A statistician could...
|Develop metrics to help a baseball team manager evaluate a player.||Work with public health officials to estimate the number of people afflicted with flu in a region.|
|Analyze the failure rates of engine parts exposed to extreme weather conditions.||Develop and interpret a sampling survey so that governments can predict population growth.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Statisticians use the power of math and probability theory to answer questions that affect the lives of millions of people. They tell educators which teaching method works best, tell policy-makers what levels of pesticides are acceptable in fresh fruit, tell doctors which treatment works best, and tell builders which type of paint is the most durable. They are employed in virtually every type of industry imaginable, from engineering, manufacturing, and medicine to animal science, food production, transportation, and education. Everybody needs a statistician!|
|Key Requirements||Curious, detail-oriented, and able to find patterns and relationships within raw data, thanks to excellent analytical, logic, and communication skills.|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Chemistry, physics, biology, computer science, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus, English; if available, statistics, environmental science, economics|
|Projected Job Growth (2010-2020)||Faster than Average (14% to 20%)|
|Interview||Read this interview with a General Electric industrial statistician who helps design products ranging from medical scanners to washing machines, so that they have the highest possible quality, low failure rates, and can operate well in a wide range of climates and conditions.|
Training, Other Qualifications
A bachelor's degree in statistics or mathematics is sufficient for an entry level job with the Federal Government, but most higher level jobs, or jobs outside of the government require a master's degree, and research and academic jobs generally require a PhD.
Education and Training
The minimum education required in this field is a bachelor's degree in mathematics or statistics. Depending on the particular job, a statistician may need a major in some other subject, such as economics or biology, with a minor in statistics. A statistician with only a bachelor's degree does very routine work. A graduate degree or sometimes multiple graduate degrees are required for the more advanced jobs. A doctoral degree is generally required for those who teach in colleges and universities.
Because computers are used extensively for statistical applications, a strong background in computer science is highly recommended. For positions involving quality and productivity improvement, training in engineering or physical science is useful. A background in biological, chemical, or health science is important for positions involving the preparation and testing of pharmaceutical or agricultural products. Courses in economics and business administration are helpful for many jobs in market research, business analysis, and forecasting.
Good communications skills are important for prospective statisticians in industry who often need to explain technical matters to persons without statistical expertise. An understanding of business and the economy also is valuable for those who plan to work in private industry.
Nature of the Work
Statisticians collect and analyze mathematical data to solve problems and make predictions on future outcomes. They may apply their knowledge of statistical methods to a variety of subject areas, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, public health, psychology, marketing, education, and sports. Some statisticians work to develop the theories on which statistical techniques are based. Using statistical techniques, statisticians can make forecasts on population growth, economic conditions, or the outcome of elections.
One technique that is especially useful to statisticians is sampling—obtaining information about a population of people or group of things by surveying a small portion of the total. For example, to determine the size of the audience for particular programs, television-rating services survey only a few thousand families, rather than all viewers. Statisticians decide where and how to gather the data, determine the type and size of the sample group, and develop the survey questionnaire or reporting form. They also prepare instructions for workers who will collect and tabulate the data. Finally, statisticians analyze, interpret, and summarize the data using computer software.
Statisticians are employed by nearly every government agency. Some government statisticians develop surveys that measure population growth, consumer prices, or unemployment. Other statisticians work for scientific, environmental, and agricultural agencies and may help 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 afflicted with a particular disease. Statisticians also are employed in national defense agencies, determining the accuracy of new weapons and the likely effectiveness of defense strategies.
In business and industry, statisticians play an important role in quality control and in product development and improvement. In an automobile company, for example, statisticians might design experiments to determine the failure time of engines exposed to extreme weather conditions by running individual engines until failure and breakdown. Working for a pharmaceutical company, statisticians might develop and evaluate the results of clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of new medications. At a computer software firm, statisticians might help construct new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently. In addition to product development and testing, some statisticians also are involved in deciding what products to manufacture, how much to charge for them, and to whom the products should be marketed. Statisticians also may manage assets and liabilities, determining the risks and returns of certain investments.
Statisticians also work on the research and marketing problems of many industries. The insurance industry employs statisticians, as do state and federal governments. The primary purpose of market research and public opinion research companies is to collect and interpret statistics. Statisticians in industry often work on quality control and product development issues. In a computer company, for instance, statisticians might design experiments that determine the failure rate of keyboards or the error rate of software. Universities employ statisticians both to teach and to do research.
Statisticians may have other titles according to their specialty. For example, those who conduct economic research may be called econometricians. Those who work to improve the basic mathematical theories behind statistical work are often called mathematical statisticians. Statisticians who collect and analyze data in the biological sciences are sometimes known as biostatisticians.
Statisticians generally work regular hours in an office environment. Sometimes, they may work more hours to meet deadlines.
Some statisticians travel to provide advice on research projects, supervise and set up surveys, or gather statistical data. While advanced communications devices, such as email and teleconferencing, are making it easier for statisticians to work with clients in different areas, there still are situations that require the statistician to be present, such as during meetings or while gathering data.
On the Job
- Report results of statistical analyses, including information in the form of graphs, charts, and tables.
- Process large amounts of data for statistical modeling and graphic analysis, using computers.
- Identify relationships and trends in data, as well as any factors that could affect the results of research.
- Analyze and interpret statistical data to identify significant differences in relationships among sources of information.
- Prepare data for processing by organizing information, checking for any inaccuracies, and adjusting and weighting the raw data.
- Evaluate the statistical methods and procedures used to obtain data to ensure validity, applicability, efficiency, and accuracy.
- Evaluate sources of information to determine any limitations in terms of reliability or usability.
- Plan data-collection methods for specific projects and determine the types and sizes of sample groups to be used.
- Design research projects that apply valid scientific techniques and use information obtained from baselines or historical data to structure uncompromised and efficient analyses.
- Develop an understanding of fields to which statistical methods are to be applied to determine whether methods and results are appropriate.
- Supervise and provide instructions for workers collecting and tabulating data.
- Apply sampling techniques or use complete enumeration bases to determine and define groups to be surveyed.
- Adapt statistical methods to solve specific problems in many fields, such as economics, biology, and engineering.
- Develop and test experimental designs, sampling techniques, and analytical methods.
- Examine theories, such as those of probability and inference, to discover mathematical bases for new or improved methods of obtaining and evaluating numerical data.
Companies That Hire Statisticians
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
- A Box Office Disappointment: Why the Book is Always Better than the Movie
- Animal Magnetism: Do Large Mammals Align Themselves with Earth's Magnetic Field?
- Are More Expensive Golf Balls Worth It?
- Baseball Bat Debate: What's Better, Wood or Aluminum?
- Basketball: The Geometry of Banking a Basket
- Basketball: Will You Bank the Shot?
- Bet You Can't Hit Me! The Science of Catapult Statistics
- Boys and Girls All Around the Town
- Can Adults Pass a Middle School Science Test?
- Correlation of Coronal Mass Ejections with the Solar Sunspot Cycle
- Crossed Up: Does Crossed Hand/Eye Dominance Affect Basketball Shooting Percentage?
- Decisions, Decisions: Judging a Book by Its Cover?
- Dice Probabilities
- Do People Take Longer When Someone Is Waiting? Perception vs. Reality
- Does Birth Order Affect Grade Point Average?
- Does Body Size Matter?
- Does Gender Affect Color Preference?
- Does the Base Stealer Take the Base from the Catcher or the Pitcher?
- Dry Spells, Wet Spells: How Common Are They?
- Evolution of Friendship Groups Over Time
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Statistician that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- American Statistical Association: www.amstat.org
- O*Net Online. (2009). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved May 1, 2009, from http://online.onetcenter.org/
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2010, October 18). World Statistics Day: Statistics All Around Us. Retrieved April 9, 2014, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piSCkkSvoMo
- Hahn, G. (n.d.). Never a Dull Day: The Life of an Industrial Statistician! Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://www.amstat.org/meetings/jsm/2000/usei/quality.PDF
- Net Industries. (2009). Statistician Job Description, Career as a Statistician, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job. Retrieved October 16, 2009, from http://careers.stateuniversity.com/pages/228/Statistician.html
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
- Northrop Grumman