How to become a Statistician – A complete career guide
Statisticians use the concepts of applied statistics to analyze large sets of data, interpret this data, and extrapolate meaning from it. Statisticians collect data via methods such as polls and experiments, and present conclusions to other members of their organizations. There are numerous employment opportunities for statisticians, such as in research, academia, government, healthcare, and manufacturing.
Five steps to launching a successful career as a Statistician
Step 1: Obtain your undergraduate degree
A bachelor’s degree in an applicable subject is essential to becoming a statistician. The most relevant degree is in statistics, of course; beyond your coursework in statistics, you’ll want to take courses in calculus, linear algebra, and computational thinking. Several other degrees can also lead to a good foundation in statistics, including mathematics (especially applied math), computer science, and economics. Many scientific degrees often include coursework in statistics, which you may want to pursue if you know that you want to use your training in a specific field, like biostatistics.
Step 2: Gain experience through internships and data analysis competitions
There are many ways to prepare for your career as a statistician while still in college. Experience is necessary to get a job as a statistician, so begin looking for internships that give you both real-world training and college credit while working on your undergraduate degree. You can also find data analysis competitions that give you opportunities to test your skills with real world data, such as through Kaggle, DrivenData, and KDnuggets. These competitions offer challenges that are not as structured and neat as many of the problems you get in a typical undergraduate course.
Step 3: Earn an advanced degree
Most professional statisticians have master’s degrees in applied statistics or mathematics, and many go on to complete their doctoral degrees as well. Doctoral degrees are necessary for individuals who want to go on to teach at a university, while master’s degrees can be enough for employment in private and government sectors.
Step 4: Add professional certifications to your resume.
Several different certification tests and portfolio reviews offer ways to prove your skills. The American Statistical Association offers a title of accredited professional statistician through review of a professional portfolio. There are two levels of certification: the entry-level GStat—for those who have completed a graduate degree—and PStat, which also requires letters of recommendation and work samples. For those statisticians who want to show their proficiency in SAS, the SAS certified statistical business analyst is a good option. You can also consult the requirements for job listings that interest you to determine which certifications will be most impressive and ultimately valued by potential employers.
Step 5: Specialize in a field
Professional statisticians can find work in many fields, but to really stand out to an employer, you’ll want to show how your education and experience perfectly suits you for a job. Statisticians work in the fields of finance, education, psychology, biology, geography, economics, health, marketing and product development, and in government at all levels. Government positions are likely to increase for statisticians, as are jobs working for pharmaceutical companies.
What is a Statistician?
A statistician works in the field of applied or theoretical statistics. Most theoretical statisticians work in academia, while applied statistics is necessary to solve problems in business. Statisticians must obtain accurate data, process vast amounts of raw data, and analyze these complex data sets with specialized software. They then present their conclusions about their findings to colleagues, employers, and other shareholders to inform business strategy.
What does a Statistician do?
Statisticians work with data from start to finish. First, a statistician must gather data necessary and relevant to their research. Often, the statistician must design the surveys, questionnaires, and experiments that leads to this data collection, including decisions about sample sizes and method of polling. The statistician then analyzes this data using technical software, and identifies trends and patterns, while also making sure that the data is reliable. Finally, a statistician creates ways to visualize this data, such as in the form of graphs, charts, reports, and so on, and presents this information to others. The statistician may need to acknowledge any sampling errors and suggest further lines of inquiry, or provide ways that the data supports certain recommendations for an organization to take to improve some aspect of the business.
Statistician job description
- Determine the problem to be solved, and what data is needed to solve it
- Choose appropriate methods to acquire data, at times designing new data collection tools
- Carry out the process of collecting data, or train others to do so
- Prepare data for analysis, including monitoring data quality and find ways to improve data collection or analysis for future projects
- Interpret complex data sets using analytical tools, including software, algorithms, and models
- Identify trends in the data through a combination of technical skill and business understanding
- Report conclusions via data visualization to shareholders, often including non technical audiences
Skills needed to become a Statistician
Statisticians need a wide variety of skills in order to be successful. These skills include technical prowess, business acumen, and interpersonal strengths. Statisticians must have keen problem-solving and critical-thinking skills to best utilize all these other necessary abilities.
Technical skills include:
- Expertise in applied and theoretical statistics, including hypothesis testing and summary statistics
- Mathematics, including calculus, linear algebra, and probability
- Data mining, cleaning, and visualization, including expertise in technical programs for each of these
- Proficiency in languages, especially R and SAS, as well as programming languages Python, C/C++, Java, Perl
- Hadoop-based analytics, such as Hive and Pig, for big data
- Databases such as NoSQL and cloud computing
- Machine learning
Statisticians must have strong communication skills in order to present findings to diverse groups of shareholders, including colleagues and external clients who may not have a technical background. Statisticians must also be able to logically assess the strengths and weaknesses of their own data and methods, requiring objective reasoning skills. Finally, statisticians must understand the industry in which they are analyzing data so as to understand trends both in one’s own company and in the field at large.
Payscale.com says that statisticians “can expect to take home roughly $71K per year.” However, there are a great many factors that can alter a statistician’s salary, including experience, location, skills, and the sector in which the individual works. The best paid statisticians have jobs in Seattle and San Francisco, where there are many technological companies, as well as Dallas, Phoenix, and Philadelphia.
Though the job title might not change much for a statistician, pay does increase significantly with experience, with senior statisticians reporting salaries upwards of $100K a year. Above-average pay correlates with skills in machine learning, data modeling, data mining, and the programming language Python.
Statistician job outlook
There is a very positive amount of job growth projected for statisticians. In fact, employment opportunities for statisticians are expected to grow 34% over the next several years, which is certainly higher than the average predictions for job growth. From 2014-2024, a projected 10,000 jobs will be added for statisticians. This, of course, is related to the trend in all big data jobs, as more and more organizations are finding that staying on the cutting edge of data analysis is the only way to be competitive in today’s world. To take advantage of this growth surge, statisticians should be sure to remain up-to-date with the latest technologies and feel competent and comfortable with all aspects of data analysis.