Since the idea of crunching numbers often is enough to make undergraduate and graduate students cringe, many begin to question why social workers have to take statistics to fulfill their degree requirements. When looking through typical coursework for social workers, statistics is typically the course that social work majors least want to take for a variety of reasons, many of which are rooted in popular misconceptions on the subject. However, the following is a detailed explanation on why having a firm understanding on the seemingly unrelated field of statistics is such a vital tool for graduates in order to achieve career success as a social worker.
Importance of Statistics in Social Work
Although it is often mistakenly equated with mathematics, statistics is actually more about developing logical reasoning than just number crunching. While it does help to have basic math skills to be successful in statistics, most of the complex calculations in statistics are done with easy-to-use computer software. When conducting social work research with the goal of advancing the knowledge in the field, statistics is an essential tool that enables social workers to draw a story out of the mountains of statistical data unearthed. According to the definition of statistics, it is the science of collecting, analyzing, summarizing, and making inferences from data sets. Since conducting research means you have to make sense of all the data compiled, statistics are enormously important for drawing accurate conclusions about the topic being examined in the research.
Despite the fact that statistics is even more vital for those who wish to devote their career to being a quantitative social work researcher, it is still important for all social workers to have a basic understanding on statistical analysis to be successful. In the majority of Master of Social Work (MSW) degree programs, you will be required to complete a capstone project that can lead to extensive amounts of quantitative or qualitative research. Having a foundational knowledge in statistics will ensure that you have the ability to work with large data sets and make completing your capstone project infinitely easier. Once you begin practicing, possessing statistical knowledge will also help you grasp the latest empirical research findings in social work to stay up-to-date on the most effective intervention techniques as well.
How to Survive Taking Dreaded Statistics Courses
Since statistics is part of virtually every accredited social work program, it is important for you to be well-prepared for these courses by taking an undergraduate introductory statistics course before entering the program. Not only will having an introductory statistics course on your transcript give you a leg up with the admissions committee, but it will also give you a firm foundation in descriptive statistics, normal distribution, inference testing, and correlation for having a smooth transition to more advanced statistical analyses. Also, make sure that you devote enough time to master the material by taking a statistics course with a lighter course load, so you have the best chances at understanding the time-consuming content.
Overall, statistics consists of vital mathematical analyses that help social workers draw logical conclusions from the data compiled in their research. If the content makes you really anxious, always remember that there are campus counseling centers available to address this anxiety and provide you with the resources needed to get through the program. Instead of complaining about why social workers have to take statistics or dreading the coursework, remember to keep an open mind about the subject and just have fun with it!