Help Transition out of Education Into Data Analytics and Computer Scienc
December 19, 2014 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I am currently a public high school teacher teaching science and would very much like to transition into data and policy analytics, with a particular bent on computer programming and economic analysis. What are ways I can transition into these fields. One thing I have found that is a fellowship program from Education Pioneers. Are there other resources like this? What routes would you advise that I take? More information inside

I went to a top five university with a double major in Political Science and English Language and Literature with some work in economics and statistics (no programming classes, though). I originally intended to matriculate into law school until I began to do the math and realized that the job market was saturated and the skill set I would be acquiring would be of doubtful economic sustainability. To make a long story short, I ended up as a teacher, having passed the requisite exams (Praxis II) in the subject matters of Biology, Special Education, and English. Along the way, I've become fascinated with data analytics, policy analytics, and applying a more rigorous perspective to the world around me incorporating the models of Economics, Mathematics, Statistics, and Analysis. I spend much of my time researching and teaching myself calculus, all the classes that I had initially avoided when I was in college to buttress up my GPA so that I would have made a competitive candidate into law school.

I'm 28 years old with 3 years of work experience in an inner city public school, plus experience as a research assistant in the political science department in college, a stint in two consulting firms (not big-name ones but great well-run ones that I am glad I can cite as positive and valuable experiences).

I have thought about going to graduate school in computer and policy analytics but I am skeptical that such a route would be useful for a variety of reasons. A) I don't have much work experience in analytics which might hinder me in the job market once I graduate B) I am wondering whether it would be better to teach myself a lot of the analytical tools like SAS, SPSS, but if I do so, how can I prove to an employee that I actually know it. Isn't that sheepskin (or the imprimatur of a good school) worth it?

Is it too late for me to make a transition into data analytics and business intelligence with ancillary interests in finance? Should I just go get an MBA and cover it with that or should I start out small, taking classes at a local college to see what really strikes my fancy and what really interests me? The Education pioneers program that I mentioned above might be just the right stepping stone.

Any and all suggestions are welcome. Sorry for all the verbiage.
posted by caudal to Education (2 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I am also navigating this path, though my circumstances are a little different. If you don't quite know what you're interested in yet, taking some time to figure it out would be helpful. A degree in math or stats is a credential frequently sought by employers. An MBA with a concentration in stats & BI would also be a good option. Math-heavy graduate programs usually want to see that you've passed the math prerequisites (usually calc, stats, linear algebra), so getting those out of the way at a local college, even if you don't get a degree there, can be a good idea. Colleges that have connections with industry are also a very good thing.

You could hook up with a political or issue campaign or an interest group that you care about and show them what you can do. Also do your own projects to gain familiarity with the specific data you want to use, because being a subject matter expert is very useful, and it can give you something to show off. Networking and informational interviews could also be useful.

And if you want to get into programming, start or keep teaching yourself programming. The field depends heavily on self-motivated learning, not just college. Learning how to access and clean data is an important skill because it's the most time-consuming part of any analytics project, from what I've read. Statistics and data manipulation skills seem to be the most generally valuable things to obtain.
posted by the big lizard at 3:03 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

What job do you want? What are the requirements to get shortlisted for an interview for those jobs? (I've always been told that if you have 80% of the "essential" requirements listed, you should apply).

Work backwards from there. What are the skills, experience and qualifications that your dream job seems to require? What do you already have? And then look at the best way of making up the gap. Additional study? Taking advantage of your job as a teacher and seeking summer internships to give you practical experience and references? It sounds like you've got the contacts to be able to extend your experience.

Personally, I'd go down that route rather than shelling out for a Masters that doesn't necessarily make you more employable. (My US recruitment experience is limited, but what I see is that qualifications are used more as a screening tool rather than a hiring tool - i.e. if you can get shortlisted, you're in with a good chance, based on your actual skills and experience)

(Also, think about making the move sooner rather than later, while your research assistant and consulting work can still be considered relevant on your CV.)

Good luck!
posted by finding.perdita at 4:35 AM on December 20, 2014

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