A government statistician analyzes information about population, business, and society. This information takes the form of statistics, in which trends in these fields are assigned numerical values. The resulting data is used by the government to determine legislation, distribution of public funding, health initiatives, and the like. For this reason, the government statistician needs a firm grasp of politics and social policy as well as advanced mathematics. Roughly a third of all statistician jobs are government positions.
Statistics is the science of data collection and analysis. This data is gathered through surveys, social experiments, and observation of trends in various fields, from sales figures to medical records. All data gathering and analysis methods are designed to be as scientifically accurate as possible. The goal, for corporate as well as government statisticians, is to understand the current society or some significant portion of it. In the corporate world, this data is used to determine marketing and sales decisions; in government, it provides information on a nation’s population and its needs.
For example, census data can shape voting districts, public health initiatives, and economic trends. The government statistician processes this data to discover any significant factors that reveal the larger picture. One method is the representative sample, a small number of people who illustrate trends in a much larger group or society itself. To be as accurate as possible, this group should include diverse individuals to represent all the various sectors of the group. Even these methods can produce only approximate measurements, and listings of statistical data often include a margin of error for further scientific accuracy.
Depending on the branch, agency, or ministry, the government statistician may be concerned with other statistics than population figures. Health and environmental statisticians, for example, may analyze data on animal habitats, drinking water, or air quality. Economic data can include job creation figures, imports and exports, and profits or losses in a particular business or industry. In the military, data analysis is crucial to plotting defensive strategy and weapons deployment. Statisticians can be found at most levels and in most fields of government work.
A government statistician must also be able to deal with the government’s particular brand of bureaucracy, a specialized skill in itself. Many possess communications skills, as they must regularly inform policy makers about the results of their data. A person in this position has access to information about what society and the world are actually like in the present moment. The experienced statistician knows how to process, quantify and present this data in ways that can be understood even by those without a background in statistics.