What is a Statistician?

Also known as: Data Scientist, Associate Statistician, Professional Statistician, Statistical Analyst.

Statisticians use mathematical techniques to analyze and interpret data and draw conclusions. Although they work mostly in offices, they may travel in order to supervise surveys or gather data. Sometimes they must work overtime to meet deadlines. About one-third of statisticians work for government; many others work for private businesses.

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What does a Statistician do?

Statisticians typically do the following:

  • Determine the questions or problems to be addressed
  • Decide what data are needed to answer the questions or problems
  • Determine methods for finding or collecting data
  • Design surveys or experiments or opinion polls to collect data
  • Collect data or train others to do so
  • Analyze and interpret data
  • Report conclusions from their analyses.

Statisticians design surveys, experiments, and opinion polls to collect data. Some surveys, such as the national census, include data from nearly everyone. For most surveys and opinion polls, however, statisticians use sampling to collect data from some people in a particular group. Statisticians determine the type and size of the sample to be surveyed or polled.

Statisticians develop survey questionnaires or reporting forms for collecting the data they need. They also often write instructions for workers who collect and tabulate the data. Surveys may be mailed, conducted over the phone, or collected online or through some other means.

Statisticians analyze the data that are collected. In their analyses, they calculate averages, reliability, and other specifics of the data. They also choose and conduct tests to find out the data’s reliability and validity. They explain the limitations of the data to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn, and they identify trends and relationships.

Statisticians use computers with specialized statistical software to analyze data. Some help to create new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently.

Statisticians write reports to explain their findings and the data’s limitations. They may present their reports to other team members and to clients with tables, charts, and graphs. They also recommend how to improve the design of future surveys or experiments.

How to become a Statistician

Many colleges and universities offer undergraduate and graduate degree programs in statistics. A bachelor’s degree in statistics is not needed to enter a graduate program, although significant training in mathematics is essential. Required subjects for a bachelor’s degree in statistics include differential and integral calculus, statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and probability theory.

Because statisticians use and write computer programs for many calculations, a strong background in computer science is helpful. Training in engineering or physical science is useful for statisticians working in manufacturing on quality control or productivity improvement. A background in biology, chemistry, or health sciences is useful for work involving testing pharmaceutical or agricultural products.


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