A statistician makes sense of large sets of raw data by analyzing trends and putting the information into usable reports.
What Does a Statistician Do?
Statistics is just one branch of mathematics. In this area of the hard science, practitioners collect, collate and analyze large data sets of numerical data. This data is processed into databases for analysis, manipulation, processing and reporting. In environmental science, statisticians may examine a number of issues such as pollution analysis over a certain area, average temperature change between seasons (or global mean averages) and examine which areas are experiencing the most average ice loss. Although in these roles they are likely to be employed as environmental data analysts, there are roles for general statisticians too.
Regardless of where a statistician works, typical responsibilities may include data acquisition or assessing results from previous studies; they may even be responsible for designing how data is gathered. These professionals will be experts in applying the relevant statistical methodology to complex or big data sets. They will often work as a consultant either to exterior stakeholders or to decision makers. In some cases, they may be expected to produce potential forecasts or models based on past data. Finally, they may be required to produce their report data in multiple formats depending on the intended audience. Increasingly, statisticians are expected to use relevant software such as SPSS, MS Access and in some cases - Geographic Information Systems.
Where Does a Statistician Work?
Statisticians are required everywhere from business planning, marketing, disaster relief, government infrastructure, pollution monitoring and many other areas. Students with statistics degrees or related will find many doors open to them across the employment board almost anywhere in the world.
According to 2014 data, the largest employer of this type of employee was the Federal government with 15%. These are required at all levels but most commonly employed at the US Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Agricultural Statistics Service and Bureau of Economic Analysis. Other bodies will include the EPA, FEMA and departments responsible for infrastructure. Law enforcement agencies will employ these professionals to plan resources effectively too.
The second largest employer was scientific research services with 14% of the employee base. They work on a contract basis, employed for specific scientific tasks sometimes for charity and sometimes for government contracts. One example of this is monitoring the performance of a drug treatment for FDA approval. They are independent consultants, sometimes self-employed but usually working for an agency. The fifth was management scientific consulting. This is slightly different in that they work independently to provide statistics services in areas other than science.
The third largest area is finance with 13%. Most of the western economy today is driven by the financial sector. Speculation in the stock market and in investment banking produces big data requiring constant update and analysis. There are potentially lucrative and secure jobs in this area.
The fourth largest area is in education at 9%, either in teaching mathematics or in state or Federal planning for allocation of resources and budgets.
What Is the Average Statistician Salary?
The BLS reported in May 2016 that the average salary for a statistician was $80,500. The lowest 10% earned $46,500 while the highest 10% claimed a salary in excess of $130,000. The highest paying area was Federal government with an average salary of $100,750. These will be high-level decision-making roles in FDA, EPA, BLS and others. Scientific research bodies paid the next highest salary with an average $87,510. Third was Management scientific technical at $79,710. Then came the finance sector with $79,290. The fifth was education at $71,070.
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An aspiring statistician must have a strong background in math and statistics and familiarity with relational databases and fundamental statistical methods. A statistician at the beginning of his or her career may be tasked with the following job duties:
- Analyze and interpret statistical data to identify relationships among sources of information
- Prepare data for processing by organizing information, checking for inaccuracies and adjusting and weighing the raw data
- Process large amounts of data for statistical modeling and graphic analysis using specialized software programs
- Report results of statistical analysis, including information in the form of graphs, charts and tables
- Identify relationships and trends in data sets, as well as any factors that could impact the results of the research project
A statistician who has developed several years of work experience may take on more of a project management role. He or she may have the following additional job duties:
- Design and implement analytic strategies based on research questions
- Work with colleagues across disciplines to take the lead on statistical aspects of study design, coordinating the analysis, validation, study documentation and on the publication of study data
- Develop software applications or programing for use in statistical modeling and graphic analysis
- Evaluate the statistical methods and procedures used to obtain data to ensure validity, applicability, efficiency and accuracy
What Is the Job Demand for Statisticians?
Demand for statisticians is expected to grow 34% between 2014 and 2024. This is an enormous increase in demand, five times that of the average of all jobs in the USA at present. There could even be a skills shortage during this period. The reason for this increased demand is the advent of big data. The ability to capture, store, manipulate and process quantitative data has opened up better decision making. The ability to collect more data than ever before means that this technology is still in a growth phase.
What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Statistician?
Statistics is a math-heavy subject. Therefore, high school students will require a strong grade in math in order to gain access to a relevant degree course. In the modern age, information technology will also be required. In a job role, statisticians may use Microsoft SPSS and Access. If the student intends to work in the environmental field, they may rely heavily on these software packages and also on GIS.
There are many degree options for prospective students. The most obvious is a degree in statistics or mathematics but these are not the only choices. Degrees in physics, information technology, computer science and any engineering degree will include statistic. If the student wishes to enter into a particular career to apply their skills (such as environment or GIS), they should take their intended specialism as a major and choose math and statistics as relevant minors.
For most statistics roles, a master's degree will be required although, with the high present demand, most students with only a BS should not experience much difficulty finding the right entry-level role. Relevant master's degrees include statistics, data science and data analytics or related. Doctorates are not necessarily required for most roles, but government jobs may demand graduates at the highest level. In some cases, a student may be able to combine their MS with a PhD program.
Other Degrees Related to Statistics
What Kind Of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Statisticians Have?
Statistics is an important science in all areas and has been since the enlightenment.
- American Statistical Association: Despite the name, it is a global organization and the world's largest for those who work with statistics. It is the second oldest organization of its kind. They also administer “This Is Statistics”, an outreach program for students and educators
- Royal Statistical Association: Based in the UK, this is the first and largest organization of its kind, working to drive forward the science of statistics through good practice and raising awareness of the importance of statistics