Careers in Statistics


What Statisticians Do

Statisticians are experts in obtaining trustworthy data, analyzing data to clarify meaning, and drawing practical conclusions from data. Statisticians are specialists, but they must also know more than just statistics.

A statistician who works in medicine, in a manufacturing plant or in market research must learn enough medicine, engineering or marketing to understand the data in their setting. Statisticians need the ability to work with other people, to listen and to communicate.

Statistics uses mathematics, but it is not abstract or isolated. Statisticians work with people from other professional backgrounds to solve practical problems.

Statistics also uses modern computing to organize and analyze data. Statisticians use specialized computational tools, but the emphasis is on understanding the data and solving the problem rather than on computing for its own sake.

Examples of Statistical Careers

Here are a few of the many settings in which statisticians contribute to our well-being:

The search for improved medical treatments rests on careful experiments that compare promising new treatments with the current state of the art. Statisticians work with medical teams to design the experiments and to analyze the complex data they produce.

Studies of the environment require data on the abundance and location of plants and animals, on the spread of pollution from its sources, and on the possible effects of changes in human activities. The data are often incomplete or uncertain, but statisticians can help uncover their meaning.

The future of many industries and their employees depends on improvement in the quality of goods and services and in the efficiency with which they are produced and delivered. Improvement should be based on data rather than guesswork. Ever more companies are installing elaborate systems to collect and act on data in order to better serve their customers.

How many people are unemployed this month? What do we export to China, and what do we import? Are rates of violent crime increasing or decreasing? Governments want data on issues like these to guide policy, and government statistical agencies provide that data through surveys of households and businesses.

Are consumer tastes in television programs changing? What are promising locations for a new retail outlet? Market researchers use both government data and their own surveys to answer questions like these. Statisticians design elaborate surveys that gather data for both public and private use.

How Do I Become a Statistician?

Most students enter statistical careers having completed at least a master’s degree in statistics. Students can also apply skills and knowledge gained from a major or minor in statistics to related fields such as actuarial science, mathematics, economics, and the sciences.

In the Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science here at NIU, we offer strong academic programs that will help prepare you for graduate coursework and/or a career in statistics.

View current course offerings or follow the links below for more information about our academic programs.

Get Involved in Statistics at NIU