Program analysts are employed by government, education systems and nonprofits to assess the effectiveness of a particular program or initiative. To do so, program analysts use statistics, surveys, evaluations and other techniques to make decisions about improving management or organization. As such, courses in these disciplines and others would be extremely useful in advancing a career as a program analyst.
Statistics and Data Analysis
Many program analyst jobs require facility with data management programs like STATA, SPSS or SAS. More generally, program analysts should in the very least understand how to consume and communicate statistical data. A course in statistics would provide the proper training to conduct these types of analysis. Specific types of statistics that are most relevant include regression analysis, which is commonly applied in analyst positions. Understanding how to present statistical information -- through graphs, charts or other media -- is also an important skill that a program manager should have.
Microeconomics and Decision Analysis
Microeconomics is essentially the study of individual decision-making. As such, it is a highly relevant course for a prospective program analyst. Often, a program analyst will need to consider ways to attract more clients or customers, so understanding how these individuals make decisions is extremely useful. In addition, a course in microeconomics will improve a student's ability to think quantitatively and about money, which are both relevant skills for a program analyst. Concepts like utility theory and supply and demand are both helpful for a program analyst career.
Marketing or Psychology
A program analyst's work is not limited to the quantitative analysis of data and statistics. Sometimes, program analysts will need to manage the communication-based aspects of a program, organization or event. A course in marketing or psychology can provide the understanding necessary to communicate complex ideas effectively so they can be readily consumed by a broader audience. A psychology course about the impact of peer pressure, the perception of visual information, or decision theory all provide important knowledge for a program analyst.
Accounting and Finance
Since most program analysts are focused on the financial bottom-line of their given project, a course in accounting or finance would be helpful. Accounting would help a student understand a budget, debit and credit theory, and financial statements. In addition, concepts like discounted value and net present value will help calculate financial returns of proposed changes to a program's management.
Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.