David B. - a 2008 Geography graduate working as an assistant statistician for the Scottish Government
I graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Geography in 2008 and went on to join the Scottish Government as an Assistant Statistician. I am involved in preparations for the 2011 Census working as part of a team which will check that the responses to census questions make sense – for example, spotting errors such as a child recorded as married or in employment. This quality assurance process will ensure that the final statistics fully reflect the population of Scotland. This matters because the government, local authorities and businesses use census results to plan and provide a wide range of public services, including health, housing, transport and education.
As well as identifying inconsistencies my job involves combining responses to questions in order to derive information that was not asked for directly, for example by analysing where people work and how they travel there we can calculate how many miles people travel for their work – that is important for understanding future building and transport requirements. This work saves asking people extra questions in the census.
I liaise closely with the other census offices in the United Kingdom to ensure that there is a harmonised approach to each country’s census quality control procedures. Assistant Statisticians within the Scottish Government have the opportunity to move posts regularly, providing the opportunity to develop new skills and acquire more knowledge by working in different environments.
The connection between statistics and Geography may not seem obvious however the skills I acquired during my degree help me in my line of work. The way that the course is structured allowed me to develop a wide variety of skills which are desirable across many professions. I need to provide information to other departments which requires me to lead meetings and deliver presentations. The course work in Geography has helped me to feel comfortable with these situations. I work as part of a team, meaning that I need to be able to work closely with others, but I also need to take responsibility for tasks and work efficiently on my own. Although the census is a long term project I have strict deadlines to meet – key parts of the programme must to be completed in short timescales before the next phase can begin. My degree course has helped with this because of its requirement to complete various different assignments within their own specific timescales, thereby developing my ability to prioritise.