In the course of my PhD program I took upwards of 18 credits of research methods classes:

  • Introducation to Statistics
  • Regression
  • ANOVA
  • Multivariate
  • Multilevel Modeling
  • Qualitative

plus Tests and Measurements. By most criteria I should be a statistician.

Yet I am having a MASSIVE case of impostor syndrome on this very topic. Statistics are the one thing we learn in a PhD program that we can easily and rapidly market; there is a DRASTIC shortage of skilled statistical analysts out there and you quickly discover that even a little knowledge puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. Yet the statistics that are taught are very research oriented and not necessarily appropriate for applied settings.

The problem is that I am very aware of what I don’t know; of how I don’t completely understand what I was taught in those classes and how it is insufficient for what I am trying to do with the skills. I find myself reluctant to take on the title of “statistician” because I feel there are massive holes in my ability to apply the techniques I learned. As the title indicates, my skills look good on paper but feel lacking when I start trying to apply them.

Now, if a PhD teaches you anything it is how to go off and teach yourself something. And I could conceivably do just that; I have all my books (and many more) and could start reading until my ears bleed. But I admit that I learn better with structure.  (By all accounts I should be the PERFECT person for a DIYU type of approach, but it is far too easy for me to find other things to do with my time if I don’t have assignments with deadlines and other people telling me what I did or didn’t get wrong.)

Therefore I am considering getting another Master’s degree in Applied Statistics. A co-worker (who is finishing his law degree this semester after which he intends to take the bar but never practice) and I have been talking about doing it together, and I think that might be an interesting way to go. There are 3 excellent online programs (Penn State, Texas A&M, and Stanford), 2 of which are not obscenely priced*.

Regardless of which school is chosen or even whether I go with a structured program, to really understand statistics requires calculus (2-3 semesters), something I DON’T have. (I took 1 semester of business calc in my freshman year and just barely dragged my butt out with a C.) So this spring I am taking Calc 1 and 2 in 8 week sessions through the local community college (while teaching 2 sections of stats and working… I swear I am the only person I know who DOESN’T consider that a crushing load.) This christmas I am slamming my way through preparing for it and reawakening all the algebra I learned in High School. (More on that in another post.)

My goal is to do MORE than look good on paper, but to actually know it and have the benefit of other experts guidance in how to apply what I know.  I need to get there one way or another.

*Really Stanford?  $58,950 just for tuition for a 15 course program?  I realize you are the number one ranked stats programs, but TAMU is number 8 and Penn is number 14 and both cost less than HALF the price including fees.  Cut a girl a break here….

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