Should I Major in Data Science or Computer Science?


Are you facing the decision between a computer science or data science major?

There are many scenarios that you could be in.

  • Data science and computer science majors may both be offered at your institution.
  • Maybe you’re choosing schools based on if they offer these choices. Most schools don’t offer data science, so is it still okay to take computer science?
  • Perhaps you preparing for the future.
  • Maybe you’re just interested.

Choosing a major in college can be a difficult task. It doesn’t make it easier that some degrees seem so similar yet different at the same time. 

It could be that you won’t know until later which degree is right for you. Most colleges let you decide after your sophomore year. These majors in particular also overlap in various classes.

Even if this won’t give you closure, perhaps you can use it as a tool to help better make your decision. 

The important thing to note here is regardless of what you major in, you are most likely able to get a career in the other if you so choose. As much as it may feel like it, the decision doesn’t have to be the end of the one you don’t choose.  

Interested to see what a computer science degree may lead to? Check out 9 Computer Science Degree Jobs


Let’s start with the basics. What are the classes in your major going to look like? This can be helpful in determining what is most interesting to you.

For one, it obviously varies by which institution. But if you’re already enrolled, going over the coursework is a great place to start.

Even if you’re not enrolled, you can go on school’s websites and look at the prospective paths that most offer. Then take note of which of those classes interest you most. 

As you may find, foundational classes will be similar, such as calculus and computer programming. Common places things may differ:

  • Data Science: more machine learning, statistics, data management
  • Computer Science: more computer engineering, web development


Let’s differentiate the learning depending on what major you choose. Employers are really looking for what skills you’ll be able to provide them.

Data science is the intersection of three primary aspects:

  • Math/statistics
  • Computer science (every data science major will learn some form of computer science)
  • Business/analytics

Computer science can be broader

  • Learn more variety
  • Has been around longer – better understood by employers
  • If you plan on changing careers or are still somewhat deciding, computer science may be a better choice. For example, if you may switch into math, physics, or engineering paths.

Career Comparison

Data Science

  • Tasks
    • Working with big data (current data, finding new data) to find better answers to business and product problems/questions
      • Make recommendations/decisions based on data
    • Analyze data and connect to how it affects a product
  • Work with business and product management roles more
  • Potential Careers
    • Senior data scientist: work with big data for many different types of applications
    • Machine learning engineer
    • Product data scientists
  • Popular languages
    • Python, R, SQL, C/C++, Java, Swift, Go, MATLAB, SAS

Computer Science

  • Tasks
    • Developing software and services
    • More software design, working with software systems and digital applications
    • May vary more
  • Potential Careers
    • The most common one is becoming a software engineer
    • A product manager may require more than a bachelor’s degree
    • Check out more potential careers here 
  • Popular languages
    • Python, Java, C#, C, C++, Go, R, JavaScript

More About Choosing Data Science

You probably have a better understanding of computer science than data science. That’s can happen in the real world too.

A data science degree is not as common as a computer science degree. This can be because data science isn’t offered in as many schools as computer science is.

If you for sure want to become a data scientist, getting a degree in data science can be the quickest and most secure way to reach that goal. It shows an employer you have a real interest in that job and you compete well with others that obtained a computer science degree.

But if you’re sacrificing a good institution for a data science degree, obtaining the computer science degree in the better institution is most likely a better choice.


  • Working with code – usually proficient in at least one language
  • Understand the business you work for and some of the data
  • You can switch between the roles

Important Notes/Alternatives

There are many people who major in one thing and do another thing as a career. So if you major in one of these but decide later in life you want to pursue a career in the other, it is still possible.

Apart from that, you can always get a master’s in data science after whatever undergrad degree you choose. Some of the common bachelor’s degrees that go into data science masters are computer science, mathematics, statistics, and economics. In fact, many with a bachelor’s in computer science degrees get data science masters.

You can also get a computer science degree and opt for data science-oriented classes such as machine learning and database management.

General Types to Decide

  • Seek out more help: advisors, seniors, people in the careers, shadowing
  • Look at the coursework offered for each major, and if it interests you
  • Choose based on school caliber/fit more, since you can always work in the other field

Ultimately, the choice is complex and should include thinking about multiple factors. But you should note it doesn’t need to be the end of the one you don’t decide.

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