Statistics have an unfair reputation as dry and boring. But when properly gathered and assessed, statistics can tell fascinating stories about countries, businesses, economies, teams, and any organization that collects data about its activities.
Making sense of statistics and the worlds they represent is what statistical data analysts do by gathering, crunching, analyzing, and interpreting data.
They dig into information to answer all sorts of questions. For example, how many vehicles has a company sold and to whom? How many people between 18 and 25 years of age are covered by health insurance? What are the travel patterns of residents of an area where a virus has broken out? What is a player’s batting average with two strikes in the eighth inning?
As data pours into organizations at an unprecedented rate, the demand is rising for professionals who can extract meaning from it. Individuals with the inclination and skills should explore the rewarding road to becoming a statistical data analyst. An advanced degree program such as an online master’s in data science can offer students the necessary foundation.
What does a statistical analyst do?
A statistical data analyst’s role is to gather, analyze, and interpret information from relevant sources. The three activities are interrelated. Analysts must know what data will be relevant, how to analyze it effectively, and how to accurately interpret the conclusions.
Methods to collect data have multiplied, providing more information than ever. Buying habits provide information about consumers’ shopping preferences. Mobile phones provide geographic information. Social media provides information about thoughts and interests.
Statistical data analysts gather information they deem relevant and process it though equations and algorithms. Increasingly sophisticated tools for analysis, including machine learning and other types of artificial intelligence, enable analysts to gather more information and analyze it in more ways.
Statisticians present their findings in reports, often featuring charts, graphs, and other visuals to help users understand the results. Statisticians are careful to explain data limitations and warn readers not to draw unwarranted conclusions.
Where statistical data analysts work
Businesses, government agencies, schools, hospitals, and many other organizations use some form of statistical analysis.
Federal government agencies
The highest concentration of statisticians (measured by the number of statistician jobs per thousand) is in Washington, D.C., the home of data-generating federal agencies. Federal statistical analysts work with a wide range of data, including U.S. census responses, employment and trade figures, weather forecasts and agriculture reports, and more. Statistical data analysts use those sources to provide answers that guide the country.
State and municipal governments
A statistical data analyst working for a municipal planning department might analyze population growth and housing patterns to determine where the city should build roads and run water and sewer lines.
Working for a hospital, statistical data analysts might study the reasons some patients return more frequently for emergency room care. Analysis can help hospitals devise programs to reduce emergency room visits. In another example, analysts can determine where and how diseases spread by studying patient information. Accurate tracking can help allocate resources where they are most needed.
Statistical data analysts study markets to predict where investments will pay off, whether in stocks and bonds, real estate, or other markets.
Statistical data analysts studying buying habits, consumer trends, and consumer sentiments expressed on social media can help companies develop new products, identify new markets for existing products, and identify prospective customers for targeted advertising campaigns.
Types of statistical data
> While statistical data analysts increasingly use artificial intelligence tools in their work, they rely on standard statistical measures, such as:
- Mean, which is the average of a group of numbers. A baseball player’s average is the percentage of hits in the total number of times at bat.
- Standard deviation is the spread of data surrounding the average. A low standard deviation indicates the data is closer to the mean, while a higher standard deviation indicates that more data deviates from the mean.
- Variance is the distance between the mean and numbers in a set of data. In an investment, low variance indicates low risk.
How to become a statistical data analyst
The path to become a statistical data analyst starts with education, and an advanced degree often means better prospects.
Pursue an education
An undergraduate degree in statistics or mathematics can lead to a career as a statistical data analyst, as can degrees in data science and computer science. Besides courses in those disciplines, building a foundation in business, economics, and communications can round out the undergraduate experience.
Prospective employers often require a master’s degree in data science, which can prepare individuals for careers as statistical data analysts across a wide range of industries. Applicable courses cover advanced mathematical principles and methods; computer programming languages used by data analysts, as well as machine learning and deep learning; data science tools such as analytics for big data and text mining; and modeling and data visualization.
Develop skills for statistical data analysis
Statistical data analysts should possess a range of skills that can be applied to their work, including the following:
- Mathematical proficiency. Statistical data analysts should have mastery of mathematical principles and processes, which are routinely used in statistics.
- Subject matter expertise. Familiarity with the field in which they are working enables statistical data analysts to better organize data and develop accurate and relevant answers.
- Problem-solving. Statistical data analysts rely on the capability to zero in on solutions to the knotty problems that arise during data analysis.
- Collaboration. Statistical data analysts work with others throughout their process, from deciding what questions to ask to determining what data sets to analyze and how to use the conclusions.
- Communication. Statistical data analysts should be able to get their findings across to others in their organizations. The ability to both understand and be understood helps produce analysis that meets an organization’s needs.
Statistical data analysts can demonstrate their skills to prospective employers by acquiring certifications in the software and systems they use. Some certifications are general in nature, while others indicate proficiency with systems from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, and SAS.
- Amazon Web Services Big Data Specialty
- Associate Certified Analytics Professional
- Certified Analytics Professional
- EMC Proven Professional Data Scientist Associate
- IBM Data Science Professional Certificate
- Microsoft Certified: Data Analyst Associate
- SAS Certified Big Data Professional
Statistical data analysts will have to step up their skills in artificial intelligence as machine learning and deep learning take increasingly important roles. These tools enable statistical data analysts to probe deeper and wider into data and get answers more quickly. They allow analysts to apply their interpretation skills to a wider array of information. In setting up projects involving AI tools, statistical data analysts can use their expertise to direct questions more narrowly and interpret results more accurately.
Statistical data analyst salaries
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median annual salary of statisticians was $91,160 in 2019. The federal government offered the highest-paying jobs, with a median annual salary of $106,670. Research and development firms followed with a median annual salary of $102,500. Next were insurance carriers, with a median annual salary of $88,040; healthcare and social assistance organizations, $80,920; and colleges and universities, $74,370.
The highest-paid statisticians were in the Stamford-Bridgeport-Norwalk area of Connecticut, where the annual mean wage was $127,960, followed by the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area of California, where salaries were $125,970 a year. Statisticians in the Boston area earned mean salaries of $124,300.
Employment outlook for statistical data analysts
The job outlook for statisticians is positive, with the BLS projecting the employment of statisticians will grow 35% (14,800 news jobs) between 2019 and 2029, putting it fourth on the list of fastest-growing occupations over the decade.
Discover how to become a statistical data analyst
To meet their goals, government agencies, healthcare institutions, and other organizations need to make sense of the torrents of data pouring in. As a result, statistical data analysts are in demand throughout the economy.
Individuals with a passion for data who are interested in becoming a statistical data analyst should consider pursuing an online Master of Science in Data Science from Maryville University. The degree program offers courses in mathematics and data analysis and presentation for a solid foundation in delivering accurate and relevant conclusions. Be brave and take the first step toward starting your rewarding new career today with Maryville.
CIO, “The Top 11 Big Data and Data Analytics Certifications for 2020”
Forbes, “The AI Chronicles: Combining Statistical Analysis and Computing from Hollerith to Zuckerberg”
Harvard Business Review, “What Great Data Analyst Do — and Why Every Organization Needs Them”
Houston Chronicle, “Statistical Data Analyst Job Description”
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians