Meet Eric Willis. Eric earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Sociology with a concentration in Applied Research Methods with a minor in statistics. He went on to graduate school at Clemson University and earned a Master's degree in Applied Sociology. With these great research skills in hand, Eric is now a statistician for the Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington, DC.
REAC's main purpose is to insure all residents of public housing have decent, safe, and sanitary housing, and that all the housing authorities are financially solvent. This is done by conducting physical inspections and collecting and auditing financial statements provided by the housing authorities throughout the country.
His job entails combing through the large volumes of inspection and financial data collected by REAC to create reports to Congress, and also to reverse-engineer assessment scores to insure accuracy. These reports are primarily ad hoc, as questions arise with regard to the financial or physical conditions of public housing. These reports inform the data-driven policymaking by senior officials, the policies which affect nearly 1.1 million residents of public housing throughout the country.
Here is what he says about his education at App State in sociology:
The additional training in statistical methods, as well as experience managing large data sets using statistical software such as SAS and SPSS, provided me the most important “hard” skills to prepare me for the position I hold now. The most important “soft” skill attained in my training in applied research is being able to explain semi-complex statistical ideas and results to a non-statistically-minded, and often skeptical audience.
For anyone interested in applied research I strongly recommend becoming acquainted with very large data sets. Data management skills, such as data 'cleaning' and basic summary statistics, is the most used skill I have carried over from my university training. Also, knowing which statistical process to use for a particular question you are given is also very important. Finally, in addition to data management and analysis, being able to explain results to someone with little to no statistical training is critical. Time spent performing an analysis often goes wasted if the intended audience doesn't understand the results or interprets them incorrectly.
If Eric's success sparks an interest for you, the please contact the Department of Sociology for more information about how you can get started in an applied research methods degree today!