Become a Statistician: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a statistician. Learn about the job description, and read the step-by-step process to start a career in statistics.

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Should I Become a Statistician?

Statisticians analyze and interpret data, then evaluate and report their findings. Creating and/or examining surveys, polls, and experiments to collect information are common ways statisticians conduct research. They then and analyze their findings, and report them to their respective employers. Working in industries such as the government, health, and manufacturing sectors is most common for people in this field.

The majority of statisticians work full-time in office settings, while light and/or occasional travel may be required. Statisticians who work in the private sector often collaborate in teams in order to collect and analyze pertinent data. Few physical demands or risks are associated with this job.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Applied Math
  • Computational Math
  • Math for Computer Science
  • Mathematical Probability and Statistics
  • Statistics, General

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelors degree; Graduate degree recommended
Degree Field Statistics, mathematics, engineering, economics or computer science
Experience 0-5 years outside of academia
Key Skills Critical-thinking, analytical, problem-solving, and strong oral and written communication skills, knowledge of Standard Query Language (SQL) and open source software, and the ability to work independently, as well as in a group setting
Salary (2014) $79,990 (Median)

Sources: Job postings from employers (August 2015); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Step 1: Complete a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics

Undergraduate degree programs in mathematics are generally divided into Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts degree programs. A mathematics program often has various areas of concentration from which a student can choose, such as computer science, applied mathematics, economics and life sciences. A student majoring in statistics takes courses in computational thinking, calculus, linear algebra, mathematical reasoning and differential equations.

Success Tip:

  • Take advantage of undergraduate opportunities. Many colleges and universities offer internships for undergraduate students to earn real-life experience in their field. Additionally, individuals may be able to study abroad for a summer or semester, which allow students to tour a foreign city while earning college credits.

Step 2: Complete a Master's Degree Program

Master's degree programs in statistics prepare students to enter the work force or to continue on to a doctoral degree program. Master's programs can last for a year or more. Students usually take core statistics courses during the first year of the program and with the help of an advisor, may choose elective courses as well.

The second year could begin with a comprehensive examination that tests a student's knowledge of the topics taught during the first year. Students can elect a thesis or oral option. The thesis option requires them to write a paper on a topic of their choosing, while the oral option requires them to pass an oral examination. Some of the topics taught during the course of a master's degree program include probability, statistical inference, data analysis and linear models. Students who would like to work as statisticians can seek employment after earning their master's degree.

Step 3: Earn a Ph.D. in Statistics

Some Ph.D. programs in statistics are bundled with master's degree programs. This type of program is aimed at students who intend to teach statistics at a university, but do not want to enroll in a separate master's degree program. A doctorate in Statistics is research-based and requires the completion of a dissertation, which must be successfully defended in order for the degree to be conferred.

A comprehensive examination may be required after the first two years. These exams may test topics such as multivariate analysis, methods of sampling, time series analysis and statistical computing. Many doctoral programs also require that students teach at least one course a semester. Working as a teaching assistant provides some preparation for those students who wish to teach at a major university.

Step 4: Research Employment Options and Career Information

A graduate of a master's degree in statistics can seek employment in private or government sectors. Specific opportunities exist in areas such as biology, psychology, education and economics. However, according to the BLS, the projected job growth for statisticians is about average for all occupations, with a 14% increase expected for 2010-2020.

Success Tip:

  • Find the right field. The BLS reported that the governmental sector would see growth among statisticians because agencies want to continue improving data quality. The pharmaceutical industry will also likely see substantial job growth as companies continue to develop new technologies.

Step 5: Gain Work Experience

Work experiences vary according to the level of education in statistics. Many graduates of bachelor's and master's degree programs often work for the federal government as statisticians. The health and human services, agriculture and commerce departments employ the majority of statisticians. If a student has completed an internship or has work experience, he or she may have a better chance of securing employment. Ph.D. students gain work experience by working as teaching assistants.

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