Careers in tech company with a statistics and programming background?
January 8, 2020 11:35 AM   Subscribe

I am interested in working for a tech company, but I have a non-STEM degree. I would eventually like to do a master's that some how combines statistics, r programming/python, and some economics if possible.

Is a background like this helpful in tech companies or start-ups (or banking and academic/other kinds of research?) I read that LinkedIn offers statistical/data internships. Stanford offers an MA in International Policy with a focus on tech and cyber security). I am regretting my social science major, and would like to somehow get into tech if possible and build new skills. Also, if anyone knows of a good graduate degree that I should pursue in these fields, please do share.
posted by RearWindow to Education (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, there are tons and tons of jobs out there under the broad umbrella of "data science," which is probably a key term for you to search on when investigating opportunities. I'm not a data scientist myself and have no training in that area, but "statistics, r programming/python, and some economics" is definitely a huge part of what my company looks for when hiring them.
posted by slenderloris at 11:46 AM on January 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

You definitely don't *need* a STEM degree to work in a tech company, or even to work as a software developer/data analyst. Different industries and companies will have different requirements and attitudes towards having a degree vs. being self-taught/learning on the job vs. "bootcamp" types of experience. I work as a software developer in a small fintech company and I have a BS in biology and a masters in library science. Some of my coworkers have degrees in CS, finance, economics, or related fields, some of us don't.

I'm not clear on whether you have some statistics/programming skills and you're looking to solidify those skills so as to get a job, or whether you have no such skills and you're looking to acquire them? Either way if a job is what you're looking for, spending a year or two or three on a graduate degree is usually not the most efficient way to get into an industry, unless you're set on a highly regulated career like nursing or something. Not to say that it wouldn't be worthwhile to get a graduate degree, just that I'm not clear on what your end goal is.

Also if you want to get into tech I'm not sure why you would be looking at an MA in International Policy? Why not a degree or certificate in data science, statistics, computer science, etc.?

Basically, do you want a career in tech or do you want a degree in the stuff you've talked about? They're both fine things to want, just you can very easily do one without the other.
posted by mskyle at 11:53 AM on January 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you have a background in statistics and r programming/python, all sorts of companies would find you useful in data science. The thing about data science is it's not really established as a field and it's unclear how the new degrees/certificates in the field mesh with companies' actual needs. Having worked at a couple Fortune 500s, they often retrain their own people (bootcamps, self-learning, online training, etc.) who have a strong affinity for data in any form (anything from science degrees to an office Excel wizard) to suit their needs. All that said, try to initiate conversations with recruiters on LinkedIn and mention your background. If your social science degree came with training in quantitative backgrounds, that's a huge advantage. Also soft skills like being able to visually present and communicate your data findings through simplified presentations that don't bore anyone or make their heads spin -- is as important an asset as being able to do the actual data science itself. The data science has to be "translated" into actionable insights for a company's business leaders to act on.
posted by caveatz at 12:04 PM on January 8, 2020

I'm a social scientist-turned-data scientist. I actually found that my social science background was looked upon quite favorably when I was job hunting because I'm good at contextualizing the data, communicating the data, asking probing questions and thinking "beyond the numbers"*. That being said, I have a graduate degree in social science and my research was heavily quantitative; I'm confident that helped me substantially since I had a lot of projects to discuss.

There are actual master's programs now in data science, though since it's such a hot field they're pretty expensive and of varying quality. Statistics would also be a good one. But I'd say that as long as you have a fairly robust portfolio of data-related projects, you have a good shot of transitioning into the field. As others have mentioned though, it's not so clear whether you have any quantitative background - if not, study up on statistics (there are tons of resources online) and then experiment with data-related projects in Python.

*I also came across gatekeep-y interviewers who were very unimpressed with the social science degree, which sucked but can be expected.
posted by thebots at 12:07 PM on January 8, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am the only data person at a smallish startup.

I have a 4 year degree in a very uncommon STEM field. It didn't include a lot of math.

I got my experience working as an operations person, and then focusing on data and analysis. I learned on the job, and after about 3 years of on the job learning, I do data full time. I spent about a year getting really good at Excel by spending a few hours a week Googling how to do something I didn't know how to do. After that, I learned sql. I'm now working on coding.

I plan on getting a masters in Analytics from Georgia Tech. It is online, and very reasonably priced.

There are regularly operation roles open at startups. Although every company defines it differently, it usually is a catch all for the people that keep things running but (usually) aren't customer service.
posted by Monday at 12:32 PM on January 8, 2020

You do want to be a data analyst. My previous few questions go into getting into the field. I'm starting a Master's of Science in Business Analytics at Univ. of Iowa in 2 weeks that should let me transition. After 5 classes I'll have a certificate and maybe that'll get me in the field or 10 is the full masters.

But read my old questions or feel free to MeMail me if you want. i also considered going to Chicago for a 12 week bootcamp.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:05 PM on January 8, 2020

My original degree/s are in social sciences and I transitioned to data analytics/engineering. I work for Fortune 90 company now doing ETL and data visualization work, but I want to go back to higher ed if I can.

You sound like a good candidate for the Data Analytics MS program at WGU. Since you already have a background in R/Python you'd be able to get through those courses swiftly as well as the stats courses. They also prep you for two SAS certifications (and the exam fees are included in your tuition).
posted by Young Kullervo at 4:16 PM on January 8, 2020

I'd like to plug the data science masters program that I'm currently in, offered online at CUNY. Mostly because it's the cheapest one out there that I've found that actually teaches programming and expects you code stuff in python and R for all classes. (UC Berkley costs $60,000, for the extreme comparison). Not all the instructors are great and you get out of it what you put in, but it's been good. On the other hand, if you don't have either a strong math background or a decent amount of programming experience, you're going to be working extra hard for chunks of it.

When I was looking at online programs, I found that data analysis ones focused on working with things like Excel and SQL, while data science ones focused on working with R and python. That's a distinction that you'll bed to decide on eventually, whether you're more interested in analysis or modeling. (There is plenty of overlap and excel can even do some modeling, but that's what the catalogues for the programs liked like.)

If you're not interested in doing a formal degree (trust me, I can totally understand that) coursera and datacamp are pretty good.

I haven't done any of this in person, so I can only speak to online stuff.

Feel free to memail me if you've got questions about this.
posted by Hactar at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

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