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.

How to Declare the Data Science Certificate

There are no prerequisites to declare this certificate. Students are encouraged to meet with a Data Science advisor to discuss certificate requirements and ensure it fits with their academic and career goals. This certificate is only for non-Data Science majors. 

Declaration Process

  1. Read Data Science certificate requirements and policies on the Guide page.
    1. 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.
  2. Meet with a Data Science advisor to determine if the DS certificate is a good fit for you!
    1. Appointments can be made on Starfish or via drop-in advising. See Advising & Contact Information section below for instructions.
    2. Students interested in the certificate should schedule a meeting with Plia Xiong.  Students who are debating between the certificate and the major can meet with Plia or Data Science major advisors Sara Rodock and Dana Maltby.
    3. Students are encouraged to utilize drop-ins for quick declaration appointments with few questions. Students with multiple questions surrounding four year planning, career outcomes, or exploring if the DS certificate is right for them are encouraged to make an appointment.
    4. Students who have met with advisors within the past year do not need to meet with advisors again. However, if it has been over a year since meeting with a DS advisor, students will need to complete another appointment.
  3. Fill out the declaration form letting DS staff know of your intent to declare the certificate.
    1. Link to declaration form: 
    2. The declaration form must be completed within one year of your advising appointment or you will need to reschedule an appointment to officially declare. Students who submit the form first must schedule an advising appointment within two months of submitting the form or your declaration will be cancelled.
    3. Please have ready your Campus ID # and preferred graduation term (ex: Spring 2022).
  4. A DS staff will add you into the certificate and will take up to 1-2 business days to appear in your Academic Navigator. You will be assigned to Plia Xiong as your certificate advisor. Once added to the certificate, you will receive priority enrollment for courses with priority for DS certificates in the initial enrollment period.

How to Drop the Data Science 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 so a Data Science staff can process your certificate cancellation.  You must include your 10-digit student ID number and the email must come from your email account.

Advising & Contact Information

Data Science Certificate Advisor

Plia Xiong

Plia Xiong 

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.

Current Students Advising Appointments

Students can schedule an appointment with the Data Science Certificate Advisor via Starfish and can choose to meet via Zoom or phone.

Fall 2022 Drop-In Advising

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. 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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General Program Questions

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I am declared in the Data Science certificate (or plan to be). What should I take?

For enrollment information on summer 2022 courses, please view the Summer 2022 Enrollment Info – Data Science Certificate PDF document.

For enrollment information for fall 2022, please view the Fall 2022 Enrollment Info – Data Science Certificate PDF document.

The Data Science certificate curriculum is available on the Guide here. Please go to to enroll in courses.

Students with questions are encouraged to reach out to the Data Science advisors via email, an appointment, or drop in advising.  Please see the Advising & Contact Information section above for information on how to connect with advisors.

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

The DS major is a great fit for students interested in developing and revising tools to analyze data on all scales such as building algorithms, math underpinnings, and video programming. The DS Cert is a great fit for students who are users of the programs and want to focus on  developing basic DS skills to apply it to other or specific areas. Additionally, the DS Major requires up to Calc 2 and the DS Certificate does not require any calculus.

How much math do I need to have in order to declare the certificate?

There is no math requirement to declare the certificate. However, if you plan to enroll in STAT 340 to fulfill an elective requirement, you must have MATH 211, 217, 221, or 275 completed.

I am in the DS major, how do I switch to the certificate?

Switching to the Data Science certificate requires two steps.

  1. Email the Data Science certificate advisor ( indicating that you wish to switch from the major to the certificate. Please include your Campus ID number in the email.
  2. Fill out the certificate declaration form here:

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:

Curriculum Information and Course Planning

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What is the general pacing for completing the Data Science certificate?

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

What course substitutions are permitted and which ones are not permitted?

  • STAT 301 and 371 cannot be substituted for STAT 240 to fulfill the foundation requirement.
  • COMP SCI 300 cannot be substituted for COMP SCI 220.

I do not have a programming background, what should I take?

COMP SCI 220 and STAT 240 are great introductory courses that presume no previous programming or coding background.

What is the difference between the domain electives and 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 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?

A course can count towards either the DS major or certificate, but please note that students in the DS major may not also pursue the DS certificate.

Resources & Involvement

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

Please see the Department of Statistic’s page on undergraduate research for more information about how to find research opportunities as an undergraduate at UW-Madison.

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?

Studying abroad is a great option for students who want to broaden their horizons and immerse themselves in new cultures. Data Science students interested in studying abroad should consult with Study Abroad advisors for assistance with identifying and applying to programs.

Students in the DS major should typically expect to complete general education/breadth courses while abroad, as there are limited programs with courses equivalent to DS major requirements.  Please reference the Study Abroad Major Advising pages and the Data Science page in particular, for ideas of programs that may have relevant 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.

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 (see advising section above for email and how to make appointments).