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Significant Points
  • About 41 percent of statisticians work for Federal, State, and local governments; other employers include scientific research and development services and finance and insurance firms.
  • A masterís degree in statistics or mathematics is the minimum educational requirement for most jobs as a statistician.
  • Employment of statisticians is projected to grow more slowly than average because many jobs that require a degree in statistics will not carry the title ďstatistician.Ē
  • Individuals with a degree in statistics should have favorable job opportunities in a variety of disciplines.
Nature of the Work

Statistics is the scientific application of mathematical principles to the collection, analysis, and presentation of numerical data. Statisticians contribute to scientific inquiry by applying their mathematical and statistical knowledge to the design of surveys and experiments; the collection, processing, and analysis of data; and the interpretation of the results. Statisticians may apply their knowledge of statistical methods to a variety of subject areas, such as biology, economics, engineering, medicine, public health, psychology, marketing, education, and sports. Many economic, social, political, and military decisions cannot be made without statistical techniques, such as the design of experiments to gain Federal approval of a newly manufactured drug.

One technique that is especially useful to statisticians is samplingóobtaining information about a population of people or group of things by surveying a small portion of the total. For example, to determine the size of the audience for particular programs, television-rating services survey only a few thousand families, rather than all viewers. Statisticians decide where and how to gather the data, determine the type and size of the sample group, and develop the survey questionnaire or reporting form. They also prepare instructions for workers who will collect and tabulate the data. Finally, statisticians analyze, interpret, and summarize the data using computer software.

In business and industry, statisticians play an important role in quality control and in product development and improvement. In an automobile company, for example, statisticians might design experiments to determine the failure time of engines exposed to extreme w eather conditions by running individual engines until failure and breakdown. Working for a pharmaceutical company, statisticians might develop and evaluate the results of clinical trials to determine the safety and effectiveness of new medications. And, at a computer software firm, statisticians might help construct new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently. In addition to product development and testing, some statisticians also are involved in deciding what products to manufacture, how much to charge for them, and to whom the products should be marketed. Statisticians also may manage assets and liabilities, determining the risks and returns of certain investments.

Statisticians also are employed by nearly every government agency. Some government statisticians develop surveys that measure population growth, consumer prices, or unemployment. Other statisticians work for scientific, environmental, and agricultural agencies and may help determine the level of pesticides in drinking water, the number of endangered species living in a particular area, or the number of people afflicted with a particular disease. Statisticians also are employed in national defense agencies, determining the accuracy of new weapons and the likely effectiveness of defense strategies.

Because statistical specialists are employed in so many work areas, specialists who use statistics often have different professional designations. For example, a person using statistical methods to analyze economic data may have the title econometrician, while statisticians in public health and medicine may hold titles such as biostatistician, biometrician, or epidemiologist.

Working Conditions

Statisticians usually work regular hours in comfortable offices. Some statisticians travel to provide advice on research projects, supervise and set up surveys, or gather statistical data. While advanced communications devices such as e-mail and teleconferencing are making it easier for statisticians to work with clients in different areas, there still are situations that require the statistician to be present, such as during meetings or while gathering data. Some in this occupation may have duties that vary widely, such as designing experiments or performing fieldwork in various communities. Statisticians who work in academia generally have a mix of teaching and research responsibilities.

Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Although employment opportunities exist for individuals with a bachelorís degree, a masterís degree in statistics or mathematics is usually the minimum educational requirement for most statistician jobs. Research and academic positions in institutions of higher education, for example, require at least a masterís degree, and usually a Ph.D., in statistics. Beginning positions in industrial research often require a masterís degree combined with several years of experience.

The training required for employment as an entry-level statistician in the Federal Government, however, is a bachelorís degree, including at least 15 semester hours of statistics or a combination of 15 hours of mathematics and statistics, if at least 6 semester hours are in statistics. Qualifying as a mathematical statistician in the Federal Government requires 24 semester hours of mathematics and statistics, with a minimum of 6 semester hours in statistics and 12 semester hours in an area of advanced mathematics, such as calculus, differential equations, or vector analysis.

In 2004, approximately 230 universities offered a degree program in statistics, biostatistics, or mathematics. Many other schools also offered graduate-level courses in applied statistics for students majoring in biology, business, economics, education, engineering, psychology, and other fields. Acceptance into graduate statistics programs does not require an undergraduate degree in statistics, although good training in mathematics is essential.

Many schools also offered degrees in mathematics, operations research, and other fields that include a sufficient number of courses in statistics to qualify graduates for some entry-level positions with the Federal Government. Required subjects for statistics majors include differential and integral calculus, statistical methods, mathematical modeling, and probability theory. Additional courses that undergraduates should take include linear algebra, design and analysis of experiments, applied multivariate analysis, and mathematical statistics.

Because computers are used extensively for statistical applications, a strong background in computer science is highly recommended. For positions involving quality and productivity improvement, training in engineering or physical science is useful. A background in biological, chemical, or health science is important for positions involving the preparation and testing of pharmaceutical or agricultural products. Courses in economics and business administration are helpful for many jobs in market research, business analysis, and forecasting.

Good communications skills are important for prospective statisticians in industry, who often need to explain technical matters to persons without statistical expertise. An understanding of business and the economy also is valuable for those who plan to work in private industry.

Beginning statisticians generally are supervised by an experienced statistician. With experience, they may advance to positions with more technical responsibility and, in some cases, supervisory duties. However, opportunities for promotion are greater for persons with advanced degrees. Masterís and Ph.D. degree holders usually enjoy independence in their work and may become qualified to engage in research; develop statistical methods; or, after a number of years of experience in a particular area, become statistical consultants.


Statisticians held about 19,000 jobs in 2004. Twenty percent of these jobs were in the Federal Government, where statisticians were concentrated in the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services. Another 20 percent were found in State and local governments, including State colleges and universities. Most of the remaining jobs were in private industry, especially in scientific research and development services, insurance carriers, and pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing. In addition, many professionals with a background in statistics were among the 53,000 postsecondary mathematical science teachers.

Job Outlook

Employment of statisticians is projected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations over the 2004-14 period, because many jobs that require a degree in statistics will not carry the title ďstatistician.Ē However, job opportunities should remain favorable for individuals with a degree in statistics. For example, many jobs involve the analysis and interpretation of data from economics, biological science, psychology, computer software engineering, and other disciplines. Despite the limited number of jobs resulting from growth, a number of openings will become available as statisticians transfer to other occupations or retire or leave the workforce for other reasons.

The use of statistics is widespread and growing. Among graduates with a masterís degree in statistics, those with a strong background in an allied field, such as finance, biology, engineering, or computer science, should have the best prospects of finding jobs related to their field of study. Federal agencies will hire statisticians in many fields, including demography, agriculture, consumer and producer surveys, Social Security, health care, and environmental quality. Because the Federal Government is one of the few employers that considers a bachelorís degree an adequate entry-level qualification, competition for entry-level positions in the Federal Government is expected to be strong for persons just meeting the minimum qualifications for statisticians. Those who meet State certification requirements may become high school statistics teachers. (For additional information, see the statement on teachersópreschool, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and secondary elsewhere in the Handbook.)

Manufacturing firms will hire statisticians with masterís and doctoral degrees for quality control of various products, including pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles, aircraft, chemicals, and food. For example, pharmaceutical firms will employ statisticians to assess the effectiveness and safety of new drugs, to decide whether to market them, and to make sure they comply with federal standards. To address global product competition, motor vehicle manufacturers will need statisticians to improve the quality of automobiles, trucks, and their components by developing and testing new designs. Statisticians with knowledge of engineering and the physical sciences will find jobs in research and development, working with teams of scientists and engineers to help improve design and production processes to ensure consistent quality of newly developed products. Many statisticians also will find opportunities developing statistical software for computer software manufacturing firms.

Firms will rely heavily on workers with a background in statistics to forecast sales, analyze business conditions, and help to solve management problems to maximize profits. In addition, consulting firms increasingly will offer sophisticated statistical services to other businesses. Because of the widespread use of computers in this field and the growing number of widely used software packages, statisticians in all industries should have good computer programming skills and knowledge of statistical software.

Earnings [About this section] Back to Top Back to Top

Median annual earnings of statisticians were $58,620 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $42,770 and $80,690. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,870, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,500.

The average annual salary for statisticians in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $81,262 in 2005, while mathematical statisticians averaged $91,446. According to a 2005 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salary offers for mathematics/statistics graduates with a bachelorís degree averaged $43,448 a year.

Related Occupations

People in a wide range of occupations work with statistics. Among these are actuaries, mathematicians, operations research analysts, computer scientists and database administrators, computer systems analysts, computer programmers, computer software engineers, engineers, economists, market and survey researchers, and financial analysts and personal financial advisors. Some statisticians also work as secondary or postsecondary teachers.

Sources of Additional Information

For information about career opportunities in statistics, contact:

  • American Statistical Association, 1429 Duke St., Alexandria, VA 22314-3415. Internet: http://www.amstat.org/

For more information on doctoral-level careers and training in mathematics, a field closely related to statistics, contact:

  • American Mathematical Society, 201 Charles St., Providence, RI 02904-2213. Internet: http://www.ams.org/

Information on obtaining positions as statisticians with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Governmentís official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/ or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978) 461-8404. These numbers are not tollfree, and charges may result.

    • Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition,


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