A person drawing a red line on a graph

A statistician could...

Develop metrics to help a baseball team manager evaluate a player. Photo of a batter swinging at a baseball Work with public health officials to estimate the number of people afflicted with flu in a region. A map of the United States color-coded by state
Analyze the failure rates of engine parts exposed to extreme weather conditions. A car with headlights turned on during a snow storm Develop and interpret a sampling survey so that governments can predict population growth. Two infants laying side-by-side
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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
Median Salary
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Much Faster than Average (21% or more) In Demand!
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.
Related Occupations
  • Cost estimators
  • Compensation, benefits, and job-analysis specialists
  • Actuaries
  • Mathematicians
  • Operations research analysts
  • Mathematical technicians
  • Numerical tool and process control programmers
  • Traffic technicians
Source: O*Net

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.

Other Qualifications

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.

Watch this video by the U.S. Census Bureau to see what kind of statistics are needed, and how they are processed, for a country like the United States to function properly.

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.

Work Environment

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.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Statisticians

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

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Science Fair Project Idea
If you've ever played or watched basketball, you might already know that your chances of successfully banking a shot on the backboard are higher in certain positions on the basketball court, even when keeping the distance from the hoop the same. Ever wondered what would account for this? Do you think you could actually explain this using geometry? This science project will put your knowledge of geometry and algebra to good use. You will calculate and quantify how much more difficult it is to… Read more
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Psychologists have long studied why people find certain faces more attractive than others. One interesting method used in this area of research is mixing several faces together to make a composite face. The composite face averages the input faces, so that small, non-symmetric features tend to get lost. In this human behavior science project, you will use an online tool to make composite faces, and determine how they compare to real faces in perceived attractiveness. Read more
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Have you ever heard someone described as a video game addict? Do you think video game addicts actually exist? You can determine that for yourself in this science fair project by examining real data from a California research scientist for over 3,000 video game players! Read more
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It has been said that, "Life is like a box of chocolates—you never know what you're going to get" (Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump, 1994). In this science project you can test the "Forrest Gump Chaos Theory" by using M&M's®, which are much cheaper than a box of chocolates. What if life is more like a bag of M&M's? Find out in this science project if some things in life are predictable by using the awesome power of statistics. Read more
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If you have ever tried to hit a target (such as a trash can) with a wad of paper, you know that aim is everything. But it is not always easy to get it right every time! Missing is not that big a deal with a wad of paper, but what if you were in an invading army in the Middle Ages, using a catapult to hurl huge stones and knock down castle walls? For a successful invasion, it would be important to know exactly how far, and how reliably, a catapult could launch a projectile. In this project you… Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
Social media is all the buzz on the internet. What can we do with all the information generated by millions of people posting, tweeting, taking pictures, and chatting? How do companies convert it into profit? While you do not have the tools to analyze data from millions of social media posts by yourself, you will be able to analyze a scaled-down version. Follow the instructions in this project to try your hand at extracting data from a couple of social media sites and use it to create… Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
So baseball's your game? Well, slugger, science and math abound in baseball. Just look at the zillions of "stats." In this project, you can produce some interesting baseball statistics of your own and perhaps settle a long-standing debate. You'll set up experiments at your local playing field to find out which type of bat is better, wood or aluminum. Play ball, and batter up! Read more
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This is a great project for someone interested in both stargazing and photography. Bright city lights and even the light of the full Moon obscure the dimmest stars, which can make identifying constellations more difficult. In this astronomy science project, you will calibrate a digital camera to measure the skyglow in different locations. This can be a great tool to comparing the quality of different star viewing locations. Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
This project shows how mathematical probability sometimes contradicts our intuition. Despite the fact that there are 365 days in a year, if you survey a random group of just 23 people there is a 50:50 chance that two of them will have the same birthday. Don't believe it? Try this project and see for yourself. Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
Everyone's used to the idea that people are either right-handed or left-handed for particular tasks. That is, one hand is preferred (or dominant) over the other for a particular task. Did you know that people also have a dominant eye? This project is designed to look for consequences of having the dominant hand and eye on the same side of the body (uncrossed) vs. having the dominant hand and eye on opposite sides of the body (crossed). Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
If you compare products made primarily for boys with products made primarily girls, you will probably notice differences in colors for the two groups. Why do you think this is? Is it the marketplace responding to gender-based color preferences? Do you think it's the other way around, and the products create gender-based color preferences? Design a survey study to find out if gender actually make a difference in color preferences. Here are some questions you might want to consider when… Read more
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No matter what your favorite card game is, we all wish we could use psychic powers to draw the card we want on our turn. You may not have psychic powers, but you might have the power of probability on your side. In this science project, you will discover how math can help you avoid the words, "Go fish!" Read more
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You're playing Monopoly with a friend, and you've already got Park Place and you really, really want to get Boardwalk. If you're on Pacific Avenue, what are the chances you'll reach your goal? Here's an easy project that will show you how to find out. Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
Male or female? Fat or skinny? Outgoing or quiet? What is your stereotype of a "gamer"? Do your friends have the same mental picture of gamers? How about your parents? This science fair project will help you examine whether the stereotypes of "gamers" actually matches the reality of who plays video games. Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
There is a bewildering selection of different golf balls to choose from for playing the game. Some less expensive, some more expensive, all with different claims for the advantages they will bring to your game. This project can help you determine which type of golf ball is right for you. Read more
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Science Fair Project Idea
What do rocks and clocks have in common? Both keep track of time. Yes, radioactive isotopes present in rocks and other ancient material decay atom by atom at a steady rate, much as clocks tick time away. Geologists use those radioactive isotopes to date volcanic ash or granite formations like the giant Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Anthropologists, archeologists, and paleontologists also use radioactive isotopes to date mummies, pottery, and dinosaur fossils. Does this sound abstract… Read more
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Did you know that in addition to the Sun and planets, our solar system is filled with millions of asteroids, which are chunks of rock left over from the early days of its formation, or from collisions between larger objects like planets? Agencies like NASA track asteroids, not only because they might pose a threat to humanity by colliding with Earth, but because they can provide us with information about the history of our solar system, and even be useful for mining raw materials in space! In… Read more
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Have you ever wondered how playing in a certain stadium affects how well the athletes perform? Major League Baseball (MLB) is played in ballparks that have their own individual quirks when it comes to the exact layout of the field. How an individual ballpark affects player performance, which is known as ballpark effects, is heavily investigated in the field of baseball. To name just a few parks and their different traits, Fenway Park (the long-time home ballpark for the Boston Red Sox in… Read more
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Do you like to play cards? Here's a project that will get you thinking about strategy in card games and help you become a better card player. Read more
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Unless you live in the Southern states, you only hear about the most destructive hurricanes. In fact hurricanes occur every year, even multiple times a year. Each hurricane is a tropical storm related to cyclones and tornadoes, some big and some small. Each hurricane is measured based upon several variables like: wind speed, diameter, direction of movement and speed of movement. Does the size of the hurricane correlate with the wind speed? What information can the eye of the hurricane… Read more

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Additional Information


Additional Support

We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:

  • MedImmune
  • Medtronic
  • Northrop Grumman
Free science fair projects.