Monday, July 28, 2014

First day of class: Persuading students to treat statistics class as more than a necessary evil (with updates)

I am busy prepping my statistics class for the fall (as well as doing a bunch of stuff that I should have done in June, but I digress). Most of my students are required to take statistics and are afraid of mathematics so I'm going to try to convince them to embrace statistics by showing them that more and more non-statsy jobs require data collection, data analysis, data driven decisions, program assessment, etc.. 

I find that my students are increasingly aware of the current job market as well as their student loan debt. As such, I think that students are receptive to arguments that explain how even a little bit of statistical knowledge can make them more attractive to potential employers.

Here are some resources I have found to do just that. 

This article by Susan Adams for Forbes lists the top ten skills employers are looking for in employees. Included in the top ten:

"2. Ability to make decisions and solve problems

5. Ability to obtain and process information
6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
10. Ability to sell and influence others"

Erin Palmer at Business Insider provides a more direct endorsement of statistics by arguing that statistical skills are in demand, both within the context of explicitly statistical jobs but also in other career fields.

"Taking a statistics class in college is a good career move, even if your ultimate career goals have nothing to do with math. Before you roll your eyes, consider all the non-mathematical careers that use statistics. Executives, politicians, supply chain managers, entrepreneurs and marketers are among the many professionals who analyze data and statistics regularly."

Katie Bardaro's New York Times piece  STEM Skills Aren’t Just for STEM Majors argues that college students can be STEMy without having a STEM major:

"That being said, not all college students have the interest or ability to major in a STEM field. Another possibility is to major in a non-STEM field, but take some analytically focused courses like economics or statistics. Many jobs that previously didn't require analytic thought or data handling now do, and arming yourself with these skills is one way to get a leg up in the labor market."

12/27/14 Update: Linked-In data analysis has determined that "Statistical analysis and data mining" is the #1 "Hottest Skill of 2014"

4/9/15 Update: USA Today - College Edition opinion piece from a doctor-in-training who argues that "statistics might be the most important class you take in college".

7/21/15 Update: This article describes how and why the gender gap that exists throughout most of mathematics isn't as enormous in the field of statistics. Includes women in the field describing why they love their careers in statistics. 

9/3/15: The article was written by a journalist, Laura Miller. She reflects on the fact that she wishes she had taken a statistics course in college, because her job has shown her that data is used to persuade people as much as language. She also does a good job of touching on how probability can be counter intuitive and recommends some pop statistics readings.


New National Survey By SHRM Shows Employers Struggling to Meet Growing Demand for Data Analysts

8/1/17: American Statistical Association's This is Statistics page features plenty of materials to unpack all the career options available to statisticians.