Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields.
Statisticians typically do the following:
- Apply statistical theories and methods to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields
- Decide what data are needed to answer specific questions or problems
- Determine methods for finding or collecting data
- Design surveys or experiments or opinion polls to collect data
- Collect data or train others to do so
- Analyze and interpret data
- Report conclusions from their analyses
Statisticians design surveys, questionnaires, experiments, and opinion polls to collect the data they need. They may also write instructions for other workers on how to collect and arrange the data. Surveys may be mailed, conducted over the phone, collected online, or gathered through some other means.
Some surveys, such as the U.S. census, include data from nearly everyone. For most surveys and opinion polls, however, statisticians use sampling to collect data from some people in a particular group. Statisticians determine the type and size of the sample to be surveyed or polled.
Statisticians use computers with specialized statistical software to analyze data. In their analyses, statisticians identify trends and relationships within the data. They also conduct tests to find out the data’s reliability and validity. Some statisticians may help create new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently.
Statisticians present the findings from their analyses and discuss the data’s limitations to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn. They may present written reports, tables, charts, and graphs to other team members and to clients. Statisticians also recommend how to improve the design of future surveys or experiments.
Statisticians work in many fields, such as education, marketing, psychology, sports, or any other field that requires collection and analysis of data. In particular, government, healthcare, and research and development companies employ many statisticians.
Government. Nearly every agency in the federal government employs statisticians. These workers develop advanced statistical models for several purposes, such as filling in gaps from nonresponses to surveys. Some statisticians hired by the federal government are known as mathematical statisticians.
Some government statisticians develop and analyze surveys that measure unemployment, wages, or other estimates of jobs and workers. Other statisticians help to figure out the average level of pesticides in drinking water, the number of endangered species living in a particular area, or the number of people who have a certain disease. At national defense agencies, statisticians use computer programs to test the likely outcomes of different defense strategies.
Healthcare. Statisticians known as biostatisticians or biometricians work in pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, or hospitals. They may design studies to test whether drugs successfully treat diseases or conditions. They may also work for hospitals or public health agencies to help identify the sources of outbreaks of illnesses in humans and animals.
Research and development. Statisticians design experiments for product testing and development. For instance, they may help design experiments to see how car engines perform when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Statisticians may also help develop marketing strategies and prices for consumer goods.
Some people with a degree in statistics or who collect and analyze statistical data, however, may not be formally known as statisticians. Instead, they may work in related fields and professions. In some industries, for example, they may be known as quantitative analysts, financial analysts, data analysts, or data scientists.
Statisticians held about 27,600 jobs in 2012. About a quarter of statisticians worked for government, mostly at the federal level.
The industries that employed the most statisticians in 2012 were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||12|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||11|
|State and local government, excluding education and hospitals||9|
|Health care and social assistance||8|
Federal statisticians are commonly employed at the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the National Agricultural Statistics Service, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Statisticians who work for private businesses often work in teams with other professionals. For example, in pharmaceutical companies, statisticians may work with scientists to test drugs for government approval. In insurance companies, they may work with actuaries to calculate the risks of insuring different events.
Statisticians may travel occasionally to meet with team members, set up surveys and research projects, or oversee the collection of data.
Statisticians typically work full time.
Statisticians typically need a master's degree in statistics, mathematics, or survey methodology. However, a bachelor's degree is sufficient for some entry-level jobs. Research and academic jobs generally require a Ph.D.
Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in statistics. A bachelor’s degree in statistics is not needed to enter a graduate program. However, significant coursework in statistics or mathematics is essential. Required subjects for a bachelor’s degree in statistics include differential and integral calculus, statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and probability theory.
Many colleges and universities advise or require students to take courses in a related field, such as computer science, engineering, physics, or mathematics. Candidates with experience in a related discipline are particularly desirable to many employers.
For example, training in engineering or physical science is useful for statisticians working in manufacturing on quality or productivity improvement. A background in biology, chemistry, or health sciences is useful for work testing pharmaceutical or agricultural products.
Because statisticians use and write computer programs for many calculations, a strong background in computer science is also helpful.
Opportunities for promotion are greater for people with master's degrees or Ph.D.s. Statisticians with a master's degree or a Ph.D. usually can design their own work. They may develop new statistical methods or become independent consultants.
Critical-thinking skills. Statisticians use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
Math skills. Statisticians use statistics, calculus and linear algebra to develop their models and analyses.
Problem-solving skills. Statisticians must develop techniques to overcome problems in data collection and analysis, such as high nonresponse rates, so that they can draw meaningful conclusions.
Speaking skills. Because statisticians often work in teams, they must be able to present statistical information and ideas so that others will understand.
Writing skills. Good writing skills are important for statisticians because they write reports explaining technical matters to persons without their level of statistical expertise.
The median annual wage for statisticians was $75,560 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,220 and the top 10 percent earned more than $121,890.
In May 2012, the median annual wages for statisticians in the top five industries in which statisticians worked were as follows:
|Finance and insurance||69,850|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||66,210|
|Health care and social assistance||63,420|
|State and local government, excluding
education and hospitals
Statisticians typically work full time.
Employment of statisticians is projected to grow 27 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is expected to result from more widespread use of statistical analysis to make informed business, healthcare, and policy decisions. In addition, the large increase in available data from the Internet will open up new areas for analysis.
A large amount of data is generated from Internet searching and the use of social media, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Businesses will increasingly need statisticians to organize, analyze, and sort through the data for commercial reasons. Analyses will help companies improve their business processes, design and develop new products, and advertise products to potential customers.
Statisticians will increasingly be needed in the pharmaceutical industry. An aging U.S. population will encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop new treatments and medical technologies. Biostatisticians will be needed to conduct the research and clinical trials necessary for companies to obtain approval for their products from the Food and Drug Administration.
Government agencies will also employ more statisticians to improve the quality of the data available for policy analysis. This occupation will also see growth in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences, where statisticians' skills in designing tests and assessing results are highly useful.
Job prospects for statisticians are projected to be very good. An increasing number of jobs over the next decade will require high levels of statistical knowledge. Job opportunities are expected to be favorable for those with very strong quantitative and data analysis skills.
Graduates with a master's degree in statistics and a strong background in a related discipline, such as finance, biology, engineering, or computer science, are projected have the best prospects of finding jobs in their field of study.
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