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What is a Statistician?

By Brendan McGuigan
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A statistician is a person who works with the mathematical field of statistics. A statistician may specialize in either applied or theoretical statistics. There is a need for a statistician in many different fields, ranging from journalism to the hard sciences to finances, and many people find it to be a lucrative career. A statistician often works in tandem with an expert in a specific field, to apply an understanding of statistics to examining some aspect of that other field. For example, statisticians may work with medical researchers, financiers, insurance agencies, government officials, or environmentalists to help them predict outcomes, analyze existing data, or come up with business models.

In the United States, there are roughly 20,000 people who identify themselves as statisticians, and nearly half of them work for the government in some capacity. Although one can study statistics in an undergraduate program at a university, generally a professional statistician possesses at least a Master’s degree in the field, if not a PhD. Salaries for a statistician can range widely, but are often relatively high, and statistics is viewed as a professional white-collar field.

The job of statistician has been around for thousands of years, with ancient empires using them to track things like their populations, taxes, and to keep track of important commodities like cattle. Anytime anything needs to be quantified, modeled, and predicted, a statistician can be called in. As the world becomes more and more reliant on a quantitative outlook, the statistician becomes an ever more integral part of the workforce. In the modern world, a statistician will generally rely fairly heavily on computers, to help them better model things, and to crunch numbers easily, and track data seamlessly.

Governments tend to employ large numbers of statisticians because numbers are so important to the healthy functioning of a nation. Imports and exports need to be tracked and crunched to understand our economic relationship to other countries; populations need to be tracked and examined to find trends in births, deaths, and aging; crime needs to be looked at to find underlying patterns that can help guide policy to reduce it; unemployment numbers need to be watched to ensure a healthy functioning economy, with as robust a workforce as is possible; and every policy the government looks at needs to be subjected to a strong analysis, to make sure the numbers line up with the language guiding the policy. No matter the country, a statistician will likely play a large role.

In the private sector, many fields rely on statisticians, particularly the medical field and the many realms of industry. In medicine, new innovations are driven by research and development, which in turn rely on being able to track populations and see how different drugs or techniques affect them. To ensure these numbers have strong predictive power, a statistician needs to be involved, to help sort through the noise and find the real data. In industry, numbers help guide product refinement, as well as cleaning up things like distribution channels to make sure costs are kept low and efficiency is kept high.

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Discussion Comments

By anon330437 — On Apr 16, 2013

@EliseP: Read the fifth paragraph.

By EliseP — On May 11, 2011

Do you know if statisticians work in the medical field?

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