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Career profile: Statistician

Career profile: StatisticianStatisticians use numbers to make sense of the world. Find out about the huge range of industries they work in, and how to get involved.

What is a statistician?

Statisticians use statistical methods to collect and analyze data. This could be about anything from disease outbreaks to mobile phone sales, meaning that statisticians are in demand in a huge variety of sectors. They need to be aware of the ways that data can mislead people, and know how to spot significant patterns in messy real-world information.

You don't need a specific statistics degree to become a statistician: subjects like maths and economics, together with on-the-job training, are usually enough. Your training might lead to a master's in statistics, or to a qualification from the Royal Statistical Society.

Where do statisticians work?

Statisticians are needed in any industry that has to find out the truth behind data - and that's most of them. Here are a few examples of the kinds of places a statistician could work.

The Civil Service

The Government Statistical Service produces official statistics and provides analysis and interpretation to help the government make decisions. They can work in any area of government, from long-term issues like unemployment to one-off events like the Olympics.

Government statisticians normally need a degree in a relevant subject, like maths or economics, although you may be able to get in if you have enough professional experience.

Other public organizations, such as the EU, are also in need of statisticians, providing the opportunity to work abroad - although there may be restrictions on the work you can do based on nationality, particularly if you are dealing with sensitive information.

Medicine

Statistsics are vital to medical research: without them, it would be impossible to evaluate the results of medical research reliably, or identify the causes of illness. Medical statisticians are involved in the planning and delivery of clinical trials as well as analyzing the results. They might also teach medical students or medical staff.

Medical statisticians usually work for a university, a public body like the World Health Organization or a private pharmaceutical company. They normally have a relevant undergraduate degree, but master's courses in medical statistics are also available to those with an unrelated degree.

Businesses

There are lots of ways that statisticians can help businesses, such as:

  • Making sure that products are all manufactured to the right standard
  • Working out which special offers produce the best results
  • Running experiments to find ways to improve products
  • Making predictions about changes in prices or demand

What you need to get into these jobs will depend on the organization, but a maths or economics degree will usually help. More senior positions might require postgraduate qualifications, whereas entry-level positions are more likely to include on-the-job training.

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