Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$58,620 per year
Employment Outlook: Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Statisticians collect and analyze mathematical data to solve problems and make predictions on future outcomes. They apply their knowledge to many different fields, including manufacturing, government, science, engineering, and public health. Using statistical techniques, statisticians can make forecasts on population growth, economic conditions, or the outcome of elections. Some statisticians work to develop the theories on which statistical techniques are based.
When statisticians are assigned a project, they first plan ways to collect the information they need. They draw on their knowledge of probability and sampling. For example, to predict the outcome of an election, statisticians might design a survey of a sample group of people who represent all the voters. Sampling substitutes the impossible task of asking every person how he or she plans to vote. Statisticians carefully develop questionnaires that yield clear answers and useful information. They supervise the workers who carry out the survey and tabulate the data. When all the information is collected, statisticians study and interpret it. They may then make recommendations to their superiors or clients.
Statisticians 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.
Education and Training Requirements
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. Courses in computers and business administration are often helpful. 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.
Statisticians must have an aptitude for figures and be interested in working with numbers. The ability to organize figures and to think logically is also necessary.
Getting the Job
A college placement office may be able to help a graduating student find a job as a statistician. Interested individuals should check the classified ads of local newspapers and Internet job banks for openings. State and private employment agencies may offer job leads. Those who are interested in a government job should apply to take the necessary civil service examination. A person can also apply directly to firms that employ statisticians.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Statisticians with exceptional ability can rise to top management jobs. Those who have advanced degrees and expand their area of expertise have the best chances for advancement.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nineteen thousand people in the United States were employed as statisticians in 2004. Employment of statisticians was expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for these workers was expected to grow more slowly than average in both the public and private sectors. However, openings will occur as experienced statisticians retire or leave their jobs for other reasons.
Statisticians usually work in comfortable and pleasant offices. At times statisticians are under considerable pressure to meet deadlines. They are generally required to work forty hours per week, but statisticians sometimes work extra hours without pay.
Where to Go for More Information
American Mathematical Society
201 Charles St.
Providence, RI 02904
American Statistical Association
1429 Duke St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings vary with education, experience, and the size of the employing firm. The median annual salary for a statistician was $58,620 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those with the top 10 percent of salaries made more than $100,500 per year. Statisticians employed by the federal government earned a median salary of $81,262 per year. Benefits usually include paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement contributions.