The field of data science is increasingly gaining popularity in today’s technology-ridden world. With Artificial Intelligence (AI) proving to be an effective and efficient substitute to humans in generating accurate insights and power to business value, it is no surprise that the average salary of a Data Scientist in, say, USA is around $121,000 per year.
There is expected to be a surge in demand for data scientists in the near and long-term future, throughout the world, as the organizations have started to realize the upside of data-driven decision making. That said, and considering the prerequisites required to acquire this skill as well as the current pandemic situation, many people have expressed interest in pursuing advanced study in this domain.
A host of prestigious international universities, such as Columbia University (USA), Imperial College London (UK), and National University of Singapore (Singapore), are already offering degree programs in Data Science. Many Pakistani universities have also adjusted to this trend and compiled their own Data Science Master’s Degree Courses. Below is our list of the top-3 Data Science Master’s Degree Courses currently being offered in Pakistan along with other affordable and time-efficient option for recent university graduates and working professionals. Multiple different factors were considered in the compilation of this list namely employment status of graduates, faculty background and experiences, admissions criteria, diversity and depth of modules & electives offered, average salary earned post-graduation VS pre-enrollment, university infrastructure, campus life, alumni network, and career counseling. Lastly, the below list is in no particular order:
FAST National University
The National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences (also known as FAST) was founded in 1980 and has multiple campuses – in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Faisalabad. FAST is one of the most historic institutes of Pakistan with a vast alumni network and venerable faculty. FAST has a competitive admissions criteria since it receives numerous eager applicants for each intake. Having multiple campuses is a huge advantage as it allows students, throughout Pakistan, to comfortably attend classes with minimal or zero relocation.
FAST is one of the first universities in Pakistan to offer a Master’s Degree in Data Science. It was introduced in its Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad campuses in 2016, 2017, and 2018 respectively. Hence, it boasts a highly trained faculty who are well qualified with years of teaching experience, including Dr. Kashif Munir, Dr. Waseem Shahzad, and Dr. Noreen Jamil. The research wings of the university are recognized on the national as well as the international level. The university’s mission is to further advance its rank on a global scale.
The MS in Data Science program at FAST focuses on enabling students to process large and complex data sets, through computational, statistical, and machine learning techniques. A variety of elective courses are offered including Deep Learning, Data Visualization, and Bioinformatics. Students can choose from these electives based on which area, or advancement level, of data science they are interested to specialize in. Alumni from the FAST MS in Data Science program are bound to have promising career paths, with many already working in top organizations such as Afiniti and Bank Alfalah.
Haris Anwar is part of the first MS in Data Science batch of FAST Islamabad. He lists his reasons for wanting to pursue this degree in FAST and also talks about his on-campus experience, “I chose FAST as it is a well-established institute with many accolades to its name. I wanted to enhance my skills as a data scientist under the guidance of its esteemed faculty. I believe, the university surpassed my expectations; the professors are highly qualified and supportive, and the courses are simultaneously challenging plus interesting. The research supervision is exceptional in FAST and I would strongly recommend the MS in Data Science program.”
Haris has 4+ years of work experience and is currently working at LMKR as a Data Scientist. He continued his work for the duration of his Master’s degree – “It was a worthwhile decision for me to enroll as a graduate student alongside my career. The knowledge I gained at FAST allowed me to significantly improve my work skills and has been a stepping stone for me career-wise.”
National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST)
NUST was established in 1991 as one of the leading institutes of Pakistan, with state-of-the-art research facilities. NUST’s vision is to train highly competent individuals for the job market of today; it continues to strive towards excellence and is already a globally recognized university. The central campus of NUST is in Islamabad, which is also its largest and most advanced campus in terms of research. Its other campuses are located in Karachi, Rawalpindi, and Risalpur. NUST is an extremely reputable institute and has a number of notable alumni including Talat Masood, M. Shahab-ud-Din Makhdoom, and Col. (R) Aqeel Ahmed.
A myriad of general electives are offered in the MS in Data Science program at NUST along with its core courses. Subjects of Machine Learning and Statistical and Mathematical Models of Data Science are the main focus. Specialized electives are also offered with courses such as Deep Learning and Big Data Analytics, which can substantially advance the skills of a data scientist. Dr. Muhammad Imran Malik, Dr. Rabia Irfan, and Dr. Muhammad Zeeshan are some of the expert faculty in NUST Data Science department. Most faculty members have PhD’s from reputed international universities. The Data Science program is part of the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (SEECS) at NUST. SEECS has a number of remarkable accomplishments to its name, for example in 2012 it launched the fastest supercomputing facility of Pakistan.
Some of the graduates of the Data Science program have gone on to pursue their PhD abroad, owing to excellent academics and recommendations from NUST professors. Some are also working in prestigious national corporations such as Systems Limited and Telenor. The professors and research supervisors are well-equipped with robust industry exposure thus a degree from NUST comes with the added benefit of sound career counseling, something which is scarce in most academic institutions of Pakistan.
“The teachers at NUST are highly co-operative and experienced, as expected. But I would emphasize on the excellent management and instrumental learning environment at NUST. The competition is quite high since extremely competent applicants are accepted for admission; thus to get ahead, innovation is key – which teaches us to think outside the box,” says Mohammad Ahmed, a final year student of the MS in Data Science program at NUST Islamabad, “Every year more than 15,000 research papers are published from NUST which is proof of the quality of research done here. Most of my colleagues started careers in data science soon after joining this department in mega companies such as Amazon. It is quite easy to find jobs after graduation with a degree in data science owing to its popular demand today; especially a degree from a reputable university as NUST promises bright career prospects.”
Institute of Business Administration (IBA)
IBA was established in 1955 with technical support from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Southern California. It carries on the legacy of these distinguished international universities by inculcating similar instructions and administrative methods in its operations today. IBA is situated in Karachi, the business hub of Pakistan; it has two campuses – the Main Campus and the City Campus. It has one of the best learning environments amongst all Pakistani universities – with a large campus, avant-garde research facilities, and modern architecture. Such an environment is conducive for better learning and discipline of students. IBA has a very strict admission criterion; the students selected are those who have exceptional academic background, and proficient experience, such as interpersonal skills and extra-curricular participation. This leads to a competitive learning environment which increases both drive and tenacity in students.
IBA will commence its Data Science Master’s program from Fall 2020, in the Main Campus. Considering the success it has had with all its other graduate programs, its Master’s Degree in Data Science promises to live up to the expectation. It will offer both thesis and non-thesis MS in Data Science tracks. The program is designed for students who want to begin or advance their careers in data science. It offers strong preparation in statistical modeling, machine learning, management of massive data sets, data visualization, software engineering, and data ethics. The machine learning course is bipartite in order to comprehensively cover the subject matter. Another unique aspect of the IBA program is the focus on lambda and kappa architectures for Big Data. No other university is currently employing such an approach, which may well set apart the IBA program from all the rest.
Dr. Tariq Mahmood is currently an Associate Professor in the Computer Science department of IBA, and will also be joining the faculty of MS Data Science. “IBA trains highly competent and quality students, owing largely to its advanced academics, adept faculty and brilliant learning environment,” says Dr. Tariq, “The introduction of MS Data Science program at IBA will be a game-changer as I believe it will soon make its footing amongst the best data science graduate programs in Pakistan.” He also described the prosperity of IBA alumni “IBA graduates from the computer science department have already proven to have successful career prospects, with many being hired in organizations abroad. Those in Pakistan have also demonstrated exceptional career paths in top-notch firms such as Engro and Cisco. The Data Science program will train students specifically for AI-related careers and will herald even greater heights of success for the students.”
Another Viable Option
For those wishing to learn data science without the time commitment and financial burden of one to two years, they can opt for enrolling in certification programs in lieu of pursuing a graduate degree. Frontier Technology Institute (FTI) is Pakistan’s Premier Data Science Institute currently providing this opportunity, with both onsite and online cohorts. FTI, also, has the honor and privilege of having Dr. Tariq Mahmood on its team, alongside other esteemed faculty members. Students of FTI are taught, via practical application, core modules of Data Science including Python and SQL, Machine Learning, Time series Forecasting and Regression, and Exploratory Data Analysis. The vision of FTI is to equip the future generation of Pakistan with highly sought-after data science, data engineering, and data visualization skills.https://www.youtube.com/embed/rp31FZusYjE
Pakistan is slowly but surely catching up with the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It does not, yet, have the advanced research and top-notch facilities matching those available in highly-ranked international universities. However, initiatives, such as ones listed above, are required for Pakistan to progress as a nation and establish its mark in the technology world. It is vital to impart knowledge on such subjects to the young generation and is even more essential that this knowledge be made widely accessible on a national level. Many students may not be able to pursue a degree abroad for various reasons; and if Pakistani universities do a stellar job then the need to go abroad may not arise.
It is indisputable that data science is a valuable skillset in most organizations today. Having knowledge of this subject is beneficial, especially considering the demand for data scientists is only going to increase from henceforth. And so, an individual’s alma mater can play a major role in his or her personal development and future success. For any individual, a thorough search into the best-suited university or certificate program will be time well-spent, knowing that the data science skill comes with the promise of future prosperity and professional success.
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