About the Statistics Major

The statistics major can lead to many stimulating and interesting careers. For some examples, check out thisisstatistics.org.

If you are thinking about majoring in statistics, you should go to Seeley Mudd and talk to a statistics professor (Profs. Bailey, Correia, Donges, Horton, Liao, and Wagaman). In the meantime, this page provides an outline of the requirements for a major. (The catalog is the official word on these matters, so read it, too.) If you are trying to pick a statistics course in order to explore the topic, please see our suggestions for choosing a statistics course.

As you proceed through the major or are trying to decide if you can complete it, check out our overview of the Statistics Major:

as well as our checklist for the Statistics Major: 

You might also want to check out our example pathways through the statistics major. Please note that prospective majors are expected to take Stat 230 before declaring the statistics major.

Students who wish to declare the major should schedule an appointment with the Department Chair, Professor Amanda Folsom, afolsom@amherst.edu. Two forms must be completed and brought to that meeting: the Statistics Major Checklist with the plan on back filled out with a potential path through the major (available as a .pdf above or on the third floor of Smudd in hard copy), and the Major Declaration form (available from the Registrar).

Learning Goals

Upon completion of the Statistics major, we expect our graduates:

  1. To have acquired proficiency with the application of a wide range statistical techniques, as well as a theoretical foundation including a strong mathematical background and statistical background in probability and statistical inference.

  2. To have developed computational and data analysis skills including facility with statistical software and acquisition of data management skills, with an emphasis on reproducible analysis.
  3. To have demonstrated in a variety of courses and in several formats, the ability to clearly communicate results of statistical analyses, as well as the ability to read and understand statistical techniques in primary research.

  4. For honors students, to have delved deeply into an advanced topic and written a clear and detailed exposition in the form of a senior thesis.

Brittney and Kat


Clarification on Intro Stats for Math Majors

Stat 111 does NOT count towards the mathematics major. Either introductory course (Stat 111 or Stat 135) counts towards the statistics major, though Stat 135 is strongly recommended. We strongly encourage students with questions about majors in mathematics and statistics to talk to a faculty member in the Department.


Courses for the Major in Statistics

Students who declared the statistics major prior to May 3, 2019 may follow either the updated major guidelines below or the guidelines they declared under, which simply replaces the Data Science (STAT 231) requirement below with Linear Algebra (MATH 271 or 272).

For students declaring the statistics major after May 3, 2019, the statistics major requires 12 total courses, in several areas, as follows:

Required Math Background Courses

  • Introduction to the Calculus (Mathematics 111) 
  • Intermediate Calculus (Mathematics 121) 

Required Statistics Courses

  • Introduction to Statistics (Statistics 111 or 135, 135 strongly recommended) 
  • Intermediate Statistics (Statistics 230) 
  • Data Science (Statistics 231)
  • Probability (Statistics 360) 
  • Theoretical Statistics (Statistics 370)
  • Advanced Data Analysis (Statistics 495) - capstone course

Statistics majors may not apply a Pass grade from an FGO or pass/fail option to any of the core courses required for the statistics major: STAT 111/135, 230, 231, 360, 370, or 495 (exceptions by petition to the department).

Elective Courses

Along with the required courses, a major must complete four elective courses as follows:

A. (Depth Requirement) Two elective courses in Statistics at the 200 level or higher to satisfy a depth requirement in statistics.

B. (Computing Requirement) Two courses in Computer Science at the level of 111 or higher (typically COSC111 and COSC112) to satisfy a computing requirement.

For All Majors - Information on Placing Out and Petitions

Depending on background, statistics majors may place out of several of these courses. Students who have placed out of calculus, introductory statistics, or introductory computer science are excused from taking those courses. Statistics majors may place out of up to three courses without having to replace those courses. Students placing out of more than three courses must replace all but three of those courses with additional courses approved by the Department to complete the major.

To gain approval for an alternate or a replacement elective, students must file a petition for the Department to consider. To submit a petition, email the chair of the Department with relevant information about the course to be considered, for example, a syllabus from a recent semester of the course or a link to the course description.

Graduate School

Students planning to attend graduate school in statistics are strongly advised to take MATH 211 (Multivariable Calculus), MATH 271 or 272 (Linear Algebra), MATH 355 (Introduction to Analysis), and MATH 450 (Functions of a Real Variable), and additional courses with a focus on computation and algorithmic thinking. Please see the pathway through the major for graduate school for additional suggestions on courses of study to prepare for graduate school in statistics.

Double Majoring in Mathematics and Statistics

Double majors in mathematics and statistics must complete a total of 20 courses (or 19, if statistics was declared prior to May 3, 2019). Math 111, Math 121, Math 271-or-272 (if required for their statistics major), and at most one other course (usually Math/Stat 360) can be counted towards both majors. Aside from this permitted overlap, statistics courses or computer science courses counted towards the statistics major may not also be counted towards the mathematics major. Double majors should fill out both major checklists and are encouraged to consult with faculty in the Department to verify that they have satisfied all requirements.

Comprehensive Evaluation

In the fall of their senior year, all Statistics majors will enroll in the capstone course STAT 495, and complete a capstone project under faculty supervision. An individual extension of the capstone project or other individually designed project (completed in the spring semester of senior year) will serve as the basis for a comprehensive evaluation of each student’s achievement in the major. Each student’s project will be assessed by the Statistics faculty in the Department to determine if the student has successfully completed the comprehensive evaluation. (Those for whom the second semester of the junior year occurs in the fall should enroll in STAT 495 in that semester in order to complete their project and satisfy the comprehensive evaluation). More information about the comprehensive evaluation may be found here.

Honors Program

For a degree with Honors, a student must have demonstrated the ability to pursue independent work fruitfully and exhibit a strong motivation to engage in research. Students are admitted to the Honors Program on the basis of a thesis proposal, which must be accepted by the department. Proposals are due during the spring semester of junior year. More information including a proposal deadline will be circulated to all junior majors.

If a student is accepted to the Honors Program, they will finalize a topic in consultation with Statistics faculty. After intensive study of this topic, the candidate will write a report in the form of a thesis which should be original in its presentation of material, if not in content. In addition, the candidate will report to the departmental colloquium on her or his thesis work during the senior year. Honors candidates are not required to complete additional coursework in statistics apart from the thesis courses (one each semester of senior year).

Other Aspects of the Statistics Major

  • Departmental Colloquium:  All students majoring in Statistics are expected to attend Statistics colloquia during their junior and senior years.
  • Application Area: In conjunction with their advisor, statistics majors are encouraged to ensure that their course of study includes depth in an application area (e.g., sociology, psychology, or environmental science).
  • Study Away:  It is easy to combine the statistics major with a semester or year spent away from campus, but planning is needed to satisfy the requirements for the senior seminar in Statistics.  See Study Away.
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PDF icon Statistics Major Checklist107.61 KB
PDF icon Statistics Major Overview410.62 KB