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Transitioning from Nonprofit management to Data Science?

  1. Feb 1, 2013 #1


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    Hi all,

    I am trying to figure out the best way to transition into a new career.

    I obtained my undergraduate degree in mathematics in 2010. Up until the beginning of my senior year I was determined to go on to do a PhD in pure mathematics. However, I started second guessing myself when I saw a very talented student who was 2 years ahead of me drop out of his PhD program.

    My motivation for going to graduate school was pretty superficial. I thought it was just what a pure math major was supposed to do. So instead of applying to grad school I signed up for a graduate level algebra course as a non-degree seeking student the following semester and began interning for a small non-profit organization. I passed the course with a B, but really didn't see a math PhD as my calling.

    I enjoyed my internship, so I took a job as a manager with the non-profit instead of grad school.Currently, my job consists of writing proposals for grant funding, creating marketing materials, and managing donor/donation databases.However, I've reached a point in my career where I do not think I can gain much more from my current job. My school debts are completely paid off now and I am ready for a new challenge.

    I just finished taking the first offering of Computer Science 6.00x through MIT and EDX. I loved the course. I was especially fond of programming Monte Carlo simulations to solve problems related to epidemiology. I am now signed up for a coursera course on Machine Learning through Stanford.

    Data science really seems like a career I would like to pursue. Does anyone have any reccomendations for how someone of my background could enter this field? Is there a master's level program that would prepare me for this type of work?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2013 #2
    When you say "data science" I assume you mean things like pattern recognition, machine learning and in general ways of developing algorithms to find patterns in large data sets?

    If so, this is a well-established field you can study at the graduate level in C.S. or E.E. departments. I can't speak for all departments because I don't really know what defines C.S. or E.E., but these are at least pretty classic topics in C.S. There may also be overlap here with statistics. "Data science" tends to be a somewhat catch-all interdisciplinary term.

    In any case, with a math B.S. and the high level of interest you clearly possess, completing an M.S. in this area should be no problem. The only tangible advice I can offer based on what you said is to do some research on various departments (CS, EE, stat, possibly others), to see what kind of research they have going on, and what courses they offer, what the professors are experts on, etc. Just research department websites as if you were a PhD applicant, so you can be sure the program has what you are looking for.
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