Showing posts with label employment projections. Show all posts
Showing posts with label employment projections. Show all posts

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Want a Better Job? Become Data Savvy

Looking at new employment projections data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the message is that individuals looking for good jobs in the future will need stronger data skills.
Above are some of the occupations with largest projected future job growth and the highest median annual wage according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What do they have in common?

Answer: Working with data and numbers are important aspects of each of these occupations.

Now, to be clear, none of these jobs necessarily require majors in mathematics or statistics. Those “pure” math jobs still exist but none of them fall into the category of the largest projected growth.

Rather, these jobs are “translational” occupations.

By translational, I mean jobs where the incumbents must understand and appreciate data and statistical concepts and be able to take those concepts and translate them into other forms of knowledge using both data skills plus verbal and social skills.

The jobs with the greatest potential all require some degree of skill in analyzing data and making judgments based on that analysis.

Computers, along with the Internet, are providing greater abilities to collect and analyze large amounts of data. In this environment, it is no surprise that occupations that can take advantage of technology to add insights are increasingly valuable to employers.

For example, the BLS definition of Software Developer reads:

Software developers are the creative minds behind computer programs. Some develop the applications that allow people to do specific tasks on a computer or another device. Others develop the underlying systems that run the devices or that control networks.”
Typical duties of a software developer include:

·       Analyze users’ needs and then design, test, and develop software to meet those needs
·       Recommend software upgrades for customers’ existing programs and systems
·       Design each piece of an application or a system and plan how the pieces will work together
·       Create a variety of models and diagrams (such as flowcharts) that instruct programmers how to write software code
·       Ensure that a program continues to function normally through software maintenance and testing
·       Document every aspect of an application or a system as a reference for future maintenance and upgrades
·       Collaborate with other computer specialists to create optimum software

Yes, an understanding of math is needed, but applying those concepts in a creative way is just as important for success.

Software developers need to think in terms of data but then take that process to create results.

Even among the so-called “helping professions”, data knowledge is an essential skill for advancement. Registered Nurses are on this list. Do Registered Nurses need math and an understanding of data?

In an online article titled, “How Do Nurses Use Math in their Jobs?” J. Lucy Boyd writes:

“Nurses routinely use addition, fractions, ratios and algebraic equations each workday to deliver the right amount of medication to their patients or monitor changes in their health. Nursing schools often test new students on their mathematical prowess, requiring a remedial course in medical math if necessary. Even in state-of-the-art medical facilities, successful nurses must have sharp mathematical skills.”

Again, these jobs are not confined to natural born mathematicians, or even people with advanced math skills; but they will go to those willing to embrace the concepts and use math in a practical manner.

As a final argument in favor of employees who can deal with data and analysis, let’s look again at the BLS list of occupations projected to have the largest job growth.

This time let us look at the lowest paying jobs on that same list:
These jobs are also projected to have the largest growth by 2024, and there will be plenty of them, but in each case, the data skills required are very basic and none of them require data analysis.

In the 19th Century, rising up the economic ladder required the ability to read and write a language.

In the 21st Century, the ability to read and write a language is balanced by an equal ability to understand math, be comfortable with data and do some level of data analysis.

No, math majors are not required, and a PhD in Mathematics or Statistics is not the best preparation for these high pay, high growth jobs. Working with data is fundamentally different than understanding advanced mathematics.

Of course, this does not mean the end of language majors. In fact, it requires people who can move between the worlds of data and language. Those who can feel comfortable with data and still have the verbal and social skills to creatively understand the value of the data.

If the BLS employment projections are correct, then the future belongs not to math “geeks” but rather to those who are Data Savvy.