Why Study Statistics?

Statistician is the coolest job you’ve never heard of. Don’t take our word for it; see for yourself all the great things you can do with a career in statistics.

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Statisticians contribute to society in many ways, from protecting endangered species and managing the impacts of climate change to making medicines more effective and reducing hunger and disease. The ways in which statisticians make the world a better place are vast.

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Careers in statistics are fun. You could be a “Moneyball”-style statistician who helps professional sports teams pick the next season’s new players, or a member of the data science team of a U.S. presidential campaign. The field is filled with interesting opportunities and dynamic people.

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Statistics is a science. It involves asking questions about the world and finding answers to them in a scientific way. If you are curious about how things work, statistics is a career that will keep your curiosity piqued and your brain engaged.

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Demand for statisticians is growing, and so are their salaries. The median salary for data scientists with less than three years of experience is $80,000, and $150,000 for those with nine or more years of experience, according to the Burtch Works 2014 report.

Mean Salaries for Statisticians

Job Growth in Statistics Compared to Other Jobs

Statisticians are diverse, and so are their jobs

No matter what you call them—statistical scientists, data scientists, quants or analysts—statisticians are a diverse group of people with one thing in common: they use statistics to draw valuable insights from data. Meet some up-and-coming statisticians who are making a difference and having fun while they do it.

Why You Need to Study Statistics

Statistics isn't just about data analysis or numbers; it is about understanding the world around us. And because the opportunities in statistics are so diverse, you can apply your knowledge to nearly any area you're passionate about, such as the environment, healthcare, human rights and sports. There's never been a better time to study statistics. Hear these accomplished statisticians explain why they chose to study statistics, and why you should too.

Statisticians Making A Difference

Statisticians are making the world a better place. From improving agricultural production to combating human rights abuses, the ways in which statisticians have a positive impact on society are numerous. Watch several accomplished statisticians describe the social impact of their work.

Statistician Megan Price Promotes Social Justice and Human Rights

Megan Price uses statistics to answer important questions about social justice and human rights. She travels the world to collect data, some of which has been used as evidence in the prosecution of war crimes. Another interesting fact about Megan, she's a second generation statistician. Her grandfather was a statistician during the Cold War who used statistics to identify objects in space.

Deepak Kumar, LinkedIn Principal Data Scientist

This video features Deepak Kumar, a principal data scientist at LinkedIn. He shares his thoughts on why statistics is so important and why it's such an interesting career.

Chandra Erdman, U.S. Census Bureau

Chandra had her pick of prestigious positions when she graduated with a PhD in statistics from Yale. After considering tenure-track university teaching jobs and positions with corporate firms like Goldman Sachs, she chose to join the U.S. Census Bureau. Chandra explains why she loves being a statistician and how a job with the U.S. Census is way cooler than you might think.

Genevera Allen, Rice University & Baylor College of Medicine

One of the biggest hurdles to understanding the role of genetics in human health is making sense of the massive amounts of data that make up our DNA. Genevera uses statistics to extract meaning from big data sets, helping medical scientists uncover the relationships between genes and serious conditions like autism and cancer.

Roger Peng, Johns Hopkins University

What impact will extreme weather events—such as droughts, floods and heat waves—have on human health? That’s one question statistician Roger Peng is working to answer. Through statistics, he’s developing a better understanding of the health risks of climate change on vulnerable populations.

Work in virtually any sector and corner of the world

With a career in statistics, you’re not limited by geography or industry. Statistics jobs are all over the U.S. and around the world. Work for a high-tech company in Silicon Valley, a humanitarian organization in New York City, a global pharmaceutical company in Europe, or a business consultancy in India. The possibilities are too numerous to list, but you can get a sense of the places that employ statisticians by exploring the map below.

Amazon (Seattle, Washington)

DataKind (New York)

The National Academy of Sciences (Washington, DC)

Harvard School of Public Health (Boston)

Novartis (Basel, Switzerland)

Tata Consultancy Services (Mumbai, India)

Alibaba Group (Hangzhou, China)

HSBC (London, UK)

RTI International (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina)

Banco Bradesco (Sao Paulo, Brazil)

University of Nairobi, Statistics Association

Lukoil Oil Company (Moscow)

The Bank of Korea (Korea)

Banco de Mexico (Mexico)

National Horticultural Research Institute (Nigeria)

Statiscon (Sweden)

Open Analytics (Belgium)

International Drug Development Institute (Houston)

Quantik (Switzerland)

Statistics for Innovation (Norway)

Institute of Mathematics and Informatics (Bulgaria)

Canadian Statistical Sciences Institute (Alberta, Canada)

Institute of Statistical Research, Analysis, and Documentation (Greece)

The Institute of Statistical Mathematics (Japan)

National Institute of Statistical Sciences (Research Triangle Park, NC)

Institute of Statistical Sciences (Vietnam)

These organizations represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to career opportunities for statisticians. To learn about more sectors that hire statisticians, go here.

What education is needed to become a statistician?

Most statisticians have a degree in statistics or applied mathematics or a closely related field. Increasingly, many also have some education or background in computer science. But the specific degree and level of education of a statistician or data scientist can vary widely depending on the individual, the sector and the job.

For example, a data scientist working for a tech company might have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in statistics. That’s the case with Olivia Angiuli, a statistician at the popular question-and-answer website Quora. Similarly, Shannon Cebron, a data scientist at a software company, has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in applied math and statistics. Others may have a master’s degree in another field, such as urban planning, with advanced coursework in statistics, such as Cassie DeWitt, an urban data scientist at the Detroit Fire Department.

Statisticians working in advanced research and academic positions—such as Georgetown professor Kimberly Sellers, Genevera Allen of Rice University, and Roger Peng of Johns Hopkins University—typically have a Ph.D in statistics.

But what if you’re preparing for a career in another field, such as journalism or marketing? It’s still worth taking at least one college-level course in statistics. In this era of Big Data, more and more jobs require statistical literacy and skills in data analysis. For example, Jeremy Singer-Vine, data editor at Buzzfeed and author of the Data is Plural newsletter, took a few classes in statistics as an undergraduate to land a job in the emerging field of data journalism. What’s more, a large majority of college majors also require statistics.

The bottom line is that statistics education can be tailored to your unique path. The first step is simply enrolling in a statistics course, whether you’re a high school or college student, and then opening yourself to its power and potential.

Read more profiles of statisticians and data scientists, and some of the cool jobs they do.