Numbers can tell us a lot, especially in fields like healthcare, business, engineering and science – but we can only learn from them if we know how to interpret them. Statisticians are the mathematics professionals who specialize in gathering and analyzing numerical data.
When confronted with a real-world problem to solve, statisticians figure out what data they will need to explore and devise ways of collecting that data, such as through surveys, polls or experiments. After they gather this information, they use statistical methods and theories – and, often, computer software – to analyze that data. They interpret what the numbers mean in context and find patterns and relationships between them. Then they use their findings to answer questions and solve problems.
Statisticians find employment in a wide range of industries. Approximately one-quarter of all statisticians work for the government at the federal, local or state level, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Others work in business, education, engineering, healthcare, marketing, psychology, science, sports or even research and development departments within manufacturing and technology companies.
An advanced degree is essential for success as a statistician. First, of course, students begin at the undergraduate level. They may pursue bachelor’s degrees in statistics, or in related fields like mathematics. At the undergraduate stage, aspiring statisticians must develop a solid foundation in subjects like statistical methods, probability theory, mathematical modeling and differential and integral calculus, the BLS reported.
Often, students will also choose to study relevant subjects like computer science, physics and engineering in addition to their math or statistics courses to make their educations even more valuable. Candidates who already know what industry they want to work in can take specific courses relevant to their intended niche. Students interested in a career involving statistics related to pharmaceutical products can help their chances by studying chemistry, biology or health sciences, according to the BLS.
While a bachelor’s degree may open doors to certain entry-level roles, a master’s degree is a requirement for most statistician positions. Naturally, many candidates seek a master’s degree in statistics specifically. However, others choose a related subject, like mathematics or survey methodology, to study at the graduate level, the BLS reported. For some statistician career choices, like those in research or academia, candidates may be required to hold a doctoral degree.
Statisticians earn a median annual salary of $75,560, the BLS reported. Those who work for the federal government – about 17 percent of all statisticians – earn a significantly higher median salary of $97,250 per year. Opportunities for statisticians are rapidly increasing. The BLS expects the number of jobs in this field to grow by 27 percent over a decade, compared to just 11 percent job growth expected across all occupations.
A career as a statistician equates to a lifetime of analyzing information and using numbers to answer questions. The candidates who find this career path most rewarding are typically the candidates who excel at math, enjoy the challenge of solving problems and are willing to work hard to develop their analytical and critical-thinking skills.