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Statistics is the collection, analysis, and presentation of numerical data. Statisticians design surveys and experiments, then collect and interpret the resulting information or data. In doing so, they often apply their knowledge of statistical methods to a particular subject area, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, or psychology. They use statistical techniques to predict population growth or economic conditions, develop quality control tests for manufactured products, assess the nature of environmental problems, analyze legal and social problems, or help business managers and government officials make decisions and evaluate the results of new programs. Some statisticians develop new statistical methods.
Often statisticians are able to obtain information about a group of people or things by surveying a small portion, called a sample, of the group. For example, to determine the size of the total audience for particular programs, television rating services ask only a few thousand families, rather than all viewers, which programs they watch. Statisticians decide where and how to gather the data, determine the type and size of the sample group, and develop the survey questionnaire or reporting form. They also prepare instructions for workers who will collect and tabulate the data. Finally, statisticians analyze, interpret, and summarize the data, usually using sophisticated statistical computer software packages.
In manufacturing industries, statisticians play an important role in the area of quality improvement. For example, a statistician in an automobile manufacturing company might design experiments using statistical models to estimate the failure time of an engine exposed to extreme weather conditions and to identify factors that lead to improved performance. In chemical companies, statisticians might design experiments to determine what combination of several chemicals would lead to the best product. Statisticians working in all industries use computers extensively to process large amounts of data for statistical modeling and graphic analysis.
Because statistics are used in so many areas, it sometimes is difficult to distinguish statisticians from specialists in other fields who use statistics. For example, a statistician working with data on economic conditions may have the title of economist.
Statisticians usually work regular hours in offices. Some statisticians travel to provide advice on research projects, supervise or set up surveys, or to gather statistical data. Some may have fairly repetitive tasks, while others may have a variety of tasks, such as designing experiments.
Statisticians held about 14,000 jobs in 1994. Over one-fourth of these jobs were in the Federal Government, where statisticians were concentrated in the Departments of Commerce (especially the Bureau of the Census); Agriculture; and Health and Human Services. Most of the remaining jobs were in private industry, especially in the transportation equipment, research and testing services, management and public relations, and insurance industries. In addition, many statisticians work as teachers in post-secondary institutions, but they are counted as college and university faculty in the Handbook.
A bachelor's degree with a major in statistics or mathematics is the minimum educational requirement for many beginning jobs in statistics. The training required for employment as an entry level statistician in the Federal Government is a college degree including at least 15 semester hours of statistics-or a combination of 15 hours of mathematics and statistics if at least 6 semester hours are in statistics. An additional 9 semester hours in another academic discipline, such as economics, physical or biological science, medicine, education, engineering, or social science, are also required. To qualify as a mathematical statistician in the Federal Government requires 24 semester hours of mathematics and statistics with a minimum of 6 semester hours in statistics and 12 semester hours in advanced mathematics, such as calculus, differential equations, or vector analysis. Research positions in institutions of higher education and many positions in private industry require a graduate degree, often a doctorate, in statistics.
About 80 colleges and universities offered bachelor's degrees in statistics in 1994. Many other schools also offered degrees in mathematics, operations research, and other fields which included a sufficient number of courses in statistics to qualify graduates for some beginning positions, particularly in the Federal Government. Required subjects for statistics majors include differential and integral calculus, statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and probability theory. Additional courses that undergraduates should take include linear algebra, design and analysis of experiments, applied multivariate analysis, and mathematical statistics. Because computers are used extensively for statistical applications, a strong background in computer science is highly recommended. For positions involving quality and productivity improvement, training in engineering or physical science is useful. A background in biological, chemical, or health science is important for positions involving the preparation and testing of pharmaceutical or agricultural products. For many jobs in market research, business analysis, and forecasting, courses in economics and business administration are helpful.
In 1994, approximately 110 universities offered a master's degree program in statistics, and about 58 had statistics departments which offered a doctoral degree program. Many other schools also offered graduate-level courses in applied statistics for students majoring in biology, business, economics, education, engineering, psychology, and other fields. Acceptance into graduate statistics programs does not require an undergraduate degree in statistics although a good mathematics background is essential.
Good communications skills are important for prospective statisticians, not only for those who plan to teach, but also to qualify for many positions in industry, where the need to explain statistical processes to those who are not statisticians is common. A solid understanding of business and management is also important for those who plan to work in private industry.
Beginning statisticians who have only the bachelor's degree often spend much of their time doing routine work supervised by an experienced statistician. With experience, they may advance to positions of greater technical and supervisory responsibility. However, opportunities for promotion are best for those with advanced degrees. Master's and Ph.D. degree holders enjoy greater independence in their work and are qualified to engage in research, to develop statistical methods, or, after several years of experience in a particular area of technological application, to become statistical consultants.
Although employment of statisticians is expected to change or grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through the year 2005, job opportunities should remain favorable for individuals with statistics training. Many statistics majors, particularly at the bachelor's degree level, but also at the master's degree level, may find positions in which they do not have the title of statistician. This is especially true for those involved in analyzing and interpreting data from other disciplines such as economics, biological science, psychology, or engineering.
Among graduates with a bachelor's degree in statistics, those with a strong background in mathematics, engineering, or health or computer science should have the best prospects of finding jobs related to their field of study in private industry or government. Federal Government agencies will need statisticians in fields such as demography, agriculture, consumer and producer surveys, Social Security, health, education, energy conservation, and environmental quality control. However, competition for entry level positions in the Federal Government is expected to be strong for those just meeting the minimum qualification standards for statisticians. Those who meet State certification requirements may become high school statistics teachers, a newly emerging field. (For additional information, see the statement on kindergarten, elementary, and secondary school teachers elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Private industry, in the face of increasing competition and strong government regulation, will continue to require statisticians, especially at the master's and Ph.D. degree levels, to not only monitor but improve productivity and quality in the manufacture of various products including pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, chemicals, and food products. For example, pharmaceutical firms will need more statisticians to assess the safety and effectiveness of the rapidly expanding number of drugs. To meet continuing competition, motor vehicle manufacturers will need statisticians to improve and monitor the quality of automobiles, trucks, and their components by developing tests for new and existing designs. Statisticians with a knowledge of engineering and the physical sciences will find jobs in research and development, working with scientists and engineers to help improve design and production processes in order to ensure consistent quality of newly developed products. Business firms will rely more heavily than in the past on workers with a background in statistics to forecast sales, analyze business conditions, and help solve management problems. In addition, sophisticated statistical services will increasingly be contracted out to consulting firms.
The average annual salary for statisticians in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $56,890 in 1995; mathematical statisticians averaged $60,510.
Statisticians who hold advanced degrees generally earn higher starting salaries.
Benefits for statisticians tend to resemble those offered most professionals who work in an office setting: Vacation and sick leave, health and life insurance, and a retirement plan, among others.
People in numerous occupations work with statistics. Among them are actuaries, mathematicians, operations research analysts, computer programmers, computer systems analysts, engineers, economists, financial analysts, information scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, and social scientists.
For information about career opportunities in statistics, contact:
American Statistical Association, 1429 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314.
For information on a career as a mathematical statistician, contact:
Institute of Mathematical Statistics, 3401 Investment Blvd., No. 7, Hayward, CA 94545.
Information on Federal job opportunities is available from area offices of the State employment service and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or from Federal Job Information Centers located in various large cities throughout the country.
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