How to Become a Statistician
Overview of Statistician Role
Statistics is a science that applies mathematics to the tasks of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting many types of data and other information. Statistics cover the collection analysis, and presentation of data including surveys, experiments, and testing. Statistics are part of everyday life. Sports performance averages, employment percentages, and information about income and living costs are all evidence of the work of statisticians. The statistician is an expert in data analysis using mathematical principles and probabilities. There are two major branches of statistics, and many sources refer to them as theoretical statistics and applied statistics.
Theoretical statistics is primarily an academic occupation. It involves research and experimentation to innovate theories and models. The college and graduate level faculty in US colleges and universities would frequently be theoretical statisticians. Applied statistics helps solve problems in business and government, and this discipline affects nearly everyone. For example, every government agency relies upon statistics to define missions, measure impacts, and assess the status of things within their areas of concern.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for the broader field of mathematicians and statisticians will grow at a strong pace. The Bureau estimate is for 33 percent growth in the decade ending in 2026. The 33 percent rate is much higher than the overall estimated growth rate for all occupations. Some areas seem particularly well established for strong growth. The pharmaceutical field relies heavily on statistics, sampling, and probability. Government at all levels will have increased needs for statisticians as its sources and types of data change and expand.
According to PayScale, the average salary for a statistician is about $71,800 per year. The mid-career range is approximately $85,000, and the late-career range is about $115,000.
How to Become A Statistician
Step One – Formal Education
A high school diploma or equivalent will qualify a student to enter a two or four-year college. The entry-level formal education is a bachelor’s degree. Statisticians nearly always have a bachelor’s degree in statistics, mathematics, or computer science. Students can major in almost any science area and add a minor and concentration in statistics. This combination may be particularly effective for students that wish to work in a specific subject area such as manufacturing, or Biostatistics.
Step Two – Experience
Starting in college, statisticians can begin building a portfolio of applied statistics and theoretical work. They can get internships and participate in research or projects. Sponsored contests offer statisticians an opportunity to take challenging applied work. These competitions can provider recognition and experience in the type of challenges that statisticians must handle in the real world.
Step Three – Advanced Education
A master’s degree will gain advantages in settings like government, the corporate sector, healthcare, and commercial enterprises. Graduate schools and colleges need doctoral level statisticians to form the core of higher education instruction and research. Certification adds to educational achievement. The ASA certifies accredited professional statisticians based upon a peer review of the applicant’s portfolio. The GStat is the entry-level certifications that benefit students and early career stage statisticians. The GStat can lead to the full professional certification called the PStat.
Step Four – Specialization
Becoming a successful statistician requires formal education and applied experience. The complexity of today’s demands require statisticians to be experts in the mathematical side; they must also have an expertise in a field. Fields like economics, healthcare, and Public Administration require a depth of knowledge and understanding. Employers may look for applicants that fit their needs both as statisticians and as knowledgeable in the line of business or organizational mission. Specialization will help applicants stand out from those with statistical credentials.
The core group of study courses will be in statistics. The mathematics foundation and background needed will come from related subjects, including calculus, computation, and linear algebra.
Some statistical fields require an extensive and in-depth background in a science, business, or other type of subject matter. The users of professional statistician services include governments, academic institutions, research fields, industrial and manufacturing concerns, and healthcare. For example, the field of biostatistics is an emerging area of professional expertise. The statistician in the biostatistics field must have extensive experience and education in the science. This may require course work in organic chemistry, biology, molecular biology, and related subjects.
Day in the Life of a Statistician
A day in the business life of statisticians will typically involve working with many other professionals, and with professionals from different disciplines. The statistician is often a member of a multi-disciplinary team that might include engineers, computer programmers, managers, marketing, and economics. The statistician may first have to decide the definition of the problem that the team must solve. The next step may be the design of data collection.
The statistician can lead in many areas such as analysis and presentation. In other areas, the statistician plays a key support role. The statistician must often inform and advise other groups or teams to carry out a task such as data collection or organizing data into a useful form. Using technical software, statisticians must evaluate data, perform analysis, and ensure the overall accuracy of recommendations. The statistician’s work must support far-reaching organizational decisions and policies.
Licensure, Certifications and Continuing Ed
Statistician occupations do not require licenses or state registration. The bachelor’s degree in statistics or a closely related field is the usual qualification for entry-level work. The size and complexity of data have increased dramatically in recent years and promises to continue as cloud technology and innovative data collection increase. Employer demands will require higher levels of experience and formal education. The trend suggests that many high-paying jobs will ask for specialized expertise and the master’s level of education.
Certifications can increase knowledge and open opportunities that require specialization and demonstrated levels of knowledge. Technical skills in programming languages will advance an applicant and open opportunities. Some high-demand programming languages for statisticians include Python, C/C++, R, and SAS. Certifications in these areas can increase salary and job opportunities in an ever-changing and rapidly expanding market.
Continuing education is not needed for licensure, but statisticians will need continuing education to maintain their certifications. The demand for statisticians is strong in government, business, and healthcare. These and many other sectors of the economy work with big data and require advanced levels of data analysis.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Statisticians: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes152041.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Mathematician or Statistician: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians-and-statisticians.htm
American Statistical Association: https://www.amstat.org/