Statisticians are data scientists and mathematicians who use the methods of statistics to collect and analyze data. They can work for government agencies, private businesses, marketing organizations, and healthcare organizations. Skills in statistics and analysis help statisticians to solve problems for business or government. Often, statisticians will design and implement scientific studies and surveys.
You will need a master’s degree for most statistician positions, although you can start working in entry level jobs in statistical analysis with a bachelor’s degree. Although there were only about 30,000 statisticians in 2014 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the primary government agencies employing a number of highly-paid statisticians, the field is projected to be among the fastest growing careers between now and 2024.
In May 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual pay for statisticians was $80,500. Statisticians working for the federal government earned an average of $100,750 a year, while colleges and universities paid statisticians $71,070 on average, according to the BLS.
According to the BLS, the lowest ten percent of statisticians earned less than $46,500. Payscale employee surveys determined that entry level statisticians had an average salary of $66,195.
Statisticians design surveys, experiments, polls, and questionnaires to collect data that can be analyzed. After the data is collected, statisticians analyze it. The job requires skill, education and sound judgment at each step of the process, from design to reporting results. Because information that statisticians collect and analyze is often used to influence public policy, business, and healthcare decisions, the job carries a lot of responsibility. Statisticians are responsible for accurate analysis, good survey and instrument design, and correct reporting of the results of surveys, experiments, polls and tests.
Statisticians must have strong analytical skills, including knowledge of computer programming to design and develop new ways to work with large amounts of data. The job also involves math skills such as calculus, linear algebra and advanced statistics, which are used to develop and model data and analyze results. People skills are also required, because statisticians work with non-technical people to develop instruments to collect data or to set ground rules for data collection. Reports require communication and interpersonal skills in order to translate results and the meaning of data to non-technical managers, co-workers and the general public. Test and survey design also incorporate creativity, problem-solving and “outside of the box” thinking.
Degree and Education Requirements
There are entry-level statistician jobs with a bachelor’s degree, but the overwhelming majority of them require a master’s degree. Depending on the area of specialty, most statisticians will need a bachelor’s degree that incorporates computer science, engineering, physics, or math. Specific courses in calculus, experimental design, probability and statistics theory are required at the undergraduate level. At the graduate level, statisticians need a degree in economics, mathematics, or computer science. Specialized degree examples include healthcare informatics, information science, or public health statistics. The highest-paid statisticians with master’s and doctoral degrees work for the federal government, including healthcare, public health, and labor statistical analysis.
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Rewards and Challenges
Statisticians usually work full time and the job can involve many extra work hours. Statisticians report a lot of intellectual challenge, but the field attracts people with problem-solving skills and a deep interest in data and mathematics. Statisticians produce reports that can have long-lasting, influential results, especially when they report on the effectiveness of drug tests or medical treatments. They also provide reports that can influence the economy, job creation, or future investment, all of which offer job meaning and impact. The technical aspects of being a statistician produce most of the dissatisfaction or challenges that statisticians report. It is sometimes difficult for statisticians to explain the technical aspects of their jobs, or help non-technical coworkers or supervisors understand the analysis of the information they collect.
Education is essential to becoming a statistician, but aspiring statisticians can gain valuable experience and connections they can use to get a job while they are still in school. Undergraduate students are given the opportunity to work on a number of projects through internships or college or university projects. Graduate students have the opportunity to work at a higher level designing or implementing tests that their college or university may be undertaking in partnership with businesses or government agencies. Working as an intern or part-time statistician can provide necessary experience and connections to get a full-time job after graduation. Because the field is growing so fast, statisticians can get valuable networking opportunities and job leads by attending conferences, seminars and symposia in the statistical field in which they want to work.
At 34 percent projected growth between now and 2024, statisticians are among the fastest-growing job fields tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Most of the growth is anticipated to come from the need for analysis of the huge amount of data produced by people using social media, smartphones, and internet searches. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is impacting the profession as well. Financial businesses, marketing agencies, and the pharmaceutical and medical industries are all projected to be major employers of statisticians. Statistical analysis will be required by many different businesses and sectors of the economy. With over 4,120 statisticians in 2016, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, California had the greatest number of statisticians, but Maryland had the highest average pay of over $100,000 for its 3,000 statisticians. Most statisticians living in Maryland work for the federal government or government contractors.
Statisticians are a fast-growing profession because their skills are essential for future growth and progress in almost every area of the economy, from ensuring that new drugs are safe to determining buying trends and consumer interests.