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Calbright Instructor Catherine Parker Discusses Data Analysis Benefits

In September 2023, Calbright launched a new program in Data Analysis, part of a collaboration with Bakersfield Community College. There is significant interest in this program from adult learners across California, and so we sat down with Calbright’s Data Analysis faculty member Catherine Parker to answer some of the most common questions she receives about the program.

QUESTION: What kind of person should go into data analysis? Who will enjoy it and be good at it?

ANSWER: “Data analysis is a wonderful field for people who are analytical. It’s a field for people who like finding answers that can solve problems. Jobs in data analysis involve working with numbers and figuring out the stories that the numbers are telling us. It’s a good job for people who like working at a computer for long stretches of time. It’s  also a good field for people who enjoy working independently most of the time, but it also involves making presentations. After you’ve worked with the data and figured out what it’s saying, you have to present it to people so that they can understand what you’ve found.”

QUESTION: When we talk about learning data analysis, what kind of skills are we talking about? What will people learn?

ANSWER: “Some of the training is technical, and some of it is conceptual. On the technical side, students will get training in how to master spreadsheets. They’ll learn how to use Structured Query Language (SQL) for databases, to find and retrieve information. They’ll learn some basic statistical methods. They’ll learn how to produce data visualizations for presentations. And they’ll learn how to create their resume and a portfolio as part of a job search to help them get the job they want. 

“Students will also learn important conceptual skills, like how to identify useful resources to help with new kinds of questions that come up on the job. They’ll learn about how to identify clean, accurate data, and they’ll learn about data ethics and data governance: what kind of data should be private, and who in an organization should have access to it.”

QUESTION: Why are these skills valuable in the job market? 

ANSWER: “They’re used everywhere! Companies of all kinds need them. Companies can only grow when they are able to understand what succeeds and what doesn’t, what motivates people and what doesn’t, what their customers want and what they don’t. So the ability to look at all the information a company has and organize it so that you can get those answers and present it clearly is something that every company hires for.

“The ability to understand and recognize patterns within data and present them clearly is a strong qualification for any job.”

QUESTION: What kind of jobs are open to students when they get these skills?

ANSWER: “Oh my gosh there’s so many! You could go into education, you could go into the medical field, you could work in finance, you could be an analyst for tech companies, you can work in retail or hospitality, government agencies, agriculture, arts administration, you can do consulting – every kind of industry and institution there is needs people who can do data analysis. It’s universal.

“Some of the common entry-level jobs in data analysis that I see are data analysts, office administrators, and retail managers, and then you can work into positions like data scientists, or data engineers, or business analysts. 

QUESTION: What will students be doing in the course? 

ANSWER: “In the Data Analysis program there’s a lot of virtual hands-on experience. They’ll be learning by doing.

“So for instance we will give them data sets in Google spreadsheets and the students will learn to clean it up and organize it. They’ll practice writing basic SQL queries for databases. They will apply some basic statistical methods to the data they’ve found. They will present that data using visualization techniques. They’ll examine different data sets to determine which sets are valid. 

“They’ll also learn about how different kinds of data should be kept. There are different rules for things like Social Security numbers and medical histories. It’s a very hands-on program!”

QUESTION: How long does the program take?

ANSWER: Calbright is a flexibly paced, competency-based community college, so that’s up to the student: we will work with them at whatever pace is a good fit for their life.

“But the program is designed so that just by putting in a few hours of studying every week, students can complete their coursework in as little as six months, or even three.”

QUESTION: What is the partnership with Bakersfield Community College?

ANSWER: “Once students have completed the program at Calbright, they can apply to a paid apprenticeship program administered by Bakersfield Community College. If they’re accepted, they’ll have a year-long apprenticeship in which they’ll be paid to work in the data analysis field. It’s an exciting opportunity!” 

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