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Studying Majoring in statistics

  1. Jan 9, 2017 #1

    I'm currently studying psychology and the statistics course really opened my mind. Everything seems intuitive and reasonable and I really want to get deeper into this subject. Not sure if I should just jump into the water and major also in statistics or first just try and take another course or two in statistics and see if I'm capable of studying it? Because I'm afraid of starting and dropping out because I know I'm far from being a math genius and I didn't excel in math in high school.

    Thanks for any advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 9, 2017 #2
    Psychology grad schools are really looking for people with quantitative backgrounds. I'd say take a few courses before switching, but if you think you can handle it, double major or switch. Ask an adviser!

    -Dave K
  4. Jan 9, 2017 #3
    What does this mean exactly? Are you comfortable with integrals and derivatives? Do you know multivariable calculus? Do you know linear algebra, matrices and the associated geometry of matrices? This is math that is absolutely necessary for statistics. You don't have to like math. You don't need to be a genius at math. But you need to know these topics pretty damn well.

    Know that statistics in a psychology major is very very different from a statistics degree. I'm not calling psychology statistics dumbed down, since it can b every hard and involved. But in psychology, you can get away with a bad math background. In statistics, that's a lot harder to do.
  5. Jan 9, 2017 #4

    Stephen Tashi

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    If you think mathematical statistics is intuitive and reasonable, it's possible that you have some fundamental misunderstandings about mathematical statistics!

    Of course, I don't what your understanding of statistics is, but based on my informal observations of the population of people who study statistics, a considerable number of them make misinterpretations of topics like hypothesis testing and confidence intervals - misinterpretations which are encouraged by the tempting vocabulary that statistics uses (e.g. "significance", "confidence"). People who make such misinterpretations often find statistics is intuitive.

    If you major in a statistics curriculum that emphasizes mathematical statistics then you will run into some heavy duty calculus. Glance at the topic of "characteristic functions" and look at problems that involve proving certain statistical estimators are "unbiased" (I don't mean that you should study and understand such problems. I suggest that you should just glance at the mathematical symbols etc. that are used and see if you think your calculus skills will be up to that sort of thing.)

    There might be statistics programs that don't involve much math - perhaps they emphasize using statistical software. Make sure what type of studies a statistics major at your school would involve.
  6. Jan 9, 2017 #5
    Good points about math above, I should have paid more attention to some of the O.P.s concerns.

    Another place to look might be biostats/epidemiology. Less emphasis on the math and more on the application and skills. Don't get me wrong - there will still be a lot of math, but not as much as a stats program which will be a lot more rigorous.

    -Dave K
  7. Jan 9, 2017 #6
    You can try...why not look at the individual courses and the books needed for the course? go through these books and see what you have to learn, maybe even find the students and see what exercises they do. Do you like logic? I think people who enjoy logic will enjoy all types of math.

    I know it may not be good advice :/ but the field of statistics is really growing right now. Good luck.

    edit: I would just take one or two more courses on general math and logic first, then delve into statistics I think. I studied a little bit of it in A level and ditn know set theory and logic too much back then but that came up in a levels, combinatorics too. So if I knew these better I would have enjoyed statistics better and done better at that time.
  8. Jan 10, 2017 #7
    Thanks for your replies everyone!

    I guess that's just confirmed my concerns. It is as you say that they do dumbed down the statistics because they try to make us understand using our intuition rather than using proofs. And what I've heard from people around me studying exact sciences, it is never intuitive or easy to understand. I guess I'll just have to try a course or two and see if I can handle it. Cuz that what it was all about, trying to reckon if I can study such subject or I'm just fooling myself :)
  9. Jan 10, 2017 #8
    Certainly you will have to step up your game as far as math goes. But it's likely that when you were exposed to math before you weren't as motivated.

    -Dave K
  10. Jan 10, 2017 #9
    There will be a calculus-based stats course in your future if you major in stats. Have you taken Calc 1 and Calc 2 yet? An inability to understand and apply Calculus to statistics will cut short a plan to major in stats. See how you do in Calc 1 and 2 before you firm up your plan. Also have a look at the other required courses for a stats major at your college or university.
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