New data science major approved at Iowa State University

Iowa State University will prepare students for one of the nation’s fastest-growing technology careers with a new undergraduate data science major approved June 7 by the Iowa Board of Regents. Students can officially declare the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences major this fall.

In 2018, Glassdoor ranked data scientist as its top job in the United States for the third year in a row, with a national average salary of $120,931.

“Data science is a major of the future,” Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said. “An explosion of data now permeates every segment of society, from precision agriculture to data-driven journalism to engineering. Undergraduate students who major in data science will be trained to analyze data, extract knowledge and insights from it and communicate those findings in ways that help make impactful decisions in society. Data science can prepare students for numerous career paths and travels well across all disciplines.”

Data science will appeal to students who are curious, quantitative and interested in the social impact of technology, Schmittmann said. Examples of data science applications can be found in digital marketing, autonomous vehicles, agriculture and many other fields.

The major offers tracks in big data, engineering applications, optimization, security, software analytics, statistics and computational biology. The desire is to continually add new tracks in the future by partnering with additional disciplines across Iowa State. All tracks integrate the legal, economic, social and ethical impacts of data science.

Partners in the new major include the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the College of Business, the College of Design, the College of Engineering and the College of Human Sciences.

Undergraduate students can also minor in data science or pursue a data science certificate. The certificate is also available for adult students who already have a baccalaureate degree and want to add skills in data science.

“Data-Rich Environments” is one of five signature themes that define the scholarly vision of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, leveraging the college’s strengths in mathematical sciences and providing new avenues for research in areas such as social sciences and humanities. “Big Data” is also one of five targets identified in Iowa State University’s Destination 2050 plan where the university can make a global impact.