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Difficulty of a statistics major?

  1. Aug 7, 2011 #1
    Could anyone give an insight as to how difficult a statistics major is? My college doesn't offer any probability classes until the junior year, so I'd have no way of knowing what it's like until then. My fear is that I'll wind up taking all these prereqs and end up hating or not understanding the subject.

    Thanks :D
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2011 #2


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    Prereqs will probably count towards other courses or other majors if you decide you don't like Statistics.
  4. Aug 9, 2011 #3
    Another fear of mine is the very strict requirements for graduate school. It seems many top, and even mid tier programs don't look at applicants if their GPA isn't 3.8+. I had a very poor first year of college (3.12 GPA) after trying to branch out in too many subjects to find my calling. Even if I get all As for the rest of my college years, the max my GPA will get to be is 3.84ish, which isn't really plausible.

    I'd love to get a little guidance :/
  5. Aug 9, 2011 #4
    I got into grad. school with a cumulative GPA near 3.0 (actually a little below, I think), recovering from having officially flunked out of one undergrad institution. Making up for one bad year shouldn't be any more difficult than that.

    Grad. schools will pay much more attention to your GPA in your final years than in your first one. A low GPA is not fatal, if you accompany it with great recommendations and a solid performance on the GRE and the PGRE.
  6. Aug 9, 2011 #5


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    There's an indirect question in fss's post: Do you like statistics?

    If you don't know yet, then you're just going to have to give it a try. Probability and statistics are usually introduced in a precalculus course. If you haven't taken precalculus yet, go to a library and rent a precalculus textbook that has sections on probability and statistics. You can then work those sections and get a general feel for what they're about. If you find that you absolutely detest quantitative thinking, then reevaluate your situation.
  7. Aug 9, 2011 #6

    I took Pre-calc a year ago and calc within the last year. Loved every second of it. Unfortunately, every probability section in pre-calc is extremely bland and incredibly easy (If there's a 40% chance of it raining here, and a 60% chance of it raining here, what's the chance of it raining both here and there at the same time).
  8. Aug 10, 2011 #7


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    Hey intervenient and welcome to the forums.

    I am studying a math degree with one major in statistics and the other in "other math" (pure/applied), just so you know where I am coming from with my opinion.

    The short answer is "it depends". Some courses can be full on and some can be lighter.

    Doing something like a pure probability course will be tough, but a standard undergraduate sequence is pretty straightforward.

    The math itself is usually pretty straightforward if you understand all the stuff you learn in your standard calculus sequence (I,II,III). If you understand what the calculus is for and what it represents, then you will understand how to derive and use all the density functions to derive and evaluate distributions of any type, whether its conditional or not, single or multivariable, and any other permutation you can think of assuming that the functions you are dealing with are riemann integrable (remember I'm not talking about graduate probability, just your A level intro sequence).

    Aside from this you have to think in a different way when you come to statistics. You are more interested in things like how to judge results that a statistical test gives you based on what you are trying to assess, whether the assumptions for a given analysis are met, as well as exercising judgement on what inferences you can draw about a variety of situations both in an experimental sense, or in a general probabilistic sense.

    If you put in the effort and use resources at your disposal, I think you can do pretty well, but you have to want to do it. It is like any other applied math course: you have to relate the physical problems with the math representation, so its not like a computational calculus course where you do exercises that are largely based on symbolic manipulation: you have to put a physical problem in context and think about how that problem can be decomposed into a set of assumptions that you use to further analyze a problem and answer something specific based on the data you are given and the assumptions you make.

    If I were you I would take a standard intro statistics course after a year of calculus. If you like it, then its easy to just pick up the rest of your major requirements and get that said major in statistics.

    Also I want to point something out to you: statistics is not just about reading statistical tables and putting numbers into a calculator to get an answer: its about trying to answer questions about data using a variety of techniques, and it is an evolving science like other sciences like physics or chemistry. It is still developing and many practitioners will be in disagreement on a variety of things just like you have in something like physics. One part of statistics is the maths, but the other lies in sound judgement. You have to develop both of these skills over time, and you need both to become more proficient as a statistician.

    Also you need to be a good communicator. Like many other professions (example applied maths, engineering, physics, etc) you need to be able to communicate well. Typically many statisticians work for people that don't have technical backgrounds so you will need to generate reports that get to the point, give advice that is relevant to the employer, and do so while being complete and concise technically paying attention to detail of things like assumptions used in generating your results.

    I enjoy learning about statistics (and mathematics in general) because it opens up a whole window of thought that lets you see the world in a way that is completely different prior to taking courses in mathematics.

    Best of luck!
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