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Nature of the Work
* Many with bachelors and master's degrees in statistics enter jobs in which they do not have the title of statistician.
* In private industry and colleges and universities, many positions require a graduate degree, often a doctorate, in statistics.
Statistics is a science, applying mathematical tools, involved with the collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of numerical data. Many applicationsincluding predicting population growth or economic conditions, providing quality control tests for manufactured products, and helping business managers and government officials make decisionsbenefit from statistical techniques. Statisticians are the individuals who design surveys and experiments, collect data, and interpret the results. In doing so, they often apply their knowledge of statistical methods to a particular subject area, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, or psychology. Some statisticians develop new statistical methods.
Statisticians typically work with professionals in other fields to solve practical problems. For example, biostatisticians involved in clinical research have developed sequential procedures that minimize patients' exposure to harmful treatment and make beneficial treatments more rapidly accessible.
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.
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 can lead to improved performance. In chemical companies, statisticians might design experiments to determine what combination of chemicals would produce the best product for a specific purpose.
Because statistics are used in so many areas, specialists in other fields who use statistics often have other designations. For example, a person using statistical methods on economic data may have the title of econometrician. (See the statement on economists and marketing research analysts elsewhere in the Handbook).
Statisticians held about 14,000 jobs in 1996. Over one-fourth of these jobs were in the Federal Government, where statisticians were concentrated in the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. Most of the remaining jobs were in private industry, especially in the biopharmaceutical industry. In addition, many statisticians work in academia. (See the statement on college and university faculty elsewhere in the Handbook.)
A bachelor's degree with a major in statistics or mathematics is the minimum educational requirement for some 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 statisticsor 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 1996. 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 1996, approximately 110 universities offered a master's degree program in statistics, and 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 technical processes to those who are not statisticians is common. A solid understanding of business and the economy is 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 a number of years of experience in a particular area, to become statistical consultants.
Although employment of statisticians is expected to grow little through the year 2006, job opportunities should remain favorable for individuals with statistical training. Many individuals at the bachelor's degree level, and some at the master's degree level, will 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 computer science should have the best prospects of finding jobs related to their field of study. Federal Government agencies will need statisticians in fields such as demography, agriculture, consumer and producer surveys, Social Security, health care, education, energy conservation, and environmental quality. 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 will continue to require statisticians, especially at the master's and Ph.D. degree levels, to monitor and improve productivity and quality in the manufacture of various products including pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, chemicals, and food products. For example, pharmaceutical firms will need statisticians to assess the safety and effectiveness of the rapidly expanding number of drugs. To counter stiff competition, motor vehicle manufacturers will need statisticians to improve the quality of automobiles, trucks, and their components by developing and testing new designs. Some statisticians with a knowledge of engineering and the physical sciences will find jobs in research and development, working with teams of 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 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 $61,030 in 1997; mathematical statisticians averaged $65,660.
Statisticians who hold advanced degrees generally earn higher starting salaries.
Benefits for statisticians tend to resemble those offered most professionals: 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.
Information on obtaining a statistian position with the Federal Government may be obtained from the Office of Personnel Management through a telephone based system. Consult your telephone directory under U.S. Government for a local number or call (912) 757-3000 (TDD 912 744-2299). That number is not toll free and charges may result. Information also is available from their internet site: http:// www.usajobs.opm.gov/
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