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Data studies help politicians and executives make decisions about which government programs to fund and which sectors of a business to expand. Hospitals, universities and government agencies rely on thousands of data collectors to compile statistical information accurately and efficiently. If number crunching appeals to you, you can enter this industry with minimal training -- although a lack of jobs can make the hiring process competitive.
Just the Facts
Data collectors must pay attention to detail, as a missed keystroke can skew the results of an entire study. You must be reliable and honest, taking care not to share sensitive information that comes through your hands and into your database. Computer skills are important, because most data is stored digitally. You need to maintain focus, and avoid emotional or environmental distractions as you complete what can be repetitive duties. Communication skills are helpful for interacting with clients, coworkers and supervisors.
Data collectors are often called on to assemble a quantitative database from subject information. The involves entering a large sample of statistical information for a set demographic or population. You might need to pore over hospital records and document circumstances surrounding heart attack patients, such as whether they had a family history of heart disease, smoked or ate fatty foods. The data will help paint a larger picture and suggest conclusions about heart disease. You also might document ongoing experiment results or ask specific survey questions over the phone. The parameters of data collection are very specific and you need to take care not to deviate from them.
It’s your job to ensure that raw data is accurate before you document it. When you have questions, you must direct them to the data source or your supervisor. In this job, pitfalls abound. The U.S. Office of Records Integrity warns against the use of partially filled out surveys, vague data-collection instructions and the lack of ways to respond to changes in circumstances during the study. Of course, you should avoid falsifying data and report anyone who engages in this practice.
Take a Number
Most data collectors need only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. About 10 percent of data collectors in 2013 had a post-high school certificate, and 9 percent had some college credits, according to ONet Online. The average salary for a data collector in 2013 was $28,470 a year. You can increase your earning potential by becoming a data collection supervisor, or move on to college or graduate school and pursue a career as a statistician. In this profession, you not only collect data, but you formulate studies and analyze data culled from them to draw conclusions.
Rudy Miller has been writing professionally since 1996. Miller is a digital team leader for lehighvalleylive.com, a local news website and content provider to the Express-Times newspaper in Easton, Pa. Miller holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Miami.