Statistics and Probability

Careers in statistics and probability involve analyzing data and conducting experiments. Read on to see what statisticians do, what the career outlook is for this job and what kind of education you need to work in this field.

Are Statistics and Probability for Me?

Career Overview

The fields of statistics and probability use numerical data to analyze information and assess the likelihood of possible outcomes of an event. Statistics are used in industries such as healthcare and sports. Businesses may hire statisticians to study the development of a product or make improvements to an existing product. Statisticians might figure out the best methods for collecting data in order to improve the marketing of a product. If you work for federal or state governments, which employ more statisticians than any other industry, some of your responsibilities could include calculating population change, determining the extent of an environmental problem or measuring certain health ailments.

Much of the projected growth is expected to come from improving technology, as more data can be processed in a shorter amount of time, so in addition to having skills in math, you should be comfortable working with software packages to calculate and present data. Statisticians usually work in an office, but they might travel to conduct research and gather information. Statisticians typically need at least a bachelor's degree for most government occupations, but if you want to work as a statistician at businesses or universities, you will probably need to complete graduate school.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that job opportunities for statisticians will increase by 27% from 2012-2022, which is more rapidly than average when compared to all occupations (www.bls.gov). If you want a career calculating projections like those, or if the math behind the BLS-reported median salary of $79,290 for statisticians in 2013 interests you as much as the income itself, studies in statistics and probability may be for you.

How Can I Work in Statistics and Probability?

Education

Degree programs that specialize in statistics are typically found at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Some colleges offer statistics courses for students pursuing an associate's degree in math and other programs.

A bachelor's degree in math with a concentration in statistics could prepare you for some statistician jobs or graduate school. Course options for an undergraduate program in statistics might include statistical applications, biostatistics and data analysis. A master's degree program in statistics gives you course options such as statistical models, theoretical statistics and multivariate data analysis.

You might be admitted to a statistics graduate program with any type of bachelor's degree, but most graduate schools require you to have taken calculus and statistics and learned a programming language at the undergraduate level. Ph.D.-level statistics programs have prerequisites similar to master's programs. In addition to advanced statistics coursework in a Ph.D. program, you usually need to take some preliminary exams, teach a statistics course at the collegiate level and defend an original thesis based on your research.

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