Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Please note that we do our best to respond personally to all prospective students. However, due to the current volume of inquiries, you may not receive a response if your question is answered on this FAQ page.

If you have additional questions and/or your questions are not answered in the FAQ, we will strive to respond within 3 business days. Thank you for your patience. Please consider registering for future offerings of our prospective student webinar.

Read the following for the most common questions and answers regarding admissions, degree requirements and more.

I am considering studying Data Science at the University of Waterloo

What is the program tuition and fees?

The most up-to-date UW fee schedule for graduate students is listed under graduate fee schedules.

The program tuition plus graduate incidental fees (co-op fee is required for this program during students' co-op work terms) are paid per term for three terms per year. You will find MDSAI’s tuition per course listed in the above link under the appropriate table. 

MMath in DS
Please review the graduate fee schedules. The program tuition for this research-based master's program plus graduate incidental fees will be paid per term.

Other Fees and Estimates
The fee estimator and information about study and living costs can help you estimate other costs. Note that they can be very specific and are estimates only. 

Are there any scholarship, awards, or funding I can apply for?

TA positions are not provided to MDSAI students however, the program offers a limited number of Vector Scholarships. MDSAI also offers a small number of Graduate Scholarships for the program. Eligibility and selection is determined at the time of application review by the committee and does not require an application. As a reminder, MDSAI students are not funded, as students are expected to fund the entire program themselves. 

MMath in DS
All of our domestic MMath in DS full-time students are guaranteed a minimum level of funding while they are within their program time limits and in good academic standing. International students may be provided funding and will be determined at the time of admission.

Note: All general graduate-level awards and funding can be found on our financial support webpage.

I do not have a background in CS or Statistics, but I am interested in getting into the data science field. What senior level course background do I need?

The Data Science programs and specializations currently offered through the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo require applicants to have a solid quantitative background with emphasis in computer science, statistics and mathematics studies, normally through having a four-year Honours Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in data science, computer science, statistics, mathematics or a related field, with an equivalent minimum overall B+ (78%) average from a recognized university. If you do not have one of the above, you can find more information about the specific senior level course background we are looking for.  

Generally, the committee looks more favourably at undergraduate courses and courses from academic institutions. However, having background knowledge from online courses can't hurt. You will be given the opportunity to detail your competency in these topics at the time of application.

If you are currently lacking the prerequisites for these programs, you can consider looking into other data science programs. For example, the Data Analytics Diploma program is offered as part of the Master's of Management Sciences (MMSc) Program at the University of Waterloo.

Do I need to have work experience to succeed in this program?

No, this program is designed to be academically challenging and quantitatively rigorous. The ideal applicant will have a strong mathematical/statistical and/or computer science background. You do not need work experience to be successful in this program, however, strong communication skills are crucial.

What is the difference between the Master's of Mathematics - Data Science and the Master of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence programs?

The distinctions between the two programs are as follows. First, the MMath students will partake directly in supervisors' funded research projects and will write a thesis, whereas MDSAI students will be educated primarily in the classroom. The MMath students are funded while the MDSAI students are not funded. On the other hand, MDSAI students have the opportunity for co-op (i.e., industry internship as part of the degree). These distinctions exist because the programs are aimed at distinct career objectives. We invite you to learn more about Co-op and the MDSAI program.

Does the MDSAI program have a part-time option?

The new part-time non-co-op MDSAI option is designed to provide working professionals a way to upgrade their theoretical knowledge in data science and artificial intelligence. The program can either complement a prospective student's current profession, or allow for a pathway to a career/promotion in the evolving field of data science and artificial intelligence. Part-time MDSAI students have the same access to faculty from our world-renowed departments and schools in the Faculty of Math, as well as networking opportunities with industry and much more. Students in the regular part-time option are expected to complete the degree in nine terms (three years).

This new part-time option accepts new students mainly in the Fall due to course sequencing. However, Winter and Spring applications will also be considered.

Please note: Students are expected to take in-person classes on the University of Waterloo campus. In addition, it is generally much harder to obtain a study permit to come to Canada through the MDSAI part-time program. As such, applicants to the MDSAI part-time program that are neither Canadian citizens nor Permanent Residents of Canada should state in their SIF how they plan on obtaining a study permit to enroll in the program.

What kind of courses can I expect to take in the MDSAI program?

You will see an updated list of all the MDSAI courses in our grad academic calendar. Course descriptions can be found on the Computer Science, Statistics and Combinatorics & Optimization calendar websites.

Instructors can change every term but you can see current professor by doing a search in the Schedule of Classes.

What is the anticipated demand for students with a data science degree?

There is a growing and widely recognized need for highly qualified personnel in this emerging area of data science. The gap between demand for and supply of Data Scientists is well documented. For example, an article from Datanami (Tracking the Data Science Talent Gap”, Alex Woodie, Datanami, March 25, 2016) noted the following: "Back in 2012, the research firm Gartner said there would be a shortage of 100,000 data scientists in the United States by 2020. A year earlier, McKinsey put the national gap in data scientists and others with deep analytical expertise at 140,000 to 190,000 people by 2017, resulting in demand that's 60 percent greater than supply. In 2014, the consulting firm Accenture found that more than 90 percent of its clients planned to hire people with data science expertise, but more than 40 percent cited a lack of talent as the number one problem". Recently the government of Ontario has made significant investments to address this shortage. From the website: “In Ontario, we recognize that a knowledge economy is only as good as its talent. That's why we're strengthening our AI talent pipeline by committing to graduate 1,000 AI-related master's grads per year by 2023, while simultaneously increasing the number of annual STEM grads by 25% to over 50,000.

How will this program prepare me for a career?

Together, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence develop and share methods and tools designed to address problems increasingly central to our everyday life, business, society, and the environment. The methods of data science and artificial intelligence involve elements of statistics, computer science, and optimization. Other Ontario institutions offer data science and/or artificial intelligence content, however, this program differs in its offering of both data science and artificial intelligence and the inclusion of a co-op work term. The 9-course requirement in addition to the co-op experiential work term will provide MDSAI students with the breadth and depth necessary to prepare them for a career in industry. We invite you to learn more about Co-op and the MDSAI program. The Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo has a wealth of internationally-recognized expertise. Students from the program are expected to achieve a specialized skill set making them exceptionally competitive in the career market.

Do you have a PhD program in Data Science?

We do not offer PhD programs in Data Science currently. However, you may be interested in a PhD in Computer SciencePhD in Statistics or PhD in Combinatorics and Optimization in which you can work with a faculty member that conducts research in a data science related field.

Is there an age limit to apply for the data science graduate programs?

No, we have admitted students of various ages with various levels of work/academic experience. Some students apply immediately after they complete their undergraduate degree and others have been employed for 10+ years and are looking to advance their career or explore a new field.

Are co-op jobs guaranteed if I am admitted to the MDSAI program?

It is primarily the student’s responsibility to secure co-op employment. However, our partnership with the Co-operative Education department offers support and resources to help you along the way. Please also learn more about Co-op and the MDSAI program.

I have questions before I submit my application

Can you review my application documents before I apply to let me know if I qualify for admission?

No. The selection process will take into account your academic background, work experience, information provided in the supplementary information form, and references. There are several factors that go into the admission decision process. We cannot provide weighting of these factors as the completed application is reviewed as one package taking each document into consideration. We cannot review application documents before the complete application has been submitted through the online portal. This is both due to the volume of such inquiries and the complexity of factors that go into the admission decision making process. We encourage you to carefully review the requirements listed on the program website before submitting your application.

When do you start accepting offers and what are the deadlines?

Program Deadlines
Master of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (co-op full-time)

MDSAI Co-op GSPA Website

Master of Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (non-co-op part-time) MDSAI Non-Co-op GSPA Website
Master of Mathematics in Data Science MMath in DS GSPA Website

Do I need a GRE to apply for this program?

We do not require GRE scores for admission to our data science programs. However, we encourage you to submit your scores to supplement your application and set yourself apart in this competitive program. 

Do you only admit in the Fall term? How long are the programs?

We admit students to the MMath program in the Fall. Students are expected to complete the program in 4-6 terms and the principal components of the degree are 4 courses and a thesis. The full-time MDSAI co-op program only admits in the Fall (September) term and is designed to be completed full-time in-person within 4 terms (16 months) including three study terms (3 courses per term) and one co-op term in the Spring (May - August). We admit students to the part-time MDSAI non-co-op program in all terms (Fall, Winter and Spring) and deadlines will be January (for Fall), May (for Winter) and September (for Spring).

What are the full-time and part-time study options?

Part-time study is only available via the non co-op regular MDSAI option and full-time is only available via the co-op MDSAI option.

Do I need to find a supervisor before I apply?

MMath applicants do not need to have a supervisor before applying but students are strongly encouraged to at least list in their applications names of potential supervisors of interest, since an offer of admission will only be made if the student is matched with a supervior. Find more information about potential data science supervisors and view their profiles to see who matches your research interests.

MDSAI is a coursework program and therefore students do not have supervisors. 

Can my application be considered for both MDSAI and MMath in Data Science?

No, an application can only be considered for one program, unless you wish to complete another OUAC application and submit the required documentation for the new program. 

What are the requirements for reference letters and how many referees are needed?

For each application, we require a minimum of 2 academic references and 1 professional reference is permitted. If you have been away from university for more than 5 years, you can submit 2 professional references and 1 academic reference. Please note that if you apply to more than one program and use the same referee, the referee will need to complete a separate reference for each application. For more information on effective references and tips on selecting your referees, please visit our Future Students Website

What is the Supplementary Information Form (SIF)? Is it the same as a statement of interest?

After you officially apply, you will receive an email with instructions for uploading supporting documents, including the supplemental information form (SIF). This SIF includes a 500-word statement of interest. Below is a list of the questions that will be asked. For more information, please visit our Future Students Website and Instructions Website.

For Q2-Q4, for relevant comparable UW courses, please see our admission requirements.

  1. Provide a short statement (up to 500 words) outlining your interest in this graduate program.
  2. Please describe all linear algebra and calculus courses you have taken, the main topics covered in each course, and the number of lecture hours for each course. Please indicate how these courses are named and numbered in your transcript (e.g. Math 136 – Linear Algebra 1 – 36 hours [elementary matrices, eigenvalues, …])
  3. If you do not have a Computer Science degree, please specify your computer programming experience including Computer Science courses taken, the main topics covered in each course, and the number of lecture hours for each course, and programming languages you are familiar with. Please indicate how these courses are named and numbered in your transcript. Indicate N/A if this does not apply.
  4. If you do not have a Statistics degree, please describe your experience in Statistics and courses taken on probability and statistics, the main topics covered in each course, and the number of lecture hours for each course. Please indicate how these courses are named and numbered in your transcript. Indicate N/A if this does not apply.
  5. Please provide any other comments which you consider will help clarify the picture of your academic background.
  6. If you are not currently enrolled in an educational institution, please describe your professional activities since leaving school. Indicate N/A if this does not apply.
  7. Do you have any work experience in the area of Data Science? If so, please provide details.

I have just submitted my completed application

When can I expect a decision on my application?

We plan to share admission decisions for Fall applications by the middle of May. Please keep in mind that decisions may be available sooner depending on the complexity of each application package and fluctuating application numbers.

What transcripts do I need to upload to Quest? Can I upload a copy of an unofficial transcript?

When applying to Waterloo you are required to declare all academic education from all past and present universities, colleges and post-secondary institutions attended.  In addition to completed degrees, diplomas and post-secondary certificates, programs that are currently in progress, incomplete studies, non-degree studies/courses, transfer credit courses, and online courses must be declared. Your complete post-secondary educational history is required by the academic department in a review and evaluation of your application. Failure to declare all education may delay your admission consideration. A copy of all your transcripts are required to be uploaded to Quest. Waterloo will accept transcripts issued in either English or French from Canadian institutions only. If the official language of instruction at your institution is not English, please include both the original language document and a certified English translation for the transcript and degree certificate/diploma. Remember to also include the transcript legend normally found on the back of your transcript. Please read more about application documents and transcript requirements.

Are applications reviewed on a rolling basis (first-come, first-reviewed)?

No, the admissions committee begins reviewing applications once all applications have been received to ensure consistency in the review process.

I need to update my application. How can I do so?

Most uploaded documents are considered final and once submitted cannot be replaced or updated. For example, if you mistyped a date on your résumé, we cannot allow you to resubmit. Additionally, if you have an additional term of marks we cannot update your transcript. If you are offered admission, we may request official/updated documents. However, you may correct your previous education declaration or change a referee.

I am an international student

Is my degree from my country with a different grading scheme equivalent to a four-year Honours Bachelor's degree?

Please refer to our international admission equivalencies. Note that we use WHED to verify accreditation.

What are the English language requirements for this program?

If you meet the requirements for ELP exemption then you do not have to submit ELP test scores. Otherwise, please visit the University of Waterloo’s graduate studies academic calendar for an overview of the English language proficiency requirements for graduate programs.The minimum IELTS (academic) score requirement for the MDSAI program is a 7.5 overall, with at least a 7.0 in writing and speaking. The TOEFL requirement is a score of 100 overall, with a minimum score of 26 in writing and speaking. For the Master's of Mathematics in Data Science, the minimum IELTS (academic) score requirement is a 7.0 overall, with at least a 6.5 in writing and speaking. The TOEFL requirement is a score of 90 overall, with a minimum score of 25 in writing and speaking.

If I do not meet the above minimum scores in approved English language proficiency tests, can I still apply?

Yes, under rare circumstances, if a student has a strong application package, but language scores are slightly below minimum requirement, sometimes conditional offers are made. These conditional offers require the applicant to complete one or two English language classes and achieve a certain mark in order to fulfill the condition.  If a language test is very low, an applicant can be requested to take the test again. These conditional offers are decided by the committee after reviewing your full application. There is a certain level of English language that is required in order to be successful in this graduate program.  

What if my ELP scores expire before my program starts (if admitted)?

ELP scores are valid for two years from the test date and must be valid at the time of application. Therefore, it does not matter if they have expired before your program starts, as long as they were valid at the time of application.

Can I enroll in part-time MDSAI as an international student on a study permit?

In terms of taking part-time MDSAI as an international student, students are required to have a study permit to study in Canada - both part-time or full-time programs. Please note that a study permit is still required even if the applicant has a work permit. Part-time students are not eligible to work on or off campus while studying or during breaks and are not eligible for a post-graduation work permit.

I am a transfer student

Can I have credit for past courses?

Academic credit for graduate courses taken at another institution cannot be used as credit for our data science graduate programs. However, if you are admitted you can request for core courses to be waived based on the courses you’ve taken elsewhere so that you can take other courses that may be of interest.