The Ithaca College School of Humanities and Sciences is offering a new minor in data science.
Data science combines mathematical modeling, computational thinking and inferential reasoning to draw conclusions from data. Dave Brown, professor and chair of the Department of Mathematics, said students with the minor will learn the tools used by data scientists to engage in the interdisciplinary problem-solving needed to understand and communicate data. The minor requires 27–30 credits in mathematics, computer science and statistics courses. Students are able to declare the minor starting this semester. So far, two students have declared the minor.
The number of data science and analytics job listings is projected to grow by approximately 364,000 listings to approximately 2.7 million in 2020, according to a report from the International Business Machines Corporation. Data science and analytics jobs offer average salaries of over $80,000, according to the same report. Data science jobs include computer systems engineers, data administrators and data scientists.
However, the supply of candidates does not match the demand for data science jobs. Approximately 69% of employers say they prefer candidates with data science skills, but only 23% of educators say that their graduates learned these skills, according to a 2017 report by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The college is following the national higher–education trend of attempting to close this gap by offering data science programs. There has been a 52% increase in accredited data science and analytics programs in the United States since 2010, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report.
Tom Pfaff, professor in the Department of Mathematics, led the faculty initiative to create the minor. He said via email that the evolving landscape of technology is changing the way scientists and mathematicians view data.
“Given the change in both the amount of data and how it is analyzed, we really needed a data science minor to properly prepare students for the work world and also to be educated citizens,” Pfaff said via email.
Students will learn how to use statistical tools, like R and Python, to analyze data. Pfaff said many of these tools are free but require some level of coding ability. R is used in Intermediate Statistics and Modern Data Science with R, both of which are required courses as part of the minor.
With data science in demand, the Department of Mathematics wanted to equip students from majors beyond science and mathematics with modern workplace skills, Brown said. Brown said students in majors like economics, journalism, business, biology and environmental science can benefit from the minor because it helps when using data. At the same time, math, computer science and physics students can benefit from the minor depending on their interests after graduating, Pfaff said.
Senior Katherine Polley, president of Ithaca College Women in Computing, said the addition of a data science minor will be a great way to introduce a possible career option for individuals who like coding.
“It’s more reflective of the different kinds of jobs that are out there in the world because a lot of things do deal with data with and there’s coding with that,” Polley said. “For me, as a computer science major who maybe doesn’t want to be a software engineer, the idea of doing something more data–oriented is very appealing. It’s just kind of broadening your horizons.”