Statistify yourself! The advantages of learning multiple statistics software

We are taught our institutes chosen software

Generally, institutions will choose a single statistical package (be it SPSS, SAS, Stata, R, JASP, Jamovi, etc) and only teach that one package to students across all of their statistics subjects. This makes sense from a learning and teaching point of view. However, what happens when you are trained on SPSS and then apply for a position at an institute that only uses R? It is not unheard of for some job descriptions to even require competency in that particular institute’s chosen program. So what should you do? I have found knowing a range of programs helps to have a competitive edge and addresses this exact problem. Below I run through my own experiences learning JASP, Jamovi, SPSS, Stata, MPlus, and R.

The easy stuff

Some programs are actually really easy to learn. For example, JASP and Jamovi are point-and-click based programs that are freely available and almost deceptively simple to use. However, the trade off is the lack of customisability and power of these programs. For example, Jamovi does not do bootstrapping for anything other than moderation and mediation models. Nevertheless, these are programs that some institutes may use if they cannot afford a paid statistical package and do not want to go through the trauma of learning R.

The moderate stuff

SPSS, Stata, and MPlus (and potentially others) are actually not too bad to learn. Once you learn how to write syntax for one, learning it for the others isn’t too bad. However, they each have their own quirks and approaches to syntax. These are programs that will take a little longer to learn. However, I have found learning these the most beneficial. Each can do things the other can’t and being able to shift between them almost on the fly has empowered me to run analyses my colleagues have not been able to do.

The hard stuff

R. For some this is a walk in the park, for many others the mere sight of that capital letter is enough to instill fear. However, it is extremely flexible and completely free. The big advantage of this is that it is a piece of software you will always have access to. No subscription needed. There are many many other benefits to R which I just do not have the space to explore in this paper. But it is because of these advantages that more and more institutions seem to be turning to R over other programs. 

The Takeaway

There are plenty of programs out there, some harder than others, but in a competitive industry having the ability to say ‘yes I can use X program’ could be important. The institute I am based at uses Jamovi, yet my ability to use R, SPSS, and MPlus (among others) has made me a go-to person for conducting analyses outside of Jamovi’s scope. There are other programs like MatLab and Python which I have not personally learned. Please feel free to comment on your experience with these or other programs. What would you recommend others learn?

~ Chris

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