Quant Skills And Think Tank Jobs
August 16, 2009 10:39 AM   Subscribe

How important are quantitative research skills for getting a job at a DC think tank?

I am a phd student at a top 25 social science department, but I am not planning on going to into academia. Instead, I am hoping to get a job at a DC based public policy thinktank.

My department is highly focused on research using quantitative methods. While I am decent at quantitative methods, I am certainly not a natural. Put differently, I am good at statistics, but I am great at writing and have extensive substantive knowledge.

I am trying to decide if I should just accept my mere adequacy at quant methods (and focus instead on improving other areas) or if I should focus on ramping up my skill in quant methods.

How important are quantitative research skills for getting a job at a DC think tank?
posted by Spurious to Work & Money (3 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That is going to depend almost entirely on the nature of the position for which you are applying. That, in turn, will depend largely, but not exclusively on the nature of the organization to which you are applying.

Think tanks run the gamut from quant-intensive to zero-quant. I think you'd be better served looking at those organizations that interest you and seeing what kinds of research they're doing, even asking organizations directly what would make you a stronger candidate, than by asking around here. I'm sure that there are positions which use your mix of skills, however defined.

But a general observation: because these jobs tend to be pretty sexy, they also tend to be pretty competitive. Unfortunately, a top-25 school may not cut it, because there will be plenty of top-10 grads applying for what few positions are open at any given time. And the number of available positions is likely to be pretty low, especially in this economy.
posted by valkyryn at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2009

Best answer: My dad was until very recently a Senior Fellow at a top (think top 3) think tank in DC and was in a position to hire many people such as yourself for positions out of grad school.

To put it bluntly, there are thousands of people in DC who are excellent writers, and have substantive knowledge on a wide variety of subjects of interest in addition to having better connections than you do. Focus on your quant skills, and work your professors for connections and recommendations.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:59 AM on August 16, 2009

Best answer: OK, now I see what happened.

Here's what I said before:

Depends on which one. Brookings, very. EPI, very. Urban Institute, very. NBER, well, duh! Kaiser Family Foundation (which, trust me, is largely a think tank for all practical purposes), perhaps not as much.

Do not accept "mere adequacy" in quant skills. Improve them, and showcase them with your writing. You will be head and shoulders above everyone!

It's not what you know, but it's not whom you know either.

It's whom you know who knows what you know!
posted by jgirl at 12:02 PM on August 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

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