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So I'm hoping to ask professionals for their advice here. My university doesn't offer a "data science" major and I'm cobbling one together from different departments. So far I have a math major with stat emphasis but I'm having trouble finding technology use in this program so I was thinking computer science for science credits. I also have a choice of an Information Management minor or a Business Analytics minor, both from the business college.

So basically, I'm wondering:

  1. Which areas of computer science should I focus on? (I can only take 2 aside from the intro CSI and CSII course).
  2. Which minor should I go for? Analytics consists of applied econ analytics, marketing research, and quantitative analysis while the info minor is management, programming, busn intelligence (advanced excel), and "big data". Right now I'm leaning towards the info one because it seems to have more software in it, including SQL.

(I should also mention that I'm located in Las Vegas and my university even offers probability and gambling statistics but that's in the hospitality college and not sure that would be worth the trouble. It sounds interesting though, and might be good experience?).

My advisors have no idea what I'm going for, partly b/c they're all in different departments, so I hoped someone from the real world job market might know a thing or two :-)

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    $\begingroup$ Have you looked at what's on the curriculum of actual data science major courses? What specialism are you interested in - business, environment, health? I'd suggest you get a solid degree in something conventional and then do a one-year data science Masters postgrad course. Is that a possibility for you? $\endgroup$ – Spacedman Jul 13 '16 at 7:08
  • $\begingroup$ Just my experience - as a data scientist, you will be often part of some kind of "Business Intelligence" department. Plus you will spend ~70% of time cleaning and transforming data from (usually) SQL databases. Therefore the info major makes more sense for me (and because you already study the "hard" stuff). $\endgroup$ – HonzaB Aug 12 '16 at 13:33
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Of the traditional majors, I think computer science + statistics is the most obvious. You can substitute applied mathematics or even physics for the statistics major, if you want. Always keep the computer science courses.

If the choice is between information management and business analytics, given that you're already studying maths, it's hard to say. They're both pretty light-weight, and will add little to your math major. I would not consider them a plus per se as a prospective employer reading your resume. Unless they're cheap, I'd take online classes and get some practice instead.

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My advice to you is to find out exactly what Data Scientist do day to day and take courses on the fundamentals of those specified activities. Try and find articles and blog post like this one: What is hardcore data science—in practice?. Additionally, you should strive to become an expert in a specific domain. In other words, focus on Data Science as applied to ???, some field of study for which you have a true passion for.

I think the article referenced above and others like it will point you in the right direction for making solid choices for CS focus. Your minor should be something you are deeply interested in. It should be something you can apply your data science focus on. It should be something that produces data products. Products which you can use to form a portfolio. A portfolio which you can use to demonstrate to employers that you know what data science is and how it is practiced. This last point is paramount, as you will not have a vetted program, form your university, that you can point to, which indicates you have picked up the essentials.

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