Among almost 70,000 individuals (in a subset of a larger dataset), here are three graphs that plot the highest level of educational attainment gained against level of seniority, where F is the least senior level and A is the most senior level:

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The graphs indicate that the higher the level of seniority, the greater the incidence of masters and doctorate qualifications, which might at first suggest that an investment in an advanced university degree could improve one’s career prospects.

But there are some other things to think about:

  • Individuals with masters and doctorate qualifications are a small minority at all levels. The largest share of educational attainment is the bachelors level, which hovers around 40% of respondents. Even if masters and doctorates are increasingly represented in more senior levels, the majority have reached their level without it.
  • The full data set indicated that not all individuals responded to the survey. The graphs above just show educational attainment of those who participated (around 70% of all individuals). This could mean that the results are influenced by any number of possible self-selection biases of individuals who chose to participate. A census of all individuals, though often difficult to collect, would be more reliable.
  • What worked well for the current cohort of senior-level individuals (who likely reached their positions after a few decades of work) might not work well for the next generation of senior-level staff. What applies in the past will not necessarily apply in the future.
  • Are the individuals in the more senior level positions using the content knowledge or skills they gained from their masters and doctorates? If so, what are the skills and content that differentiate masters and doctorates from bachelors qualifications, and what is the most efficient way to obtain that knowledge?
  • Beyond educational attainment, other possible explanatory factors might include career aspiration,  diversity and depth of work experiences and networking ability.

There are a number of unanswered questions here and I’m not curious enough to answer them all. I’m satisfied to conclude that an observation of this group of individuals is that advanced university degrees (masters and doctorates) are represented in greater and greater proportions the more senior the position. However, almost half of the individuals at each level have at most a bachelors degree.

I somewhat enjoyed looking through the data and trying to draw out some meaning. Having some basic data skills seems to be increasingly important in a world where ‘big data’, ‘open data’ and just… data everywhere is creeping into every industry and occupation, and so at least a basic level of data comprehension is likely to be more helpful than not in the future.

By the lake this morning


Food: noodles, three gels, biscuits, broad beans, watermelon, persimmon, beans with tomato and corn, potatoes, untuna, lettuce, ice cream, coffee, macaron.

Workout: 66km bike ride with 534m elevation at 20.2km/h