Minors Well-Suited to Data Science Majors
A data scientist isn’t just someone that crunches numbers and analyzes data.
Instead, data scientists have robust technical skills that allow them to build complex algorithms that assist them in organizing data. Likewise, data scientists synthesize a vast amount of information from multiple sources. This is done to help answer organizational questions. All that data is also needed to inform an organization’s strategy for future development.
So, in addition to being good with numbers, data scientists must have strong technology skills. Additionally, data scientists should possess excellent communication skills and be effective leaders. After all, once they organize and analyze all that data, they have to be able to tell other organizational members what the data means. Then, data scientists have to lead others in actually using that data to meet company goals.
Given that this career requires you to have a diverse set of skills, it’s a good idea to add a minor to your major.
Usually a minor requires only a handful of classes. However, those courses can prepare you to be the kind of well-rounded data scientist that companies want.
Below is a list of nine minors that fit well with a major in data science. As you will see, many of the minors on this list are STEM-related. This makes sense given that data science is itself part of STEM. However, there are a few minors on this list that might surprise you!
Statistics, as a discipline, really lies at the core of all data science. Data scientists spend much of their time using statistical methods to analyze data. As such, statistics is an excellent minor for a data science major.
In learning statistics, you can expect to work with statistical inferences, calculation approaches, and times and places of use. You’ll learn how to use Chi squares and ANOVAs, and you’ll work with inferential statistics and descriptive statistics as well. Statistics courses will teach you about confidence intervals, estimates, and causal analyses too.
In other words, a statistics minor will prepare you for coming up with calculated facts, numeric and otherwise, regarding nearly anything in the world around you. The beauty of statistics, and of data science as well, is that the specific methods you use and the type of data you analyze will vary greatly depending on your field of employment.
Mathematics itself is a broad area of study that encompasses statistics, geometry, algebra, trigonometry, and other various subsets. It is the discipline of calculation and numeric quantifying.
If you choose to focus on this as a minor pairing to the data science degree, you will typically find yourself even more valuable in the data science industry. This is because, again, mathematics is the heart of data science. With a greater level of education in this area, you will often be able to bring even more to the table in the real-life work environment.
The specific courses you take in a mathematics minor will depend on a couple of factors. First, the courses required to get a minor will vary somewhat depending on the school you attend. And second, in some cases, you might be able to tailor the math courses you take to your intended career field.
There are some course types that are commonly required for a math minor, though. These include algebra and calculus. Within these types of courses, there are often many different classes you can take.
For example, to fulfill the algebra requirement for a math minor, you might take linear algebra, abstract algebra, or number theory.
Again, the type of mathematics you end up using in your career as a data scientist will likely vary greatly from one job to the next. But by having this extra level of math preparation, you will make yourself a more valuable asset to your employer.
Minoring in business might not seem like a logical pairing for a major in data science. However, a business minor can prove highly helpful if you want to pursue a data science career in the business field.
In a business minor, you’ll learn the basics of business, marketing, and management that you won’t get in a data science major. Likewise, you can take courses in accounting, finance, and entrepreneurship, too.
Business minors usually offer various options for specializing in a particular field. For example, you might take courses in real estate, business analytics, or global business. This enables you to develop the necessary knowledge and skills that will be needed as a data scientist in the business world.
The question, though, is how are these two fields related?
If you think about it, data science can be used to analyze business data like market behavior. You can compare sales data from your employer with its biggest competitor. You can use your data science skills to recommend when, where, and how a new product will sell best.
You can also use data science for internal projects, like improving productivity. So, while business and data science might seem like an odd couple, they actually work very well together.
As computers become involved in more and more human activities, the need for ways to represent the world by way of computer language has grown incredibly quickly.
In addition to programming being a great utility all unto itself, it is also a great minor to pair with data science. This is because of its overlap with the field in so many careers today.
Typically, programming minors have a lot of math courses that are required as well. Calculus, for example, is a common math course in a programming minor.
You will likely take data science-related courses as well, like Data Structures and Algorithms. Coursework in software tools, operating systems, and software development is also common.
A minor in communications is less about applying data science principles to communicating and more about learning how to effectively communicate with others.
In the introduction of this article, we talked about how data scientists don’t just crunch numbers. Instead, they have to present their findings to others, often people in leadership roles. Doing so requires that you have a good grasp of interpersonal and presentation skills. It also requires that you be comfortable in that role of disseminating information in a way that others can understand it and find it useful.
A minor in communications might offer you the chance to study public speaking, media studies, and communication ethics. You might also find courses in multicultural communications, audio production, and electronic media production helpful.
Information technology is a discipline concerned with the use of various forms of technology for storing and otherwise working with data. Specifically, information technology deals with building and integrating computers and communication technologies that help an organization meet its goals.
Like programming, this minor is highly applicable to the work of virtually all data science workers. It is also a highly-valued skill by itself.
For example, as a data scientist, you will need technology to carry out your research. With a minor in information technology, you might be able to design computer systems that facilitate your data science research.
Some of the areas of expertise covered by the information technology field include data and informatics, health IT, and artificial intelligence. A minor in information technology will also likely introduce you to cloud computing, identity management, and security.
Like the other minors on this list, a minor in information technology comes with some courses that are commonly required. This might include computer science, cybersecurity, and web technologies.
But there is also an opportunity to specialize by taking courses that are of interest or of the most use to your future career. For example, if your data science career path is in the healthcare space, you might take IT courses related to networking, system architecture, and computing and informatics.
A rapidly growing field is environmental science. As a natural science, this field relies heavily on data and analysis – something that data scientists do all day long!
With a minor in environmental science, you could find yourself working on the front lines of saving the planet. The data you analyze and present to other scientists could lead to new or better understandings of planetary dynamics, climate systems, and the interrelationship between humans and the environment.
What’s more, as a data scientist in environmental studies, your work might lead to the development of new ways to deal with pollution or a better understanding of weather patterns. You might even find that the knowledge you gain in an environmental science minor leads to a career in biology, social sciences, or even space exploration. The sky is the limit!
With the vast majority of the planet’s population living in urban areas, data scientists are needed to help improve our understanding of the effects that urbanization has on the environment, the food supply, and social systems, among others.
As a data scientist with a minor in urban studies, you will be well-equipped to provide the types of analyses that urban planners, politicians, and health advocates need to make informed decisions.
Minoring in urban studies isn’t just the study of infrastructures like roads or water systems. Instead, many urban studies minors also explore topics related to community-building, architecture, social justice, and real estate development. Those topics are just a small sample of the widely varied courses that are available in this minor.
With so many different directions you can take, this minor can be just about as specific as you like. You can focus on data science in the context of social, economic, or political forces, among others. The point is that this minor is perhaps the most flexible of all the minors on this list. If it’s a specific urban studies data science field you want to work in, the chances are good that this minor will help you achieve your career goals.
Physics is yet another highly applicable minor that many students choose to pair with data science.
Basically, physics is simply the study of how the world works. It includes the unseen rules that govern what is and is not possible in our world and universe. Being knowledgeable here gives anyone working in data science a great advantage. This is because they hold further insights that help to solve data science problems and move the field forward as a whole.
A data scientist in the world of physics will spend a lot of time designing models to predict how something will behave. Those predictions are based on data from how that thing behaved in the past.
With a minor in physics, you might work as part of a data science team on projects related to machine learning, modeling, or database management. You might also work in web development, data infrastructure, or even statistics.
Commonly, physics minors require you to take courses in calculus, quantum mechanics, and thermal physics. You can also expect to take elective courses in fields like experimental physics, mathematical physics, or physics education.
Which Minor is Right for You?
Choosing the best minor to go along with that data science degree can really open up your career possibilities later on. The minors listed above are all great options to consider as you move forward with your education. Your task is to really think about the direction you want to go with data science. Once you do that, you can select a minor that will help you achieve your future career goals.
Regardless of the career field you enter, you can expect to make a good living. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the mean annual wage for a data scientist is just over $100,000 per year. And according to Glassdoor, data science is the second-best career in the United States, behind only Java Developer.
That means that you can expect to earn a great living and to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. That’s precisely what you want when choosing a career path!
For even more information on data science, its educational alignments, career opportunities, and more, the International Data Engineering and Science Association is an excellent resource with which to follow up.
Data Science Degree Programs Staff
Updated March 2021