Employers across the board demand this underrated skill.
Are you under the impression that earning a college degree is fairly straightforward? Go to class. Take a test. Write an essay. Repeat. Well, think again.
Truth be told, not all college majors are created equal. The most important lessons in school go beyond what you'd learn from filling out bubbles on a multiple-choice test. And the best college degrees should help you build real world skills that future employers want, says Jillian Kinzie, associate director of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute, a higher education research organization.
You might even be able to guess some of those in-demand skills - strong writing, problem-solving, and complex thinking abilities. But one that's probably not on your radar: quantitative reasoning.
"It's the ability to understand and use statistical information," says Kinzie, who coauthored the NSSE's 2013 report, "A Fresh Look at Student Engagement." The report found that regardless of careers, employers demand quantitative skills from college graduates. However, about only one-third of college graduates demonstrated proficiency in quantitative literacy, according to a 2003 National Assessment of Adult Literacy.
Thankfully, you don't need to be a math major to refine this essential skill. According to Kinzie, many fields of study teach the ability to take quantitative data and use it to come to solid conclusions. Some real-world applications include determining how to market a product better, build a better iPhone app, or make better sales projections.
"It's a skill that everyone needs these days. There isn't a major I can think of, even arts majors, that don't need to have some quantitative understanding," Kinzie says.
There are some majors, however, that help students build this skill better than others. So we spoke to Kinzie about degrees that might teach this in-demand skill.
When working with computers, speaking their language - of numbers and data - is essential. So it makes sense that this tech degree is heavy on quantitative reasoning.
The Hot Skill Factor: Quantitative reasoning is vital for computer science students, says Kinzie, because in the real world, workarounds will not get the job done, impress employers, or advance careers in technology fields. "These fields require creative problem solving, often based on quantitative data, and that's what's often required in the professions the degree leads to," she says.
This major involves learning how to make financial decisions. And when lots of money is at stake, one of the most solid problem-solving methods is to use quantitative reasoning.
The Hot Skill Factor: The world of finance has changed and now requires the ability to respond to complex, ever-changing global situations. Finding solutions in finance usually involves making sophisticated calculations and using complicated financial instruments that demand quantitative literacy, says Kinzie.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Finance Program.
Let's put it this way: You're not going to find the load strength of a structure by analyzing a poem. But as an engineering major, you may use quantitative reasoning to solve practical problems and create everything from bridges to electronics.
The Hot Skill Factor: "This major has carefully crafted assignments and projects that invite students to use and rely on numerical information," says Kinzie. They mirror the real world situations that engineers face, she explains.
"So, by the time they graduate, they're very comfortable with using that reasoning in new and different applications," she says. For employers, she adds, that's extremely important.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Engineering Program.
Bachelor's Degree #4: Mathematics
Have you ever wondered how often you'd need math in real life? Well, this major does have a place in the real world and in the job market.
The Hot Skill Factor: "I think math has gotten a bad rap. It's not just about solving complex equations and crunching numbers in a dry, purely theoretical way," says Kinzie. She says that math has very meaningful real world applications.
"The strong quantitative reasoning skills a concentration in math gives students is applicable in so many fields and is a very marketable skill set," she says.
- Market Research Analyst
- Personal Financial Advisor
In business, the bottom line is everything. And if you major in business, you may learn how to work toward that goal through quantitative reasoning - again, the ability to understand, use, and apply statistical information.
The Hot Skill Factor: "Business majors use quantitative reasoning constantly to come up with solutions to everyday problems that happen in the real world of business," says Kinzie.
You could apply this skill to various areas - marketing with data on customer trends, accounting with cost and profit analysis, or even management with growth projections, she explains.
Next step: Click to Find the Right Business Program.