USER STORIES

Finding new ways to measure the unmeasurable

Whitney Coggeshall envisioned a counseling career until a statistics course put her on a path to becoming a measurement scientist.

TOP 3 LESSONS

  • There are countless types of careers you can pursue if you like data, analytics and statistics; opportunities are everywhere. Don't be afraid to explore nontraditional outlets.
  • If you know what you want to do, pursue all your necessary degrees and certifications early, so you can grow your career right out the gate.
  • Conferences are an excellent way to make professional connections, share your own insights and get noticed by potential employers.

THE JOURNEY

Bachelor's and Master's Degrees:
Psychology at James Madison University

PhD:
Educational research and measurement at University of South Carolina-Columbia

Current Career:
Measurement scientist, American Board of Internal Medicine

SEE THE BENEFITS


ON LEARNING SAS® 

Whitney first learned SAS in grad school; the course she took was one of the most marketable courses she's ever had. She still uses SAS in her current career and is certified in Base SAS.


10
The number of years it took for Whitney to complete her advanced education before starting her career.

80% / 10%
As a measurement scientist, Whitney says her job is 80% research, 10% operational.


WHAT DOES A MEASUREMENT SCIENTIST DO?

Measurement scientists use analytics and statistics to develop professional competency assessments. 

I love using data for good. I find that rewarding. Whitney Coggeshall

MY STORY

Q: How did you first get interested in computer science? Did you take courses in high school that sparked your interest?

A:  I wasn't interested in computer science when I was young; I went to a small rural high school, and STEM classes weren't really highlighted. But then I became a psychology major in college and had to take a statistics class and really loved it – I loved learning about research methods. At the time I wanted to become a counselor. Once I graduated, I found out my school had a good master's degree program and I ended up switching to working in assessment. My interest flourished from there.

Q: At what point did you learn SAS?

A: I actually didn't learn SAS until the first year of my master's program. But it turned out that the class where I learned SAS was the most marketable class I've ever had.

Read more of Whitney's story

Q: How did your master's degree program impact your career path? Is this when things started falling into place when it came to your interests?

A: This is when I ended up in the math field, and the courses I took guided me in what I was becoming more interested in. I realized I could be involved in counseling without actually being a counselor. I got interested in being able to measure the unmeasurable, and started getting more involved with educational assessments.

Q: Did you start working after your master's degree, or go straight into a PhD program?

A: I went straight into my PhD program at the University of South Carolina. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I went there to learn things from a different perspective.

Q: It can be tough to go straight through all your education, from undergrad to PhD. If you had to do it all over again, would you do it the same way?

A: I would definitely do it the same way. I'm glad that I've had enough time to get my degree and work my way up in my company; I've had a leg up on all that. But spending all those years concentrating on school was definitely mentally draining. It was an intense 10 years. In the end, though, I knew I was in a field I loved if I could dedicate so much time to it.

Q: Describe what your career is now. What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

A: I'm a measurement scientist. It's mostly a research role nested in a medical organization. I work to help certify physicians, which means I work for a medical company, but I have almost no medical background. My work is more about writing exams; I do all the statistical work needed to create a valid assessment. So, when physicians are taking exams to get certified, the responses they give help determine how much medical knowledge they have. My job is to make sure the appropriate questions get written, and I also use analytics to create scores for their responses.

Q: What do you like best about your job?

A: I like that I get to do research, but I also get to come with solutions that impact people. The thing I love most about my job is that I get to find the best solution that will get implemented; it's a problem-solving role. It's like I get to solve a puzzle every day. 

Some people want their first job to be their dream job, but sometimes it takes awhile to find your balance.

TOOLS FOR SUCCESS

Base SAS® Software

Flexible, extensible 4GL and web-based interface for data access, transformation and reporting.

SAS® Certification

Get certified in SAS to validate your skills and set yourself apart.

SAS Global Forum

This conference offers workshops, presentations, demos and networking opportunities for anyone seeking to broaden their SAS skills and analytics futures.

Becoming a SAS Student Ambassador

Whitney became a SAS Student Ambassador when she was in the early years of earning her PhD. Her advisor, who had worked with her on writing a paper about running the multilevel model, decided to go to SAS Global Forum and suggested Whitney accompany her.  Whitney submitted the paper as part of the ambassador program. (For the record, Whitney's SAS Global Forum paper continues to get cited by other researchers, even though it's been years since she published it).

Finding the Right Career

Whitney offers this advice to recent graduates searching for their first jobs:

"I think that when you first graduate, you should take the best job that's available at the time, even if it's not your dream job, and use it as a learning opportunity. While you're there, find someone you admire and talk to them, find out how they got there. Particularly if you're in a field that requires higher education."

Attending Professional Conferences

While completing her education, Whitney attended several academic conferences – but she said that attending SAS Global Forum was a completely different experience. Both types of conferences are great ways to network, but a professional conference helps you meet potential employers. It's also an interesting way to find out how others are using data and analytics in their own careers.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?


Share Your Story

Whether you sailed through college and got a job immediately – or you took a more meandering path – we'd love to hear how you landed an analytics career. Tell us your best moves, your worst roadblocks and your most insightful advice and we might feature you in a future user story.

Tell us about your analytics career journey.

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