Why are quantitative skills important to employers?
Given the growing volume of data in contemporary society, the need for good data skills is increasingly recognised. Google's Chief Economist, Hal Varian comments:
"I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. The ability to take data - to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate - that's going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades"
"I think statisticians are part of it, but it's just a part. You also want to be able to visualize the data, communicate the data, and utilize it effectively. But I do think those skills - of being able to access, understand, and communicate the insights you get from data analysis - are going to be extremely important" (The McKinsey Quarterly, January 2009)
The British Academy argues that there is a lack of quantitative skills in the workplace in the UK. Students are graduating with skills inadequate to the needs of the workplace – in business, public sector, or academia. Click here to find out more the shortfall and about how Q-Step aims to address the skills deficit amongst social science undergraduates.
What types of careers require quantitative skills?
Quantitative skills are highly transferable and marketable and needed across a range of sectors - academia, government, charities and business.
The Economic and Social Research Council's useful guide Social Science by Numbers outlines career options for graduates with quantitative skills and includes short biographies of people working in a variety of jobs and sectors. It states:
"You find quantitative social scientists working almost anywhere – as advisors and analysts for governmental and non-governmental organisations, in the pharmaceutical industry and health services, business, agriculture and lobby groups, and as lecturers and researchers in academia"
The British Academy's Stand out and be counted booklet also highlights the value of quantitative skills to undergraduate students, particular in the social sciences and humanities:
"Quantitative skills underpin effective evidence-based planning and procedure in the public, private and other sectors, as well as ‘blue skies’ thinking"
The booklet contains personal stories from journalists, entrepreneurs, charity workers and and civil servants. Case study contributions include the CEO of Waterstones, the UK’s National Statistician, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Statistics, Director of the Nuffield Foundation, Director of YouGov and Editor of the Guardian’s DataBlog. Each one describes the steps taken to learn quantitative skills and the importance of being statistically literate to their career pathwayOpportunities for work experience during your degreeThe Queen's Q-Step Centre has partnered with a range of NI employers, from the Northern Ireland Assembly to The Detail, an investigative news and analysis website, to offer competitive paid work placements. As well as the substantive social science knowledge that our students bring to their placements, the employers utilise the quantitative skills that our students have acquired during their degree pathway. Our Work Placements page highlights the range of NI employers involved to date.
"Ipsos Mori carries out research for a variety of clients and quantitative skills are essential for our business. We need graduates with a good understanding of quantitative research, from data collection to complex analysis. Being able to demonstrate these skills to an employer such as Ipsos MORI makes any graduate very attractive."
(Fiona Rooney, Managing Director, Ipsos Mori NI and Q-Step work placement provider)