Job Title: Institutional Researcher
Type of Company: I work for a private research university.
Education: BS, Washington University (St. Louis, MO) MBA, Insead
Previous Experience: Most of my work experience has little to do with my current job. In my previous job I was a financial analyst and became involved with institutional research through that.
Job Tasks: I am responsible for external reporting of university data (number of undergraduate or graduate students, number of degrees awarded, financial information, etc.) to the federal government and responding to the publishers of the various guides to colleges. I work with all different areas at the university: students, faculty and admissions, finance, alumni relations, etc.
Another area for which I am responsible is survey administration and analysis and distribution of the results of the survey to interested parties. Sometimes this includes designing the survey and its questions from scratch and at other times it just includes administering a survey that has been used in the past.
More recently I have become involved in assessment of student learning outcomes as part of a committee of faculty and administrators who are scrutinizing the learning goals of all of our students and how they'll be measured and used.
Every year I produce a fact book that provides key information about the university (an expanded version of the external data reported).
I also work with our information technology division on the administrative systems that are used to keep our student and faculty records, such as courses taken and taught, grades, etc.
In addition to these tasks, there is always some special area or topic that is of interest to the President or other senior administrators that I need to research and report on. Some recent examples are a comparison of in-class versus on-line course evaluations, doctoral education, and class sizes by department.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: One of the best features of the job is seeing the results of your research and work being used by faculty and administrators to improve the institution. It makes me feel like what I do can make a difference in the life of the students.
One of the worst things about the job is that whenever someone needs something, they normally need it immediately and I have to stop whatever I'm working on and provide it.
1. If you want to succeed as an institutional researcher you need to be both a good politician and a good statistician.
2. Numbers don't exactly lie but they can be made to stretch the truth.
3. A very useful skill to have would be a good understanding of databases and data warehouses. Much of the data we report on is in large relational databases and a good understanding of their structure makes your job much easier.
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