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How Developing Data Skills Can Give Students a Career Boost

June 05, 2023 (6 min read)
Data and analytics skills are key to successfully landing jobs for new grads.

As industries across the globe increasingly rely on data to fuel decision-making, drive innovation, and steer strategic planning, there's an escalating demand for professionals equipped with robust data skills. These skills aren't just optional add-ons for recent graduates entering the workforce; they're essential competencies that can significantly enhance their employability and professional versatility.

From marketing to finance, public policy to healthcare, data literacy has become a universally valued attribute that can pave the way for exciting opportunities and career growth, especially in jobs for recent college graduates.

This blog post delves into the important data skills recent grads should have before joining the workforce and explores how mastering them can open doors to a diverse range of roles in our increasingly data-driven world.

Why new grads need good data skills?

In the ever-evolving world of AI, machine learning, and social media, it is important for recent grads to understand what data is and how it can be used and manipulated. To differentiate themselves among a highly technical, competitive workforce, recent grads need to understand how to find, pull, and communicate insights from data that can exist in many formats.

Data skills are much more than interpreting numbers. It is a marketing team trying to segment their audiences using the right form fields. It is a nonprofit trying to find how much money a prospect makes to request a big donation. It is a finance team creating a graph to present quarterly revenue to executives. Really, data skills are used everywhere, and honing those skills now will only make new grads more successful.

MORE: AI in academia

Data skills for new grads

At some point it will not only be an advantage, but a requirement to have those data skills when they meet the moment. To be prepared for these moments, recent grads should focus on mastering the following data skills to be successful in roles across global industries.

  • Data discovery: This involves identifying and locating relevant data for your research project. It may involve online searches, identifying databases, or potentially even creating your own data through surveys or experiments.
  • Data scrutiny/critical evaluation: This involves evaluating the quality and relevance of the data you find. Not all data is good data, so being able to critically assess the reliability, validity, and potential biases in data sources is crucial.
  • Research design: Understanding how to design a research study is important. This includes understanding different research methods, how to formulate research questions and hypotheses, and how to ensure your study is ethical and reliable.
  • Statistical analysis: This is a key part of any research project. Understanding different statistical tests, how to choose the right one for your data, and how to interpret the results is crucial as college students develop analytics skills.
  • Data visualization skills: Even in research, it's important to be able to visually present your data in a clear, understandable way. This could involve creating graphs, charts, or other visual representations of your findings.
  • Data interpretation and communication: Being able to interpret your findings and communicate them clearly to others is one of the most important skills in research. This involves not just understanding your results, but also being able to explain them in a way that others can understand.
  • Data management skills: Keeping your data organized is crucial in a research context. This could involve using databases or other systems to store and organize your data, as well as understanding best practices for data management to ensure data integrity and reproducibility.
  • Literature review: This involves systematically searching for and reviewing other research that's relevant to your topic. This can help you understand the current state of research in your field, identify gaps in the literature, and provide context for your own findings.

MORE: What is workflow and why does it matter?

Examples of jobs that require data skills

In the rapidly evolving professional landscape, these analytics skills have permeated a diverse spectrum of roles, making them a highly sought-after set of competencies in the job market. On one end of the spectrum, there are roles that demand direct interaction with data, where professionals are expected to extract, clean, analyze, and interpret data to draw actionable insights.

These roles necessitate a deep understanding of statistical methodologies, data manipulation tools, and often, machine learning techniques. However, the scope of data skills extends far beyond these data-centric roles.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are positions that involve a more indirect usage of data skills. These roles might not require crunching numbers daily, but they still necessitate an understanding of data to drive decision-making, assess performance, understand customer behavior, or inform strategic planning.

These professionals need to be comfortable working with data, even if it's not their primary responsibility. As such, possessing data analyst skills can open doors to a wide variety of careers, underscoring their relevance and importance in the modern job market. Here are some examples of jobs that require data skills and why:

  • Data scientists/data analysts: These roles are heavily focused on working with data, including data cleaning, analysis, modeling, and interpretation.
  • Marketing: Many marketing roles now require data skills to analyze market trends, understand customer behavior, and measure the effectiveness of marketing strategies.
  • Sales: Salespeople use data to identify potential leads, understand customer needs, and track the effectiveness of their sales strategies.
  • Product management: Product managers often use data to understand user behavior, identify areas for improvement, and make decisions about product features.
  • Finance: Roles in finance, such as financial analysts, use data to understand financial trends, assess risks, and make investment decisions.
  • Human resources: HR professionals use data to understand employee behavior, measure the effectiveness of HR programs, and inform recruitment and retention strategies.
  • Operations: Operations managers use data to improve processes, increase efficiency, and manage supply chains.
  • Healthcare: In healthcare, data is used for a range of purposes, from clinical research to health outcomes analysis to administrative decision making.
  • Consulting: Consultants across various industries use data to inform their advice and recommendations.

MORE: What is unstructured data?

Practicing data skills with Nexis Uni®

To practice data skills, college students will need access to data, and no source provides more access to diverse datasets than Nexis Uni. Nexis Uni features more than 15,000 news, business, and legal sources--including U.S. Supreme Court decisions dating back to 1790--and serves as a training ground for students to hone their data skills while attending college or university.

With Nexis Uni, a student can start by practicing data discovery, where they can navigate the vast library of information available to identify relevant and valid resources for their research project. During this process, they would also engage in data scrutiny, assessing the quality, relevance, and potential biases of the data they discover to determine if they should include it in their project.

For data visualization and interpretation, students could extract pertinent data from a variety of resources, such as company profiles through or news copy and use software like Excel or Tableau to present and interpret the data visually. Finally, conducting a literature review by exploring the over 100 Springer Nature Academic Journals available on Nexis Uni will refine students' abilities to critically evaluate and synthesize information from various data sources.

By using Nexis Uni for research and projects while in school, students can enrich their data skillset while gaining familiarity with the look and feel of Nexis Solutions platforms, something they will encounter in the future as lawyers (Lexis+), media analysts (Nexis Newsdesk), or nonprofit leaders (Nexis for Development Professionals).

If you want to prepare your students with the skills and practice environment they need to succeed in a data-driven world, start by exploring Nexis Uni for your campus today.