Liberal arts students are climbing to the top of today’s computerized data-analysis industries
Have you heard of ‘big data?’ It’s just what it sounds like—big sets of numerical data, collected, computed, and catalogued in databases across the country. All of this data can be structured and analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, and associations when studied by the right critical eye.
Because big data analysis is so valuable to many of today’s leading global industries (think: marketing, product development, public health, climate science, and more), the world needs college graduates with the right skillsets to effectively engage with this kind of information.
According to experts in the higher education field and commercial companies like Google, liberal arts students are often ideal candidates for big data analysis. If you can picture yourself working in this quickly growing field, a liberal arts degree might be your perfect place to start.
Here are three ways big data analysis involves skills you’ll develop in liberal arts studies.
1. Data Analysts Frame Questions with Skills Learned in Liberal Arts Courses
How do data management professionals dig deep into databases and come out with the precise information they’re looking for? When faced with a pile of unstructured data, where does one begin?
It’s all about asking the right questions. Sifting through big data is made easier for market researchers, Google analysts, and companies themselves when it’s done with strategic and focused questions in mind.
In liberal arts courses, you’ll get plenty of practice with various advanced research methods. You’ll become intimately familiar with the process of formulating an idea, hypothesis, or research question, thoroughly researching it, and continuously coming to conclusions. From your first essay to your final thesis project you’ll develop the critical and analytical skills you’ll need to ask the right questions.
“Too often, we get the right answer to the wrong question. If we get the question wrong, the answer is irrelevant,” shares higher education expert Adam Weinberg. “The ability to frame questions is probably the most important role of a liberal arts background in learning to use big data effectively.”
2. Big Data Analysis & Teamwork: Bringing Multiple Perspectives Together
Working with extremely large sets of data involves cooperation between professionals from a wide range of industries. If you pursue this path, you could find yourself working alongside experts in everything from brand development to marketing to scientific research in areas like climate science, neuroscience, politics, and more.
For example, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio recently launched a ‘HOME-STAT’ initiative wherein data collected through surveys and headcounts contributes to the development of homelessness outreach services. Through data analytics, HOME-STAT identifies at-risk families and connects them with the assistance they need to avoid evictions. In developing, accumulating, and analyzing this data, the city of NYC is engaging canvassers, computer information research scientists, marketing managers, research analysts, community outreach coordinators, and more.
Liberal arts students, like these Shimerians, might just be the next big thing in big data
The data analytics industry needs people who can work in these kinds of diverse teams to pull ideas together from all directions. Liberal arts studies at schools like Shimer are all about exploring multiple perspectives in discussion-based classrooms where every voice has value. Here, you can develop the teamwork skills you need to succeed in any large-scale data analysis project.
3. Communicating Results in an Ethical & Effective Liberal Arts Studies Style
When questions have been asked, research conducted, and conclusions found, it’s time for data analysis results to be revealed. Researchers and analysts need the liberal arts skills of clearly and cleverly communicating their findings to the world.
Because these findings often have the potential to impact human behavior and interactions in the long-term, big data researchers also need a sense of professional ethics. Liberal arts college can prepare you for communicating technically sophisticated information in easy-to-digest, strategic, and ethical ways.
“For data analytics to drive us forward, we need a generation of people shaping the field who see, acknowledge, and grapple with ethical concerns, especially as they relate to issues of privacy and civil liberties,” Weinberg explains.
With liberal art expertise, it’s possible for big data to be collected ethically, communicated persuasively, and used effectively by people like you.
Are you interested in becoming part of these big-picture conversations by attending one of the several liberal arts colleges in Chicago?
Visit Shimer to find out how to get started!