Data has become the new currency of the 21st century, especially with the evolution of social media. Every day, corporations and start-ups alike gather and analyze large quantities of data to find out how their business is faring today, and where it’s heading tomorrow.
With so much data, especially big data, on its hands, companies need employees with solid data analysis skills. People who can decipher and interpret quantitative data, run statistics, and pull out the juicy parts. People such as researchers, project managers, and financial and data analysts.
To manage all this data, these folks are increasingly learning SPSS, also known as IBM SPSS Statistics, one of the most widely used statistical tools today. If you’re considering a career in academia, marketing, health research, or the government, an SPSS course can help you build the valuable skills you need to impress new and potential employers.
What Is SPSS?
SPSS stands for Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. Developed by Stanford University in 1968, SPSS was the first-ever statistical program made for PC. When IBM acquired the program in 2009, its official name changed to IBM SPSS.
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User-friendly and comprehensive, SPSS can easily analyze pretty much any kind of data. It can take data, for example, from a customer database, a piece of academic or market research, or Google Analytics. Designed for interactive and non-interactive users, the software can open most file formats, from Excel spreadsheets to plain text.
SPSS captures complex data, which can be used to create tables, charts, and graphs. The software works in a Mac, Windows, or Linux environment.
What Is SPSS Used For?
The three most common uses are:
- Descriptive statistics. This analysis process aims to describe the characteristics of the data. As a result, the data will be easier to understand and more contextualized.
- Bivariate statistics. The goal here is to study the correlation, or relationship, between two different data sets.
- Multivariate Analysis. SPSS can also be used to study relationships more complex than the bivariate variety, analyzing manifold data relationships simultaneously.
Types of SPSS Variables
SPSS comes with two different variable types. You need to know the difference between the two so that you can employ each type of variable the right way.
This variable only consists of numbers. It is used for numeric calculations, such as subtraction and division.
Also referred to as alphanumeric or character variables, string variables can consist of letters, numbers, and/or symbols.
If you have never come across SPSS before, it will be helpful to have previously worked with a spreadsheet program, such as OpenOffice or MS Excel. Experience with a menu-based statistical program, such as Statcrunch, will also come in handy.
There are tons of resources available online for learning how to use SPSS. Perhaps the only problem is that you need to pay for SPSS. You can try it for free for a limited time or, if you are a university student, you might be able to access and use it for free as part of your program.
How Long Does It Take to Learn SPSS?
If you are a complete novice but set on practicing every day, it will probably take you no more than a few days, and no less than a week, to learn the basics. That would include things like entering data, creating variables, and running a descriptive analysis.
On the other hand, if you want to do more complex exercises, your best bet is to first learn statistics and gain a thorough understanding of research methodology.
How to Learn SPSS: Step-by-Step
As you dive into the statistical universe of SPSS, here is a step-by-step guide to help you along the way.
- Join an SPSS community. You will find SPSS Statistics users in every corner of the world. To join a virtual community is an excellent way to get help and advice from those already in the know.
- Read the SPSS Survival Manual. If you can, try and get your hands on a copy of Julie Pallant’s best-selling SPSS guide. It’s been a lifesaver for numerous students and instructors, and contains heaps of exercises. There are also additional resources available through the book’s website.
- Practice makes perfect. Use Pallant’s exercises or those from another SPSS manual to get you going and then move on to more advanced problems.
- Take a tutorial. Make use of your friend YouTube, where you will find lots of tutorials, aimed at everyone from beginners to experts.
- Study SSP with professor Andy Field. Andy Field is a psychology professor at the University of Sussex in the UK, who has written extensively about statistics and SPSS. His website features some awesome resources, and he even has his own YouTube channel with several SPSS tutorials.
- Stay up-to-date with blogs. Read one of the many SPSS blogs to find out about tips and tricks to make your way around the latest version. Raynald’s SPSS Tools is perfect for starters.
The Best SPSS Courses and Training
It might seem like a bit of a jungle with all the various SPSS courses and tutorials out there. But really, what it all comes down to is your SPSS skill level, what specifically you want to learn, what you will be using SPSS for, and your budget.
Best In-Person SPSS Classes
Although many in-person classes have moved online, there are exceptions, which is great news for those who miss sitting in a real classroom surrounded by classmates.
- First Course: SPSS Essentials
- Time: December 18, 2020 (6 hours)
- Prerequisite: None
- Price: $975
- Second Course: Introduction to SPSS for Data Analysis
- Time: January 8, 2021 (6 hours)
- Prerequisite: None
- Price: $975
- Third Course: Intermediate SPSS
- Time: January 22, 2021 (6 hours)
- Prerequisite for Intermediate SPSS: SPSS proficiency equivalent to NYIM’s Introduction to SPSS course, including being able to enter data, create charts, and produce summary statistics
- Price: $975
Classes are offered in-person, with strict social distancing rules in place, or online. The SPSS Essentials course is aimed at those who analyze big data for a living, conduct quantitative research, collect survey data, or want to use SPSS more effectively.
Introduction to SPSS for Data Analysis introduces SPSS to students who want to gain confidence in their ability to use SPSS software for decoding and analyzing sets of data.
Intermediate SPSS, a sequel to the introductory course, explains more advanced statistical procedures and data management techniques.
Best Online SPSS Courses
With so many free resources available online, it might seem counterintuitive to pay for an online SPSS course. But for intermediate or advanced SPSS users who want to take their career to the next level, it is never a bad move to invest in continuing education. It shows that you are keen to develop your skills and learn from the best.
- Course: Data Analysis for Social Scientists
- Time: 11 weeks (Enrollment begins on February 9, 2021)
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Varies
This data analysis and statistics course is part of the curriculum for two independent MITx MicroMasters, MicroMasters in Statistics and Data Science and MicroMasters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy.
Designed to enable people to work with data, manage SPSS data files, and communicate findings effectively, it covers modern data analysis and related techniques. Cutting-edge research and examples from the real researcher surveys are used to illustrate each concept.
- Course: Advanced Statistical Analysis Using IBM SPSS Statistics
- Time: Self-paced
- Prerequisites: Experience with IBM SPSS Statistics and knowledge of statistics
- Price: CA$695
This course was developed for professionals who use IBM SPSS Statistics in their daily work and who want to become more advanced users. It offers an introduction to advanced statistical methods and reviews the various techniques as well as potential situations.
Best Free SPSS Courses
Among free courses, LinkedIn Learning takes the lead with some excellent tutorials. You have it free for a month, which should be plenty of time to complete some of their classes.
- Courses: SPSS Statistics Essential Training, SPSS for Academic Research, and Machine Learning and AI Foundations: Decision Trees
- Time: 1 – 5 hours
- Prerequisites: From beginners to advanced users
- Price: One month free trial
SPSS beginners can easily and steadily develop into more intermediate users with the Essential Training course. It gives you the tools to start practicing and playing around with the software.
If you are interested in learning how to use SPSS for academic research, SPSS for Academic Research is your go-to tutorial. You will study the basic concepts related to research, learning things like what a hypothesis is, and the differences between quantitative and qualitative research.
For those looking to advance their data science skills, learning machine learning and AI is key. Explore how decision trees work using the IBM SPSS Modeler.
The Open University
- Course: Getting started with SPSS
- Time: 3 hours
- Prerequisites: None
- Price: Free
Through interactive exercises, this introductory course teaches you how to use one of the leading statistical software around. You don’t even need to have access to SPSS.
By the end, you will have learned how to define various variables, and how to test a hypothesis using statistical analysis.
- Course: Learn the Basics of Machine Learning
- Time: 20 hours
- Prerequisites: Comfort with Python, including loops and control flow.
- Price: 7-day free trial
Although it doesn’t cover SPSS per se, this course is brilliant for any aspiring data analyst, or for anyone who wants to use machine learning to analyze data. You can also earn a certificate of completion.
If you are pursuing a bachelor’s degree or higher, you are eligible for the 7-day free trial that comes with the Codecademy Pro Student membership. Just remember that during checkout, you will have to verify your student credentials.
Best SPSS Books
When you find a good textbook, hold on to it as a reference manual so that you can go back to it over and over again as you become more proficient using the software.
Andy Field’s textbook, now in its fifth edition, combines examples for how to use SPSS with statistical theory. It’s that combo that has made the book a hit among researchers, research assistants, graduate students, and undergrads.
SPSS Statistics: A Practical Guide (4th edition), Brody Heritage, Peter Allen, Kellie Bennett
This book is a practical guide for using the latest version of SPSS Statistics, mixing step-by-step instructions with colorful screenshots and annotated examples. It is aimed at research, marketing, and psychology students primarily, but anyone with an interest in using SPSS for research will find it helpful.
Introductory Statistics Using SPSS, Herschel Knapp
Herschel Knapp’s updated introduction to statistics skips the heavy-duty mathematical concepts and theoretical frameworks in favor of answering the most commonly asked questions from students. For example, how do I run a test? And how do I interpret the results?
Downloadable data sets, illustrations, practice exercises and online tutorials show students how to make friends with their data and extract the most important pieces of information.
Top SPSS Certifications
A certificate is a great option if you want to transition to another role within your organization, or are looking to qualify for a job using SPSS outside of academia without getting a full degree.
There is a whole suite of certifications available through the IBM Professional Certification program, suited for different IT roles and skill levels. Each certificate is designed to validate the competence necessary for a given technology and/or solution, as well as related tasks and activities.
The program mainly targets IBM internal employees, consultants who use IBM products, and customers and employees of partner firms who may want or need to demonstrate their expertise.
Due to the pandemic, the certification exams are currently offered online.
The interactive, online SPSS Professional Certification program prepares students for a career within data analysis. It was specifically created for undergraduates applying for work or graduate school.
The program covers SPSS on an intermediate level, including several commonly used statistical applications. You will learn t-tests, multiple regression within social sciences, ANCOVA, descriptive statistics, and ANOVA.
Best Online SPSS Resources
As mentioned in the step-by-step guide, there are a lot of online resources to help you understand and master SPSS. One of the best ways to learn the software is to practice with real data.
Ruben Geert van den Berg, a Dutch trainer in SPSS and statistics, explains the very basic things that you need to grasp in order to use SPSS. That includes syntax, the data editor, and output viewer windows.
Kent State University’s guide introduces SPSS syntax and explains how and when it can be used. This programming language is unique to SPSS and enables data analysis and manipulation that would be very difficult to perform using the drop-down menus.
The guide also features a full list of other SPSS tutorials.
This online guide mainly teaches SPSS syntax, but in addition to that, it covers how SPSS can be used in combination with R and Python.
Should You Study SPSS?
Organizations big and small are generating data around the clock. And that means there is an on-going demand for skilled people who can work their magic with that data, whether to set a business strategy or to tell a story. Expert modelers and tools and solutions experts are just some of the roles that come to mind.
SPSS is especially useful within certain sectors, such as education, where it is heavily relied upon for research within social sciences. Nothing against Excel, but SPSS is more useful and more sophisticated when it comes to visualizing and analyzing data.
Whatever your professional route, SPSS remains a great tool. You don’t necessarily need to learn artificial intelligence or quantitative methods or have a degree in data science or statistics. But do yourself a favor and make sure that you know how to use SPSS well, which will only make you more competitive and attractive on the job market.
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