Applied Data Science/Informatics Guide @ USC

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I have been getting a lot of messages on LinkedIn about USC. I can’t reply to each and every individual, that’s why I decided to write a post on it. Below I will try to answer the questions I usually get from Students wanting to come to USC for their Masters. I want to add that all these are my opinions and things may vary depending on variable conditions.


About Data Informatics (28 credits) /Applied Data Science (32 credits) Program

Both the Programs are essentially the same. Data Informatics has been renamed to Applied Data Science with extra 4 credits added towards to degree. Most of the things mentioned in the post is applicable to both the programs.

Since I am pursuing my Masters in Data Informatics, I can only write about it. We are allowed to take two CS-electives and it is counted towards our Degree. I took up just one CS Course i.e. Algorithms. It was challenging, but I would suggest the incoming students to think twice before selecting the CS Courses because you can take just two of them. While Algorithms in a good Course, I suggest going for more specific Courses like NLP or Machine Learning.

Talking about Applied Data Science, The program is overall good. Most courses require projects to be submitted by the end of the semester, it’s challenging and practical. Anyone who wants to learn to implement independent projects and pursue a job in the field of Data should consider pursuing this Degree. There are a few gaps but that is inherited into every course you take in any university. I learned many new concepts after coming here.

Professors

About Professors, most of them are PhDs and have been teaching at USC for years. They are very skilled at their job. Most of them also do Research, so it gives students an opportunity to be part of Research work, but it’s very competitive.

My Favorite Courses
  • INF 564 – Probability and Statistics for Data Science
  • INF 553 – Data Mining (Highly Recommended under Yao Yi)
  • INF 552 – Machine Learning for Informatics (M. Rajati)
Fee Structure for USC

Each Course = 4 units (CS / INF) and ~2-3 units (Others)

CS/INF has to mandatory take at least 2 courses / 8 units maintain their F1 Status, except in the last one, where you will have just one course left / 4 units. In that case, the fees reduce to half the mentioned amount.

  • Per unit cost: $2005
  • Each Semester: 8 units taken – 8 x $2005 = $16,040
  • Miscellaneous Fees: (Heath Fees + Insurance + Others) = $2000
  • Fixed Expense per semester – $18,040
  • Last Semester Expense – $9,020

The cost may vary depending on your Per unit cost. Also, these values are upper bounds and can be reduced by taking outside Insurance Costs (Cheaper than the Engemann/USC one).

Living Expenses

Depending on the Management and the building the costs may vary.

Most of the houses fall into $450 – $650 max for 2-3 people sharing. More no. of people sharing lower the cost. If you go away from the main campus, then the houses are much cheaper, but it’s not safe.

  • Single Rooms can cost anywhere from $700 – $1,200.
  • Other Costs: Electricity + Internet + Trash + Food Expenses + Mobile Bills + Entertainment Costs somewhere around $70 – $100
  • Total per month Expenses Range: $600 – $1200

The on-campus Job covers the living expenses easily.

Admission Process

USC looks at GPA (MOST IMPORTANT). GRE score >= 310 is good enough.

GPA >> Work/Research Experience >> GRE >> Extra-Curriculars

This is an observed pattern, it may vary.

Housing Options
  • On-Campus ($800 – $1500 / month + utilities + Food & Other Expenses)
  • Off-Campus ($500 – $1000 / month + utilities + Food & Other Expenses)
Safety @ USC Campus and around

I get a lot of questions asking if the SoCal is a safe place to live or not. Everyone has heard of the serious incidents that have taken place in the Los Angeles County. But, USC has definitely stepped up when it comes to protecting the community around the campus.

USC has it’s own Department of Public Safety which responds almost immediately in case of an emergency. They are literally one call away. I see DPS cars patrolling the area the whole day. And everyday as soon as the clock hits 5 pm, you will see security people (we call them “yellow jackets”) in almost every corner of USC’s Diameter, inside and outside the campus.  They are there to deal with any abrupt incident. They even offer to walk you home if you are not feeling safe. Besides that, we obviously have the free USC Cruiser & Lyft Services operating between 6 pm – 2 am everyday. So, no spending money on cabs… Yaay!

Job Opportunities

About Job Opportunities and Internships, it depends on the Student and NOT the university. Even students at USC don’t get Internships. Getting a job/internship is not dependent on your program. And the Applied DS Program is meant for people who are particularly interested in Data Science, it very rigorous. Having said that, getting a job/internship in Data Science is tough. It’s just that Industry demands experienced people and you have to prove yourself. It’s not a generic position like SDE, which every tech company will have.

I am interested in data science but have heard exactly what you have written, I don’t have work exp, so wondering whether this course is better or Computer Science?

If you are interested in Data Science, then CS with a major in Data Science or Applied Data Science both programs can be taken into consideration. I’ll be frank, it’s going to be tough to get any job opportunity. But keep trying. It’s a struggle. But everyone ends up with some offer at the end. Yes, it’s tougher for a Data Science person to get a Job/Internship than the general CS person. I have seen my classmates suffer. Most of my classmates had the experience, even then they had a tough time. 

Is it true that even if I do apply data science I have to take up a job in a CS-related field?

Data Science is ultimately Computer Science!

That’s true! Do the companies differentiate on the basis of course?

Companies don’t care. You apply… they will shortlist you based on your relevant work experience, projects, and not your Program / Course. But taking that Course doesn’t hurt your chances, it just adds some value to it. Even people in Mech Engg, do Machine Learning stuff and get an offer.


So, these were the questions that are usually asked to me from the incoming Students. Let me know in the comments below if you have any other doubts. I will add them to the article. 🙂

2 comments on “Applied Data Science/Informatics Guide @ USC”

  1. I have got an Admit for Applied Data Science program. I would be having a 10 month work experience. I have done my undergraduate in Computer Engineering. Will it be tough to find job opportunities as a data scientist. Will there be a discrimination between a CS Data Science and Applied Data Science student. Do you advice me to accept the offer? Or should I apply for CS Data Science next year? Please not I was rejected for CS Data Science but accepted for Applied Data Science.

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    1. Well, Don’t worry much about the degree. It won’t matter. Ultimately it depends on the interview itself. ADS and DS @ USC are equally good, as the name suggest the former is more “Applied” and hence you will get to learn a lot of applications.

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