Dr. Barbara Downs
PhD, Sociology, University of Michigan, 1998
BA, Sociology, UIC, 1992
Director of the Federal Statistical Research Data Center program at the Center for Economic Studies at the U.S. Census Bureau. She began working at the Census Bureau as an Analyst, working on surveys on fertility in the Family branch of the Bureau.
How sociology prepared her for working at the Census Bureau
Barbara says that sociology prepared her for her work by teaching her survey methodologies and how to analyze data. She uses what she learned to create and administer surveys in her work. Broadly, she says that sociology gave her the technical skills to examine the world. Dr. Downs says sociology also helps her in everyday interactions and when gauging sources like the news, asking how information was gathered and processed.
Do you need a PhD to work at the Census Bureau?
Barbara says the census bureau also employs those with bachelor’s degrees, just starting at a lower analyst job code than PhDs. If you liked statistics and surveys as a sociology major, you might enjoy working at the Census Bureau!
Advice for students of Sociology
Seek feedback from faculty and keep practicing at the things you think you’re not good at, until you are!
A favorite memory of her time in school
Dr. Downs once had a professor who made students write and re-write the same essay over and over until it was perfected. She learned about editing, continuing to practice your skills, and how to take feedback from mentors.
Interview by: Halimah Salah