How to Become a Statistician: Looking Behind the DataHow to Become a Statistician: Looking Behind the DataHow to Become a Statistician: Looking Behind the Data

Every day, we base decisions large and small on what we perceive to be factual information. How do we know that what’s presented to us as fact is actually trustworthy? In many cases, the evidence confirming a fact is based on statistics.

The information people derive from statistical data is the foundation for developing theories, confirming assertions, and discovering correlations between data sets. Many types of data-driven analysis, including economic predictions and scientific research, rely on statistical principles.

Students interested in learning how to become a statistician should know what a statistician does, the education and skills the position requires, and its salary and career outlook. Programs such as Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Data Science degree program offer a personalized learning experience that provides students with the skills and experience required for careers in statistics.

What Does a Statistician Do?

Statisticians are professionals who specialize in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data. They can work in a range of industries and research areas to design and conduct surveys, experiments, and observational studies. These industries include education, marketing, psychology, and sports. Statisticians are key to any industry that collects and analyzes data; today, that encompasses nearly every commercial and governmental field.

Statistical Methodologies

Statisticians use various approaches to collect the data that serves as the raw material for statistical analyses. Statisticians typically use the following three common statistical methodologies:

  • Surveys: Participants respond to questions via interviews or questionnaires; the questions may be open-ended or have a limited number of possible responses.
  • Case studies: Individuals or groups are examined in detail to establish testable hypotheses. Case studies aren’t well suited for determining cause and effect or for making predictions.
  • Observational studies: Experiments are performed in controlled environments that are intended to record a specific variable as it occurs naturally, with no interference from researchers.

Statistical Survey Types

The goal of a statistical survey is to estimate the value of an attribute in the population, such as the percentage of people who hold a particular political viewpoint. A population parameter represents the actual value of the attribute, while a sample statistic estimates the prevalence of a population attribute based on the sample data.

Samples are either probability or nonprobability:

  • In probability samples, each population attribute has a known (nonzero) chance of being included in the sample.
  • In nonprobability samples, the probability of an attribute being selected is unknown, or it isn’t certain whether the attribute has a nonzero chance of being included.

Some of the most common statistical survey techniques follow:

  • Determining mean: The mean is determined by adding the values and dividing the total value by the number of values; it’s used most frequently to represent the central tendency, as opposed to the mode (the number that occurs most often in the data set) or the median (the middle value when the data set is ordered from highest value to lowest value).
  • Variance and standard deviation: The variance and standard deviation determine the difference between an individual response and the mean of all responses. The variance is the average of the squared differences from the mean, while the standard deviation is calculated by finding the square root of the variance.

Statistician Job Description

What a statistician does varies depending on the industry, but in general, statisticians are responsible for:

  • Designing studies or experiments to answer specific research questions
  • Collecting, cleaning, and preparing data for analysis
  • Analyzing data using statistical software and techniques
  • Developing models to explain relationships between variables
  • Communicating findings to stakeholders through reports, presentations, or visualizations
  • Ensuring data quality and accuracy

The typical day-to-day job description of statisticians includes the following duties:

  • Determine the data needed to solve a specific problem or answer a research question.
  • Develop and apply mathematical models that are used to find solutions to business, engineering, and scientific problems.
  • Create statistical models, apply them to data sets, and interpret the results.
  • Create graphs, charts, and other visualizations to communicate findings in a way that reads well to stakeholders.
  • Collaborate with other professionals, such as economists, sociologists, and computer scientists.
  • Present findings to clients or stakeholders in a way that’s easily understandable to individuals without a statistical background.
  • Keep up with new statistical methods and software tools.

Industries That Employ Statisticians

Statisticians work in a variety of industries, including government, healthcare, finance, and technology. They also work in academia, conducting research and teaching courses on statistics and data analysis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the industries that employ the highest percentage of statisticians:

  • Federal government agencies: 15%
  • Research organizations in engineering, physical, and life sciences: 14%
  • Universities, colleges, and professional schools: 9%
  • Health and social assistance organizations: 8%
  • Insurance firms and related industries: 6%

How to Become a Statistician

For statisticians, problem-solving and communication skills are as important as prowess in mathematics and data analytics. Acquiring the skills and experience required for a career as a statistician may begin by earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematicscomputer science, or a related discipline.

Many employers look for applicants who have an advanced degree. A master’s degree in a field such as data science can help students develop the skills needed to pursue careers as statisticians or statistical data analysts, as well as for a range of other professions in business, finance, and technology.

Statistician Education and Experience

Most employers require that statisticians have at least a master’s degree in mathematics, statistics, or a related subject. Courses in these master’s programs typically include calculus, differential equations, and algebra, as well as computer science, engineering, physics, and computer programming. Statisticians often pair their degree with a specialty area in which they’ve gained expertise, such as business management, financial analysis, public health, social science, or education.

Required Statistician Skills

Typical competencies of statisticians include the following:

  • Statistical analysis
  • Data analysis
  • SAS statistical software
  • R programming language
  • Data modeling

The following are the most important skills for statisticians to possess:

  • Data analytics: Applies mathematical and statistical models and methods to large data sets using the most appropriate software to ensure the precision and accuracy of the analysis
  • Mathematics: Entails a thorough understanding of calculus, linear and abstract algebra, and statistics to create and apply the models used during analysis
  • Problem-solving: Allows statisticians to come up with innovative approaches and solutions to the challenges faced by scientists, engineers, financial analysts, and business managers
  • Communication: Is essential for explaining the results of statistical analysis to stakeholders who don’t have a background in mathematics and in other interactions with co-workers, clients, and colleagues

Why Become a Statistician?

Learning how to become a statistician can be a smart move to ensure job security, as statisticians are in high demand across a wide range of industries, largely due to the increasing reliance of businesses and organizations on data to inform their decision-making. Additionally, statisticians enjoy a relatively high salary and a strong job outlook, with opportunities for advancement and specialization.

Beyond the practical benefits, working as a statistician can be intellectually stimulating and rewarding, allowing individuals to use their analytical skills to solve complex problems and make a real impact in their field.

While many companies use statisticians to analyze data to improve profits and increase efficiency, statistical analysis can also be used to improve public healthcare policies, education, or any other industry where empirical data, communicated effectively, can improve lives.

Statistician Salary and Employment Outlook

The median annual salary for statisticians as of May 2021 was $95,570, according to the BLS. Payscale explains that education level, years of experience, and job location can affect salaries for statisticians. For example, as of March 2023, statisticians working in the Washington, D.C., area earned about 17% more than the median statistician salary for all locations, while those employed in Cincinnati, Ohio, earned about 15% less than the median salary for all statisticians in the U.S.

Salaries for statisticians also vary greatly based on level of experience, according to Payscale:

  • Late-career salaries were 32% higher than the median salary for all statisticians as of March 2023.
  • Experienced statisticians earned 45% more.
  • Midcareer statisticians earned 13% more.
  • Early-career and entry-level statistician positions paid 4% and 14% less salary than the median, respectively.

The BLS forecasts that the number of jobs for statisticians will increase by 33% between 2021 and 2031, much faster than the projected average growth for all occupations. Areas where demand for statisticians is expected to be greatest include research and development, consulting, and computer systems design.

Statistician Degree and Curriculum

Maryville’s online Master of Science in Data Science program is a graduate-level program that’s been designed to equip students with sought-after skills in the data science field, including machine learning, predictive modeling, and programming. Students also learn to apply mathematical principles and theorems. Coursework centers on hands-on projects, allowing students to demonstrate practical applications of concepts they’ve learned.

The curriculum provides a strong foundation in statistics and calculus and can give students a competitive edge in the job market as statisticians, opening up career opportunities in various industries. The curriculum combines required courses and electives that students choose based on individual areas of interest, including SAS programming, big data analytics, statistical design, deep learning, and predictive modeling.

Laying the Foundation to Become a Statistician

Economic growth depends on the ability of businesses and industries to take advantage of advances in technology and data analytics. Statisticians play a pivotal role in converting the raw data that’s now a business’s most valuable asset into revenue and profit by helping business managers, engineers, scientists, and others make the most rewarding decisions possible. Programs such as Maryville’s online Master of Science in Data Science program help students interested in statistics pursue their professional goals.

Discover how to become a statistician with Maryville and bravely pursue your career path in statistics and advanced data analytics today.

Recommended Readings

Math in Action: Explore a Master’s in Statistics vs. Data Science

Research Analyst vs. Data Scientist: Comparing Two Analytical Careers

Statistician vs. Mathematician: Comparing Data-Driven Professions


LiveAbout, “How to Become a Biostatistician”

Payscale, Average Statistician Salar

PsychCentral, “Unpacking the 3 Descriptive Research Methods in Psychology”

SkillsYouNeed, Simple Statistical Analysis

Stat Trek, Survey Sampling Methods

Towards Data Science, “Methods of Study Designs — Observational Studies & Surveys”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians

World of Statistics, Statisticians at Work

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