Difference Between Data Scientist & Statistician

The duties of data scientists and statisticians are very different, though they both work in similar fields of analytics and mathematics. Find out more about their duties, along with the salary and job growth expectations.

Comparing Data Scientists to Statisticians

Scientists gather data to find and analyze patterns. Data scientists and statisticians are interested in data that influences people in some way, but they gather the data very differently.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Data Scientists Doctoral or Professional Degree $111,840 11% (Computer and Information Research Scientists)
Statisticians Master's Degree $80,500 34%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Data Scientists vs. Statisticians

Though data scientists and statisticians may gather information for similar purposes, their means of collection are different. For data scientists, the amount of data is massive, so they spend much of their time programming computers to do the gathering for them. Statisticians, however, still rely on familiar methods of data collection, such as surveys, polls and experiments.

Data Scientists

Finding the next movie suggested on Netflix based on user viewing history and friend recommendations on social media is done by algorithms. Data scientists are responsible for creating the software packages that respond to users in areas such as entertainment, health care and transportation. After meeting with clients for needed information and existing figures, these scientists create the algorithms that can efficiently collect new data in real time. Once the data is gathered, data scientists work on teams to organize it and remove any errors.

Job responsibilities of a data scientist include:

  • Researching the newest trends in scientific data gathering
  • Changing ways to sort and manage data
  • Creating visual representations of the data, such as graphs and tables
  • Improving the productivity of existing algorithms
  • Making suggestions to businesses for improvement based on their findings


Statisticians gather, analyze, and draw conclusions from data. They first consider what data is needed based on the project at hand. From data on teacher success and student learning to the spread of cancer and other illnesses, these professionals attempt to understand patterns in our world. They may use observations, surveys, and experiments to collect the data they need. Through their work, they help companies design and market their products, assist the government in tracking populations, and evaluate the effectiveness of new medicines.

Job responsibilities of a statistician include:

  • Choosing a sample to study from a target population
  • Utilizing computer programs to analyze the data
  • Training and leading a team of researchers
  • Producing reports and presentations based on their conclusions
  • Conducting tests to determine validity of data

Related Careers

Statisticians are often compared to economists, so career seekers may also be interested in that profession where they can specialize in gathering data to market products. Those looking at data science as a career might consider working as a mathematician, who also uses complex algorithms to understand our world.

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