What Statisticians Do
Statisticians must develop techniques to overcome problems in data collection and analysis.
Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data and help solve real-world problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields.
Statisticians typically do the following:
- Apply statistical theories and methods to solve practical problems in business, engineering, the sciences, or other fields
- Decide what data are needed to answer specific questions or problems
- Determine methods for finding or collecting data
- Design surveys or experiments or opinion polls to collect data
- Collect data or train others to do so
- Analyze and interpret data
- Report conclusions from their analyses
Statisticians design surveys, questionnaires, experiments, and opinion polls to collect the data they need. They may also write instructions for other workers on how to collect and arrange the data. Surveys may be mailed, conducted over the phone, collected online, or gathered through some other means.
Some surveys, such as the U.S. census, include data from nearly everyone. For most surveys and opinion polls, however, statisticians use sampling to collect data from some people in a particular group. Statisticians determine the type and size of the sample to be surveyed or polled.
Statisticians use computers with specialized statistical software to analyze data. In their analyses, statisticians identify trends and relationships within the data. They also conduct tests to find out the data’s reliability and validity. Some statisticians may help create new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently.
Statisticians present the findings from their analyses and discuss the data’s limitations to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn. They may present written reports, tables, charts, and graphs to other team members and to clients. Statisticians also recommend how to improve the design of future surveys or experiments.
Statisticians work in many fields, such as education, marketing, psychology, sports, or any other field that requires collection and analysis of data. In particular, government, healthcare, and research and development companies employ many statisticians.
Government. Nearly every agency in the federal government employs statisticians. These workers develop advanced statistical models for several purposes, such as filling in gaps from nonresponses to surveys. Some statisticians hired by the federal government are known as mathematical statisticians.
Some government statisticians develop and analyze surveys that measure unemployment, wages, or other estimates of jobs and workers. Other statisticians help to figure out the average level of pesticides in drinking water, the number of endangered species living in a particular area, or the number of people who have a certain disease. At national defense agencies, statisticians use computer programs to test the likely outcomes of different defense strategies.
Healthcare. Statisticians known as biostatisticians or biometricians work in pharmaceutical companies, public health agencies, or hospitals. They may design studies to test whether drugs successfully treat diseases or conditions. They may also work for hospitals or public health agencies to help identify the sources of outbreaks of illnesses in humans and animals.
Research and development. Statisticians design experiments for product testing and development. For instance, they may help design experiments to see how car engines perform when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Statisticians may also help develop marketing strategies and prices for consumer goods.
Some people with a degree in statistics or who collect and analyze statistical data, however, may not be formally known as statisticians. Instead, they may work in related fields and professions. In some industries, for example, they may be known as quantitative analysts, financial analysts, data analysts, or data scientists.