Changing my college major to statistics -- Should I?

In summary, if you are still interested in pursuing a career in data science and physics, switching to a BS in statistics may be the best option for you. This will allow you to gain experience in the field, while completing your undergraduate degree. You may also want to consider pursuing a masters in statistics if you have an interest in deepening your knowledge in the field.
  • #1
Felipe Lincoln
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I am current in the second year of college, doing physics but from the mid of the year I got hooked to data science and I decided I want to follow this career. What is the best thing I can do now? Finish my BSc and go for a MSc in statistics? Change my major to statistics? As I still like physics should I find a area that I can apply machine learning and finish BSc and go for MSc in physics?
I'm a lot confused now. The only thing I know is that I love dealing with data, graphics and I like science: physics, biology even medicine.
Can you give me some advice on how I can "find myself" ?
 
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  • #2
Finishing your BSc and going for a MSc in statistics, or data science, sounds like a good idea; many people working in data science today come from a Physics or Maths BSc without even having any background in Statistics. Changing your major now would mean that you'd take a few more years in university, and with what purpose? A masters will teach you enough of statistics to apply in your job, and you'll also learn a lot of data science in your workplace. University isn't the end of it, just the beginning.

What you can do, if your university allows it, is to take a Minor in Statistics, while in Physics? That way you don't have to lose any precious time, while learning statistics along the way.
 
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  • #3
Felipe Lincoln said:
but from the mid of the year I got hooked to data science

How did this happen? One course from a dynamic teacher? Independent study? A class project?
 
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  • #4
Stephen Tashi said:
How did this happen? One course from a dynamic teacher? Independent study? A class project?
I began a research in machine learning and then started competing at Kaggle
 
  • #5
ZeGato said:
What you can do, if your university allows it, is to take a Minor in Statistics, while in Physics? That way you don't have to lose any precious time, while learning statistics along the way.
Yes I can do it!
 
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  • #6
ZeGato said:
Changing your major now would mean that you'd take a few more years in university,
Not necessarily. My wife had something like 7 majors and still graduated on time. Changing majors may not delay graduation, but it will reduce the number of electives.
 
  • #7
Dale said:
Not necessarily. My wife had something like 7 majors and still graduated on time. Changing majors may not delay graduation, but it will reduce the number of electives.
wow that is impressive!
But what do you mean by "graduated on time" ?
 
  • #8
Felipe Lincoln said:
wow that is impressive!
But what do you mean by "graduated on time" ?
She finished in four years
 
  • #9
If you love statistics and data analysis, switch and don't look back. You are in your second year and it sounds like you already have some good experience and classes in statistics. You should not loose much time by switching.
 
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  • #10
To the OP:

If you still like physics and wish to continue your studies in it, I don't necessarily see the need for you to switch programs. A physics degree provides you with the quantitative background that graduate programs in statistics typically look for. That being said, if you do also enjoy statistics and data science as a field, I would certainly recommend taking more courses in that field.

My suggestion would be one of the following:

1. Continue your current BS program in physics, with a minor in statistics, and then pursue a MSc (or perhaps even further graduate studies) in statistics. Make sure during your studies to add a few computer science courses as well if you haven't done so already (since computing is an important component of both statistics/data science and physics). If you find that you are able to do so, maybe see if you can double-major in physics and statistics, although I would be careful about not overextending yourself.

2. If you absolutely love statistics and data science, and don't feel the need to go any further in physics, switch to the statistics BS program and then continue graduate studies in statistics. Only do this if you know you won't regret not taking further physics courses.
 
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Much appreciated for your post @StatGuy2000 and @FactChecker !
Right now I feel a would be more confortable working on a problem in science through data collected from experiment and previous knowledge about the problem. But I do not know if I would like to work on a pure statistics problem in case I went to a MSc in statistics and have to work on a thesis.
 
  • #12
I also think of the possibility on working out of academia with data science and have physics as a hobby.
I love data science because we can work in almost every field we want, like oceanography, geology, archaeology and so on. Learning things about lots of different area inspires me.
 
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  • #13
IMHO, every interesting problem has some statistics (due to random and/or unknown factors), some optimization, and some feedback/control.
 
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  • #14
FactChecker said:
IMHO, every interesting problem has some statistics (due to random and/or unknown factors), some optimization, and some feedback/control.

Yes, I like this a lot. I don't think it's so applicable to the OP, but I've started pointing people to Operations Research studies as well, as I think there's some interesting math, computer science and problem solving in that field. It's also almost perpetually in demand, and due to low awareness doesn't seem a common area of study.
 
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  • #15
I never heard of Operations Research before, but it seems interesting at first sight. I will do some more search about it.
Thank you !
 
  • #16
I don't get it why there is more computer scientists in data science than statistician. What is the main reason?
My university allow us to get even two minors, considering this scenario what about staying in physics and chosing cs and statistics minors instead of going to statistics major?
 
  • #17
Felipe Lincoln said:
I don't get it why there is more computer scientists in data science than statistician. What is the main reason?
There is usually a lot of work involved in collecting data and getting it into a usable form. A computer person is best at that. Once that is done, it requires statistical knowledge to analyze the data. If it is possible to design experiments to get the data, that is also a statistical problem.
My university allow us to get even two minors, considering this scenario what about staying in physics and chosing cs and statistics minors instead of going to statistics major?
That is up to you and it depends on what subject you like the most and what career you are interested in.
 
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  • #18
And it's possible to get a masters in statistics having spent very little time with the tools used in data science. Skip a few classes and you'll find yourself graduating without having ever used xgboost, or able to walk someone through the difference between ridge and lasso. We know this because we've seen this in interviews!

Really, that's true of computer science, too. Analytics has, in my opinion, largely split from both statistics and CS. This doesn't mean people with those degrees don't understand or have knowledge of modern analytics, but it's not a requirement, either. It's more of a foundation, and either one can provide that.

I will say that in some ways CS provides a bit better a background. Many tools used in predictive analytics are very distant from traditional statistics, and the OR side of prescriptive analytics has nothing to do with stats. Yet no matter what you're doing, you still have the problem of how to leverage the tools against large, sometimes complicated data sources. Obviously there's some critical skills required to deploy the right models, and feature engineering is still very much an art. But an awful lot of the actual work comes down to building a robust process, and that's closer to software engineering than it is statistics.
 
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  • #19
Locrian said:
Yes, I like this a lot. I don't think it's so applicable to the OP, but I've started pointing people to Operations Research studies as well, as I think there's some interesting math, computer science and problem solving in that field. It's also almost perpetually in demand, and due to low awareness doesn't seem a common area of study.
I think that the only major thing missing from my OR classes (long ago) was the subject of feedback and control. That is a very significant component of many problems.
 
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  • #20
Locrian said:
and the OR side of prescriptive analytics has nothing to do with stats.

That's a silly exaggeration of mine by the way, but hopefully the overall point got through.
 
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  • #21
FactChecker said:
I think that the only major thing missing from my OR classes (long ago) was the subject of feedback and control. That is a very significant component of many problems.

@FactChecker, as an aside, the subject of feedback and control is considered the preserve of control theory. I'm curious if control theory is considered part of the curriculum within operations research (either at the undergraduate or the graduate level).
 
  • #22
StatGuy2000 said:
@FactChecker, as an aside, the subject of feedback and control is considered the preserve of control theory.
That is my experience also.
I'm curious if control theory is considered part of the curriculum within operations research (either at the undergraduate or the graduate level).
Not that I know of, but I think that so many optimization problems are also control problems. In OR, there were endless simulations where there was significant feedback, but the subject was not studied where I was (40 years ago).
 
  • #23
FactChecker said:
Not that I know of, but I think that so many optimization problems are also control problems. In OR, there were endless simulations where there was significant feedback, but the subject was not studied where I was (40 years ago).

I find that interesting, because in the industrial engineering/operations research departments in a number of prominent schools (including both my alma mater and Berkeley, for example), control theory is an important research area within those departments.

See for example the link to the Berkeley OR department:

https://ieor.berkeley.edu/research/areas-of-research

Perhaps this may have been the situation of OR departments in the past?
 
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  • #24
StatGuy2000 said:
I find that interesting, because in the industrial engineering/operations research departments in a number of prominent schools (including both my alma mater and Berkeley, for example), control theory is an important research area within those departments.
I'm glad to hear that. It's smart.
See for example the link to the Berkeley OR department:

https://ieor.berkeley.edu/research/areas-of-research

Perhaps this may have been the situation of OR departments in the past?
That is possible, or I may have just been unaware of it. The core classes in the department did not include it.
 

Related to Changing my college major to statistics -- Should I?

What is statistics and why is it an important major?

Statistics is a field of study that involves collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data. It is a crucial component in various industries such as healthcare, business, and government. With the rise of data-driven decision making, the demand for professionals with a statistical background is increasing, making it a valuable major.

What skills do I need to succeed in a statistics major?

To excel in a statistics major, you should have a strong foundation in mathematics, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Proficiency in computer programming, data analysis tools, and statistical software is also essential. Additionally, good communication and teamwork skills are beneficial in this field.

What career opportunities are available for statistics majors?

Statistics majors have a wide range of career opportunities in various industries. Some popular job titles include data analyst, statistician, market researcher, actuary, and data scientist. These roles can be found in organizations such as government agencies, research firms, tech companies, and financial institutions.

What are the advantages of changing my college major to statistics?

Changing your college major to statistics can bring several benefits. It can open up career opportunities in growing industries, provide a competitive salary, and develop valuable skills such as data analysis and problem-solving. It can also prepare you for further education in graduate programs or specialized fields within statistics.

What resources are available to help me succeed in a statistics major?

There are many resources available to help you succeed in a statistics major. Your college or university may offer tutoring services, study groups, and workshops specifically for statistics students. You can also find online resources such as textbooks, practice problems, and video tutorials. Additionally, networking with professors and peers can also be beneficial in your academic journey.

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