Career of the Week: Statistician
What is a Statistician?
Statisticians practice the science of using data to make decisions. They decide what data they need and how to collect it, design experiments, collect data, analyze and interpret the data, and then report conclusions. And unlike most professions, statistics can be applied to a vast number of fields or issues, like the environment, public safety, health care and sports. As the famous mathematician and statistician John Tukey once told a colleague, “The best thing about being a statistician is that you get to play in everyone’s backyard.”
Devan Mehrotra, executive director of the biostatistics department at Merck Research Laboratories, says, “I absolutely fell in love with statistics. Any real-world problem almost always is going to require some data to be analyzed and interpreted, generating value-added solutions by using statistics.”
Going forward, Mehrotra sees statisticians working closely with collaborators from the biomedical, computer, environmental, genetics and social sciences, as well as contributing to quantitative solutions involving human rights and counterterrorism. “Statistics is one of oldest professions in the world, it dates back to the 1700s. There’s a tremendous history … and now more exciting opportunities. It has never been a better time to be a statistician,” Mehrotra says.
While some may confuse statisticians with the growing data scientist profession, the fields have some key differences. Statistics is just one component of data science. Data scientists should have a basic working knowledge of statistics. However, data scientists tend to focus more on software programming and machine learning than statisticians. Data scientists may serve as the lead software engineering coordinator at companies with smaller data science teams. Data scientists should possess the skills to log data, which is not necessarily expected of statisticians.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this field to grow at a very fast rate of more than 33 percent from 2016 to 2026, resulting in 12,400 new jobs. Increasingly, industries and organizations will demand the use of statistical analyses to help them make informed decisions.
- $80,500 MEDIAN SALARY
- 1.4% UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
- 12,400 NUMBER OF JOBS
How Much Does a Statistician Make?
Statisticians made a median salary of $80,500 in 2016.
The highest-paid earned $130,090 or more, while the lowest-paid statisticians made $46,500 or less.
75th Percentile $104,420
25th Percentile $60,770
What Type of Education Do Statisticians Need?
“People need statisticians, folks with the right level of training, who ask the relevant questions, who know how much data should be collected and know how to employ statistical principles,” Mehrotra says. “These days, even people with undergraduate degrees in statistics will have tremendous potential.”
To qualify for statistics-related jobs, statisticians should have at least a bachelor’s degree in statistics. A master’s degree in statistics, mathematics or survey methodology might open more doors. However, to teach or conduct research, professionals generally need to get their Ph.D.