What's the difference between AP Calculus and AP Statistics?
Matthew L. Tuck, J.D., M.B.A.
Hi Mariela. That's a good question and I'm glad to see you're thinking a few years ahead to what will help you in college.
Strictly speaking, calculus is the study of change. Calculus problems have an actual answer. It goes beyond algebra and geometry. Statistics, on the other hand, is the science of collecting and analyzing numerical data in large quantities. Statistics has no single answer but provides a range of answers to help you make decisions. The subjects are complimentary and chances are you will need them both for a career in forensic science, natural science or business.
Forensic scientists generally have an undergraduate degree in a natural or hard science, like chemistry, anatomy, biology or biochemistry. Many people going into forensic science will try to get a degree in a science specialty that will help them with the area of forensic science they want to get into. Fore example, if you think you might like testing organic samples of blood, bodily fluids, DNA and that sort of thing, a biochemistry degree may be the best route. If you plan to focus on non-biologicals (testing paints, chemicals, etc.), chemistry may be for you. Its a good idea to take elective classes that will help you round out your education. Classes like microbiology, anatomy, and some computer classes.
No matter what your focus, calculus and statistics are going to be prerequisites for the more advanced science classes and requirements for working in a lab. There is a lot of math in the lab and you may need to go beyond basic calculus, depending on what you'll be doing.
If your interest is more in criminology (the social and pyschological aspects of crime) instead of forensic science, you likely will still need statistics. Criminology is the study of trends and populations and statistics within different groups, so computers and statistics will likely required, or at least helpful.
It's good that your school offers these AP (Advanced Placement) classes (many schools don't, or only offer a few). To take full advantage of this huge opportunity, make sure you get good grades in those courses. They can help you skip over basic classes in college by showing that you already know the material. They also look good on a college application. And better still, by scoring well the AP exam you can get college credit, which saves time and money. To receive credit, you must request that the College Board send your official AP score report to the college of your choice, either at the time of testing or afterward through a score report request. Colleges will usually notify you during the summer, after receiving your scores, about any credit, placement and/or course exemptions you have earned. If you have questions about the status of your AP credit or placement, you should contact your college. Every college makes its own rules about accepting AP classes for credit. Most schools require at least a score of "3" on the exam to get credit, but some schools require higher scores. Check with the schools you are applying to to find out what they require. You can find more information about how it works here. </span>https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/creditandplacement/search-credit-policies.
Here is a good website that discusses the classes you will need in college to become a forensic scientist.
It's also a good idea to check with the colleges you're thinking of applying to in order to see what prerequisites they have for a forensic science major and what classes you have to take to complete that major. Some schools may not have that specific major so you may need to settle for a science degree. Check with the crime lab in your state to see what degrees they want you to have to be a forensic scientist.
In all likelihood, you will need both statistics and calculus to earn your forensic science or natural science degree.
Good luck. You've picked an exciting career.
Matthew L. recommends the following next steps:
If you're looking to enter a STEM field, both are valuable. From past experience, HS 'AP' courses are not quite the same as traditional college courses. I highly recommend taking both if possible, but AP Calculus will be more versatile towards all your courses in college. I also recommend retaking Calc/Stats in college to ensure a firm understanding of the content. If possible, take an AP literature or AP history course - these are the 'lib-ed' courses in college that are non-value adding towards a STEM degree, but required as part of a diverse background for your university.
Michael recommends the following next steps: