New MRU program to meet surging demand for data science and AI talent

The new four-year data science undergraduate degree program is the first of its kind in Alberta.

By a long shot, artificial intelligence is the technology that’s top of mind in boardrooms, newsrooms, and classrooms. And the thing is, for AI systems to be effective – to make predictions, to crunch numbers, to learn – they require huge amounts of data. Which, in a way, means the world needs more data scientists.

Mount Royal University is working on it. The local university is launching a four-year data science degree as demand for graduates in the discipline surges.

Students in the program — which will begin taking applications for a winter 2024 start with 50 students, then accept 100 students each fall — will explore the pillars of data science: math, statistics, computer science, and domain knowledge.

Approved just last month by the province’s Ministry of Advanced Education, MRU says it’s meant to be a pathway to careers as a data scientist, data analyst, data and artificial intelligence domain architect.

With their degrees in hand, the graduates of this program will likely find themselves fielding offers from companies across a diverse range of industries, from oil and gas to transportation, tech, and the public sector.

“We are thrilled that this degree has been approved after a significant effort by faculty and university staff to develop a program that puts MRU ahead of the curve,” said Dr. Jonathan Withey, dean of the faculty of science and technology at MRU, in a statement. Withey also said employers have been asking for graduates who can extract valuable insights from datasets. To that end, he said they’re aiming to meet “the needs of Alberta learners seeking to embrace a wide variety of opportunities in the field of data science.”

MRU’s is the first four-year data science undergraduate degree program in Alberta. It will offer upwards of seven new courses that integrate foundational math, stats, and computer courses.

According to MRU computer information systems student Ashley Hunchak, who is also the VP of student engagement of the Computing Alliance of Mount Royal University, data science is a popular career path right now. “So, I’m sure there will be a lot of interest from prospective students,” she said.