A program evaluator is a person who collects data and other information to analyze, rate and generally answer questions regarding specific projects, policies and programs offered by organizations, government agencies and businesses. Program evaluators work in both the public and private sectors. Through interviews, observations and focus groups, they make informed judgments on the merit of various programs. In general, a program evaluator determines if the established programs are efficient and a good use of the company’s financial and personnel investments.
In the past, evaluation was seen as an unnecessary expense, but accountability for spending has driven the demand for efficient programs. Funding agencies are demanding reports on how their money is being spent and the actual performance of the programs. As a result, a program evaluator may be required to answer general questions such as, “How did the program perform?” In addition, they may be required to evaluate more in depth issues such as, “We invested a half a million dollars to develop a program last year. How did the program spend our money?”
Employment for program evaluators encompasses various fields. They often work in school systems, public health organizations, municipal and other government agencies and private sector companies. Using a multitude of research methods and statistical processes, they evaluate the impact of the programs.
Program evaluation is a valuable tool to verify and appraise the impact of programs or products on the customers and clients. Working closely with management, the program evaluator can identify unmet customer needs, as well as areas that require improvement and the best way to improve the product. When designing an evaluation, the evaluator should consider the following: what is the purpose of the evaluation, who is receiving the obtained data, what information is necessary and who, meaning clients, should be evaluated? In addition, evaluators can provide an objective view, backed up with relevant data, of the program.
Program evaluators come from a diverse background and must have exceptional communication and analytical skills to present focused concise findings. Being friendly and professional is also an asset. To become a program evaluator usually requires and an undergraduate degree, internship experience and practical hands on research projects. Completing a master’s degree, usually in the social sciences, and even pursuing a PhD is not uncommon. There are courses available to become a program evaluator, which can be explored by contacting local colleges and universities.