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Any college student who’s considering a career in tech is likely to be wondering whether data science is a hard major. In tech circles, data science is considered to be one of the hottest up-and-coming fields of specialization. Employers are in need of growing numbers of qualified data scientists. New data science degree programs, certifications and MOOCs (massive open online course) are becoming available at a rapidly accelerating rate.

How difficult are these classes? Is it really hard to succeed in the field of data science? Let’s dive in and take a look at the relative difficulty levels of the requirements for graduating with a degree in data science.

You may also like: 20 Best Data Science Bachelor’s Degree Programs

An Interdisciplinary Major

It’s typically necessary for data science students to take courses in multiple academic departments:

  • Computer science
  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Machine learning
  • Business

Depending on how a student’s college is organized, this can sometimes make for a challenging and disjointed experience. It’s ideal to seek out a data science degree program where there is close collaboration between the relevant departments, particularly the math, statistics, computer science and machine learning departments. This can help to cut down on some of the inherent difficulties with a data science major.

Some students might enjoy the variety of course requirements and thrive in a major that requires such intensive learning. Others will find it too difficult to mentally “switch gears” between all these disciplines. It’s can also be problematic when students fail to grasp the intricate relationships between these disciplines; it’s necessary for the data science student to connect them all seamlessly.

Typical Course Requirements for a Data Science Major:

A data science major is typically comprised of some combination of the following types of courses:

  • Mathematics and Statistics Courses: calculus, multivariate calculus, analytic geometry, linear algebra, discrete mathematics, statistical methods and probability
  • Computer Science and Machine Learning Courses: data structures, data analytics, data mining, algorithms, object-oriented programming, introduction to artificial intelligence, machine learning and database systems
  • Other Foundation Courses: Many data science degree programs require some other basic foundational courses like ethics, writing and an introductory science course.
  • A Capstone Project: Many data science degree programs require students to complete a final project, known as a “capstone project”, under the supervision of an academic advisor.

Data literacy resulting from the completion of these types of courses could be helpful to an individual seeking a career in almost any industry, according to Wired.

Whether a student would find these data science major course requirements hard or not is largely a matter of individual opinion. The rigorousness of each class can also depend a great deal on the professors who are teaching.

Solving Problems Versus Writing Papers

A data science degree requires students to spend significant amounts of time troubleshooting code and solving problems. This is a major that doesn’t require the intensive volume of paper writing that many other major courses of study require. This could be an advantage for students who hate writing papers and find it difficult. Conversely, verbally gifted students who want to spend their academic lives writing papers could find data science to be a hard major.

So now you’re updated on the typical course requirements for earning a degree in data science. How hard do they sound to you? You’re the only one who can decide whether data science would be a hard major to pursue.


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