The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of statisticians will grow 34% from 2014 to 2024. 50% more bachelor’s degrees and 21% more master’s degrees in statistics were granted from 2003 to 2015. Online data science course development and participation is booming. If you love the idea of a career in statistics, what are the choices that are open to you and how do you best prepare for each of those choices?
PhD, PhD, PhD. Many of the 90 colleges and universities offering PhD’s in statistics focus on preparing graduates for a career in Academia and research. You can often get teaching assistantships and research grants to help support your studies. This career is a fulfilling one if teaching is one of your strengths, and can be a lucrative one if your line of research is well funded.
As long as we are talking about PhD’s then Biostatistics and Epidemiology are two career paths that are best pursued with a PhD in your credentials. If academia is the number one goal of PhD’s in statistics then Biostatistics is the next area PhD’s are targeting. Biostatistics groups at big pharmaceutical companies can number in the 100’s. Career advancement is only limited by your communication and management skills. There are many openings and excellent compensation.
Every time I go to a cocktail party and say I recruit in statistics, people’s first reaction is, “I know an actuary.” This specialty area of statistics seems to have made the biggest impact on the general population. Actuaries typically work in insurance companies or consulting companies and have to pass a series of tests for accreditation. Master’s degrees in statistics or actuarial science are a plus but not required. Like Biostatistics, actuarial groups are quite large with good opportunities for promotion and increased compensation, but candidates must be committed to continuing education to keep their skills up-to-date and certified.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau hire legions of statisticians and they are a very good place to start your career. Many, many bachelor’s and master’s in statistics entry-level candidates are able break into the business world after two years of training in these government agencies.
The hottest two words in statistics right now are Data Scientist. With formal, academic statistical training and software skills that are essential for working with Big Data, qualified candidates for Data Scientist openings can have their pick of positions. Two years ago a master’s degree in statistics would have been required, but the proliferation of online coursework and the urgent demand for this expertise has created openings that can be career-making without a master’s. Not only do data scientists need multivariate statistics and software skills in Python, R, Hadoop and SQL but they must also be excellent communicators of this information to non-technical staff. These hands-on programming and modeling positions still require a strong, strategic focus, too. We are seeing demand for these candidates across many of the usually distinct statistical career paths: actuarial science which has just added two accreditation tests in data science, commercial analytics in the pharmaceutical industry, government where the Obama administration created the first position of Chief Data Scientist and academia where they are accelerating their training programs for these positions