What does a statistician do?

It was quite warm out today and that means it will probably be warm out tomorrow. That team always beats that other team. There were a lot of people in the shop today so the economy must be thriving. If these kinds of statements seem perfectly reasonable to you, that’s fine. If all you can think is “More data needed” then you’re thinking like a statistician. Statistics is basically about predicting what will happen based on records of what has happened. Because that’s such a general statement, it means that statisticians can work just about anywhere that things are counted – these career guides cover academia, actuary, consulting, data science, government, industry, market research, and medicine.

Qualifications

The individual statistician career guides provide more detail on qualifications that might be useful for certain sectors, but anyone interested in a career in statistics should take as many mathematics, statistics, and computer science courses as possible. Computer science, data management, and programming are becoming increasingly valuable as the amount of information available grows increasingly quickly. Essential to communicating statistical insights are written and verbal language skills so it’s important not to neglect the words when concentrating on the numbers. People may, somewhat unfairly, expect statisticians to be dull so if you can inject a bit of colour into your description of what you do you can help us to break the stereotype.

Pay

Variations between industries, between countries, and according to trends in the labour market mean it’s difficult to make promises about pay. Qualifications, experience, and rarity of skills also play a role in determining salary levels. As a general guideline though, you can expect to start off earning considerably more than the minimum wage, and the only way is up.

Career progression

The pace of ascent is likely to depend on developing skills beyond someone’s basic training and qualification. Senior roles require everything from negotiating with clients to research design to development to data analysis to report presentation, as well as project management and supervision. Continuing professional development can take the form of anything from formal professional qualifications to teaching yourself a new programming language and it’s a good idea to have some current activity to tell your boss or potential boss about.

While a statistics degree can be a good start to a career, an interest in learning about the end-to-end processes in a given sector will also be needed. Because relationships are integral to many areas of work, whether with external clients or with colleagues, taking any opportunity to work directly with clients is a way to build rapport and make oneself indispensable, improving the chances of making it to the top.

How to find a job

The obvious answer is this website – StatsJobs.com, but that’s just how to find out what jobs are out there. Finding yourself a job involves matching what you can do to what someone else needs. For some people, progression from an interest in mathematics to studying statistics to a career is a series of smooth transitions. For the rest of us, responding to the changing demands of employers and characteristics of other candidates force decisions about things like changes of direction and professional re-invention. There are a few options for dealing with this uncertainty. One is to be the best person around who does some particular really impressive thing then stick with it and wait until someone really needs to find the best person to do your particular thing, because that’s you. This can work well if you’re really passionate about a specific area of work and don’t want to do anything else. Another option is to repeatedly re-mould your CV and re-brand your experience to emphasise the particular aspects that a recruiter is looking for, and this suits people who are not quite so definite about what exactly they want to do. In any case, knowing what’s out there is a good first step.

What people expect of statisticians

Aside from the stereotypes, employers can reasonably expect statisticians to have strong numeracy skills, the ability to think logically, and familiarity with statistics computer software. They probably don’t expect that you’ll know every statistical technique there is or that you’ll know much about the inner workings of their company. Most new recruits are given time to learn about what an organisation does and approach to statistics they use after they start so getting a job is about showing a capacity to learn and to apply your skills. Above all, people expect that when statisticians speak, they speak with the authority of evidence and the weight of numbers.

Your career options as a Statistician.

Statisticians work in a variety of fields including academia, data science, government, market research, actuarial science, medicine, consulting and industry.