Tacking on a Data Science Certificate

The famous picture of "Salt Bae" sprinkling salt on a steak.

Right after I finished the first semester of my junior year, I realized that I could more or less plan out the rest of the classes that I needed to take in order to graduate. I had a few more classes to take for my major, as well as a science credit, so this took all of about five minutes. But then I noticed an issue — I had a lot of room in my remaining three semesters, and I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love taking random classes, but I wasn’t sure that that was how I wanted to spend five entire credits over the next year and a half. That’s when I stumbled upon the Certificate in Statistics and Data Science (S&DS).

Now, Yale has a ton of certificate programs — these are a group of classes and subject areas that are meant to deepen a skill or give you an opportunity to synthesize a few disciplines. There are three types of certificates: Advanced Language Certificates, Interdisciplinary Certificates, and Skills-Based Certificates. The language ones are fairly self-explanatory — at the risk of oversimplification, you take a bunch of classes that, upon completion, demonstrate your proficiency in Ancient Greek (or Spanish, Yoruba, etc.). The interdisciplinary ones — like Education Studies or Human Rights Studies — allow you to explore areas that combine various academic disciplines in order to study a particular subject area. Finally, Skills-Based Certificates help you develop a specific skill — the S&DS Certificate falls into this last category.

To complete this certificate, I had to pass five classes across four subject areas: Probability and Statistical Theory (1), Statistical Methodology and Data Analysis (2), Computation & Machine Learning (1), and Data Analysis in a Discipline Area (1). I’m going to assume that, like me, your eyes glazed over as you read that for the first time, so instead I’ll tell you a bit about each course I took.

First, I started with Data Exploration and Analysis, an introductory course where I learned how to explore and analyze various types of datasets (surprise!). I took this concurrently with Data Science for Politics and Public Policy, a really cool seminar with a very self-explanatory title. Last semester, I took Probability and Statistics (a combination of mathematical theory and coding), as well as Introductory Machine Learning (a super interesting class wheter we learned about a bunch of different techniques, like neural networks and ChatGPT). Finally, this semester I’m taking Multivariate Statistics for Social Sciences, a course where you apply various statistical techniques to a dataset of your choosing. Since I wanted to have an extra fun semester, I’ve been spending my time doing a deep dive into NBA season statistics!

A penguin with a very big head (implying a huge brain).
Me, feeling like a hacking genius after taking five (5) classes.

So, I hope this was a decent elevator pitch for the S&DS Certificate! Generally, I think this was a really great way to spend five classes — I’ve felt like I had a sense of direction somewhat separate from my major, and I genuinely have picked up a significant skill set along the way. Plus, my mom wanted me to be a computer science major, so she can count this as a win.