Cool Majors: Decision Science

Cool Majors: Decision Science

Are you interested in human behavior? Do you want to improve the decision-making processes of individuals, companies, or even governments? Do you like to approach problem-solving in a creative, non-linear way? If you answered yes to these questions, a major worth considering is Decision Science.

Decision-making is a fundamental aspect of what it means to be human, influencing both individual outcomes and broader societal impact. Whether it’s through optimizing patient care and improving health outcomes, or using data analysis and behavioral economics to address social issues like poverty or inequality, the field of decision science provides a path to make a tangible difference in people’s lives. 

What is Decision Science? 

This multidisciplinary major covers work found in a variety of traditional fields, primarily psychology, economics, philosophy, computer science, as well as statistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, and management science. This major explores how people, institutions, and nations make judgments, and how the process of decision-making can be improved to make real decisions as close to optimal ones as possible.  

For a closer look, check out Carnegie Mellon University’s Decision Science or Brown University’s Behavioral Decision Sciences

What do Decision Science majors study? 

The major will vary depending on where you choose to study it, but typical courses broadly include:

Theory: Study formal models of decision-making, which are rules or patterns for making decisions; explore the way we think and feel and how cognitive and emotional factors influence the choices we make; analyze social and institutional factors. 

Intervention and applications: Explore strategies and techniques to improve judgment and decision-making, in areas from medical (e.g., weighing the costs and benefits of a treatment) to marketing (e.g., understanding the effects of time on consumer purchasing decisions). 

Research: Learn methods for collecting and analyzing behavioral data, such as conducting surveys, designing experiments, and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions; engage in departmental research opportunities to apply fundamental theories to real-world problems. 

Specialization: Choose from the broad range of elective courses offered as part of your degree course, in areas like computer science, public policy, business management, or even philosophy and ethics, to personalize your studies to match your personal and professional interests.  

Where do Decision Science majors end up after graduation? 

The degree, which can be heavily personalized to meet a student’s personal needs and interests, opens up opportunities for both continued education and a diverse career path. Depending on their chosen area of specialization, students can choose to further their studies by opting for professional degrees (e.g. MBA, MPH, JD), or even by pursuing a Ph.D. in Decision Science or related fields as varied as psychology, business, or computer science. Outside of academia, Decision Science majors usually begin their professional careers in operations, finance, international business, general management, consulting, government, or the nonprofit sector. 

Is Decision Science right for me and how should I prepare for it? 

If you are a critical thinker and a problem solver, and are equally as interested in your science subjects as you are in your social science and humanities subjects, Decision Science may be a good option for you. 

Given the wide range of disciplines studied as part of Decision Science, students should prepare by studying a broad mix of traditional academic subjects in preparation for the major. Although there are no specific subject requirements, a combination of traditional essay-based subjects (e.g Economics, Psychology) and quantitative subjects (e.g Math, Physics) would be considered more competitive. Unlike Law or Medicine, subject choices are less prescriptive and can be personalized to showcase the students strengths, for example, studying Politics if you have a specific interest in public policy. 

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By Emma Keoy, Admissions Consultant

Published 02-05-2024

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