

  • Semester 1: Programming
  • Semester 2: Programming
  • Semester 3: L I S 461
  • Semester 4: Elective
  • Semester 5: Elective

Math Background

There is no math requirement to declare the certificate, only fulfillment of Quantitative Reasoning A. However, 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.

Programming/Coding Background

All three of our programming courses (Comp Sci 220, Stat 240, and E C E 204) are great introductory courses that presume no previous programming or coding background.

Difference Between Fundamental and Domain Electives

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.

How to Declare the Data Science Certificate

Attending a declaration session will fulfill the advisor meeting requirement to declare.

There are no prerequisites to declare the certificate, however Data Science majors are not eligible to declare.

Declaration Process

  1. Review the Data Science certificate requirements on the Guide or run a “What-If ” DARS Report to assess what courses you still need.
  2. Schedule an advising appointment on Starfish to meet with the Data Science certificate advisor to ensure it fits with your academic and career goals. Bring any questions/concerns to your appointment.
  3. Submit the online declaration form. If submitted more than one year from after the appointment, will need to schedule another advising appointment. If submitting form prior to appointment, must schedule appointment within two months.

Once all three steps are completed, your declaration will be processed. Your assigned advisor will be Plia Xiong and the Data Science certificate will be reflected in your Academic Navigator within 1-2 business days.

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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.

I forgot to submit my online declaration form.

Did you already complete an advisor meeting? If you submit the form within one year of our advising meeting, your declaration will be processed. If you submit the form more than one year of our advising meeting, your declaration will not be processed and you will need to schedule another advising appointment.

Did you complete the form before your advising meeting? Schedule an advising appointment within two months of submitting the form or your declaration will be cancelled.

What are the advantages of declaring?

Declared students will receive priority enrollment for courses in the initial enrollment period. They will also receive our weekly newsletters that provides information on Data Science related events and activities.

How to drop/cancel the certificate

If you are no longer interested in pursuing the Data Science certificate, please email the certificate advisor ( indicating that you wish to drop the certificate. A Data Science staff will then process your certificate cancellation. You must include your 10-digit student ID number and the email must come from your email account.

Switching from Data Science major to certificate

Please complete the following steps if you are a Data Science major who wants to switch to the Data Science certificate.

  1. Fill out the Data Science Major Cancellation Form here:
  2. On the second page, there will be a question that asks your reason for cancelling the major. Please select the “I plan to declare the DS certificate instead” option.
  3. Upon submission of the form, the Data Science certificate advisor will then reach out to you to determine if an appointment is necessary to switch to the certificate, or if your declaration can be processed.

Advising & Contact Information

Plia Xiong

Plia Xiong

1237 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 an appointment with the Data Science Certificate Advisor via Starfish and can choose to meet via Zoom or phone. Individual appointments are great for multiple questions surrounding four year planning, career outcomes, or exploring if the DS certificate is right for them.

Drop-in advising for Fall 2022 semester will be held every Thursday from 1-2pm central time via Zoom from September 8 to December 15. Please utilize drop-ins for quick declaration appointments with few questions.

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. Click here to access the Zoom drop-in advising hours.

There will be no drop-in advising on Thursday, November 24.

Debating between the Data Science major and certificate? You can meet with either Plia or Data Science major advisors Dana and Sara.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Curriculum Information

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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.

I am debating between the Data Science certificate and Computer Science certificate. Which one should I do?

It really depends on what skill set you hope to develop. 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.

I have taken STAT 301, 324, or 371 in the past. Can I substitute that for STAT 240?

We do not allow any substitutions for STAT 240. Though STAT 301, 324, and 371 teaches introductory statistics, STAT 240 is a 4 credit course that includes programming in the R language, as well as 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 the 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.

I have a class that I think should count as an elective for the certificate, what should I do?

Please send a syllabi and your rationale for counting it as an elective to the email for review.

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. The only exception is for Data Science majors as they also cannot be pursuing both the Data Science major and certificate.

Does Data Science qualify for STEM-OPT extension?

Data Science does qualify for STEM-OPT extension, after the Department of Homeland Security reviewed their list of eligible programs. The CIP code is 30.7001 – Data Science General. You can view a list of all eligible programs here:

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  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:

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.  Additionally, students who have questions about careers and internship are welcome to meet with the Data Science advisors.