Job for an easily distracted mathy person
May 25, 2017 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I've recently decided to leave my PhD program in Educational Statistics, and so I'm out on the job market after many (MANY) years of being a Student Forever. I'm feeling a little lost about what kinds of work to even start looking for, and I'm hoping the hive mind might have some interesting ideas to jump-start the process.

So, like I said, I'm leaving a PhD program in Educational Statistics and Measurement (basically, applied stats and standardized testing) because of a number of factors about my program really going downhill in the last year. It's been years since I've not been a student, so I feel very lost just knowing where to start regarding the job market and what I might be qualified for. I read Ask A Manager basically every day, and I'm looking for advice here that's more like "whoa, I have a similar background to you and here's how I ended up in my unexpected line of work" rather than general workplace or job-searching stuff.

Relevant details about my background and work habits: I have a number of years experience teaching math (basically, anything up through calculus) and introductory applied statistics, as well as master's degrees in math and adult education (in addition to my recent coursework in statistics). I have a lot of experience tutoring students one-on-one as well, mainly at the college level. I have a decent amount of experience using statistical software such as SPSS, SAS, both the statistical side and some coursework aimed at the content for the Base and Advanced SAS certification exams, and a teeny tiny amount of experience actually coding JAVA from back in college (but never outside of a classroom setting). I've rarely ever used R, but I know it's pretty commonly used and I'm definitely willing to learn the basics on my own if needed.

In terms of how I work well, I've realized recently that I am NOT GOOD at being any kind of "big picture" person. I'm not good at organizing or overseeing large projects, but I am REALLY GOOD at owning my own tiny piece of something bigger and making sure it is perfect. I'm actually pretty happy doing fairly repetitive work that lots of people seem to find boring (data entry, spreadsheets, etc). While I can certainly perform well doing customer service work, it tends to really set off my anxiety to have to deal with phone calls or answer questions on the fly. I've recently been doing some online transcription work and realized that I LOVE the nature of the work - specifically, spending 5-10 minute chunks kind of digging into a topic, making sure my work is detail-perfect, researching words I don't know, and then moving on and doing a new 5-10 minute chunk, over and over, and not needing to remember those words or concepts past the end of the workday. I have ADD-inattentive and it just seems like this type of work fits my "focus intently in small bursts" style so, so well. I'd love something that fits this kind of pattern as a full-time job (while the transcription work is fun, I don't make enough as a beginner to actually support myself freelancing yet).

So, given all this, are there any types of jobs I should be looking for that I might not realize are out there? I'm definitely looking at teaching/tutoring work (although I'd like to avoid adjuncting unless it gets really dire, because I eventually need health insurance and enough money to actually pay my rent) and at "statistical analyst" type work, although a lot of times those postings want more of an IT background than I actually have. But I just feel like there have got to be other jobs out there too that fit my background and work style, and I'm missing out on them because I don't know where to look! Hope me find my new career!
posted by augustimagination to Work & Money (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure what your stance is on behemoths like these, but I immediately thought of exploring employment with companies like Pearson. I've seen similar companies recruit in different places over the years (e.g., new test kit trainings, doc programs, etc.) and the skills they were emphasizing have some overlap with yours.

I looked at Pearson's employment site for sample job titles and there's a wide range - but the first one listed is in UX research. This also might appeal to you as a field in general. (Reminded me of my friend who left a clinical psych PhD program after one year, searched for work, and found her analytic and research skills well suited for UX jobs. Years later, she still loves the field.) Good luck to you!
posted by mayta at 8:13 PM on May 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

How about actuarial work (becoming an actuarial analyst or actuary). There's a fair bit of stats involved, your SAS and R experience will come in handy and it really rewards detail-oriented people. I successfully transitioned from academia (PhD dropout) to the actuarial side and only had to take a couple of math-y exams to become an attractive applicant.
posted by peacheater at 8:22 PM on May 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Quality Control and Assurance
posted by BusyBusyBusy at 10:34 PM on May 25, 2017

From what you've written, you sound like a holy grail hire for an institutional research department.
posted by blerghamot at 4:59 PM on May 26, 2017

Blerghamot, that's one of the other fields I was planning on looking into! My SAS professor actually worked in institutional research and her description of her work made it sound right up my alley - so it's cool to hear it suggested again here. Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far!
posted by augustimagination at 9:24 PM on May 26, 2017

Everything here except no customer service made me wonder if you'd enjoy college financial aid. There are positions that don't do face to face customer service and are much more focused into making sure application information (including tax returns) are input and processed correctly (referred to commonly as verification, need analysis, file review, and packaging or awarding). Also I was a coordinator of the federal loan program for several years and it required very little customer service.
Usually it's bigger college/universities that have positions that can avoid customer service work.
posted by wannabecounselor at 1:42 AM on May 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

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