How I chose my major: Data Science

papers with statistics and graphs, a smartphone, and pens atop a desk

In the “How I chose my major” series, we showcase the academic paths CSU students have taken, and students tell their stories in their own words. Read on to meet Adam, a CSU data science major, and learn how he decided data science was a perfect fit for his dreams and goals.

What is data science?

There is no one easy answer to this question because data science encompasses so much. “Data science” is a blanket term that can refer to any part of the life cycle of a dataset from acquisition to cleaning to wrangling to storage to analysis to machine intelligence to visualization to communication. And, if none of those words make sense to you, that is totally fine! None of them would have made much sense to high-school me reading this several years ago, either. What is important, though, is that you understand that data science is a very multidisciplinary undertaking. No one data scientist’s skill set will match that of any other data scientist’s, and different skills are required for every step of the life cycle I mentioned above.

How did I choose data science?

When I committed to CSU fall of my senior year, data science did not yet exist as an official major at CSU. I was registered as a mathematics major. I first learned about it while attending a breakout session at an admitted student visit day in the spring. I was immediately captivated by the intersection of so many interesting disciplines in one place. It offered coursework in a multitude of fields that piqued my interest, and was also a unique opportunity I found hard to pass up. Data science is a relatively new field of study and is just recently burgeoning into one of the most-demanded disciplines in the world. For me, data science at CSU offered a chance to incorporate many of my interests together into a department that I would have the opportunity to be on the ground floor of.

What does data science look like for me at CSU?

There are four concentrations within the data science major to choose from. I chose statistics as my concentration but that has not stopped me from exploring many different areas in data science. The core data science courses have already given me a solid foundation for me to incorporate the statistics, mathematics, computer science, and economics I have already learned into a data-centric framework. Some of my favorite classes so far have been Statistical Data Analysis, Linear Algebra for Data Science, and Macroeconomics. Outside of the classroom, I am a founding officer of CSU’s data science club, the 4th Paradigm. We meet weekly and host guest lecturers and workshops for members and nonmembers. We are also currently partnered with a local data science consulting company to work with crime data from California and learn from our attempts at finding data-driven solutions to real-world problems. Personally, I am searching for summer internships and jobs relating to data science in order to take my skills and knowledge outside the classroom even further.

What could data science look like for you at CSU?

At CSU, data science majors select a concentration to narrow the focus of their majors and refine their skill sets in a certain area. You will get to choose between the statistics, computer science, mathematics, or economics concentrations within the major. However, all data science students take core data science classes to get a broad, foundational education in data science. Each concentration comes with different graduation requirements that shape your data science experience to your interests, passions, and career aspirations. All of these options can be explored in a freshman data science seminar (DSCI 100) that gives a broad overview of the major and hosts speakers from each discipline to give you an idea of what each concentration would look like for you.

What are the prospects for data science?

As a data science student, your post-graduate prospects are incredibly bright. Major job search services such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor both ranked data science as the “#1 most promising job in America for 2019” and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported strong growth, demand, and bright predictions for data scientists. These rankings are compiled from measures of job availability, salary, potential for advancement, and job satisfaction. Any way you examine it, data science is an important field for the direction technology and society are headed, and the world needs data scientists like you!

adam keihl headshot

Adam is a second-year Data Science major with a concentration in Statistics. He is passionate about math, science, music, and film. When he’s not in class, he works as an Admissions Ambassador and is involved in the University Honors Program, CSU’s data science club, and intramural sports. He hopes to one day apply the data analysis skills he’s learning at CSU to help further scientific progress and research.