What Do Statisticians Do?
The demand for statisticians is currently high and growing. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of nonacademic jobs for statisticians is expected to increase through 2016. Furthermore, colleges and universities will be hiring more faculty members in statistics fields. Salaries and opportunities for advancement are competitive and reflect the current demand.
Medicine: The search for improved medical treatments rests on careful experiments that compare promising new treatments with the current state of the art. Statisticians work with medical teams to design experiments and analyze the complex data they produce.
Environment: Studies of the environment require data on the abundance and location of plants and animals, on the spread of pollution from its sources, and on the possible effects of changes in human activities. The data are often incomplete or uncertain, but statisticians can help uncover their meaning.
Industry: The future of many industries and their employees depends on improvement in the quality of goods and services and the efficiency with which they are produced and delivered. Improvement should be based on data, rather than guesswork. More companies are installing elaborate systems to collect and act on data to better serve their customers.
Government Surveys: How many people are unemployed this month? What do we export to China, and what do we import? Are rates of violent crime increasing or decreasing? The government wants data on issues such as these to guide policy, and government statistics agencies provide them by surveys of households and businesses.
Market Research: Are consumer tastes in television programs changing? What are promising locations for a new retail outlet? Market researchers use both government data and their own surveys to answer questions such as these. Statisticians design the elaborate surveys that gather data for both public and private use.
How Do I Become a Statistician?
In High School:
Take all the statistics, mathematics, science, computer, and English courses you can. Many high schools now offer Advanced Placement Statistics, which provides college/university credit while you're still in high school.
You will need mathematics to understand the language and theory of statistics. Scientific knowledge will help you understand the subject matter and technical background of the problems you work on, as well as make you an effective problem solver. You will use the computer not only for calculations, but also to create visual displays of data. Command of written and spoken English will help you communicate the results of your analyses effectively.
Major in applied mathematics, or a closely related field. If you do major in a nonstatistical field, minor in mathematics or statistics. Develop a background in mathematics, science, and computers and gain knowledge in a specific field of interest.
A master's degree or PhD is very helpful and often recommended or required for higher-level positions. Scholastic statistics programs range from theoretical to applied and can be found in departments such as mathematics, biostatistics, public health, psychology, engineering, education, business, and economics in addition to traditional statistics departments.
Internships and Fellowships:
These are ideal ways to gain hands-on experience in a particular field while still in school. Many government entities, businesses, and industries offer graduate students semester- or year-long fellowships that often cover tuition, research expenses, and monetary compensation.