The Big Data revolution is driving tremendous growth in the field of statistics. Data is collected at a stunning rate and is transforming government, society and business. So it’s no surprise that graduates with a degree in statistics are finding an abundance of interesting and exciting career opportunities.

But many students continue to overlook the field in favor of better-known STEM disciplines like engineering and computer science. It’s time to start giving statistics degrees more serious consideration. Here are five reasons why:

Statistics is Fun

Negative myths about statistics and statisticians abound, and I continue to hear them regularly. Clients often tell me that I don’t look like a statistician. Perhaps they expect me to be wearing a pocket protector? And when I tell my occupation to others in casual conversation, people often respond by saying “You’re a statistician? That sounds horrible!”

Let me debunk a myth for you: statistics isn’t horrible! In fact, the field is exciting and attracts a lot of interesting people. As Google’s chief economist Hal Varian told the New York Times “…the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. And I’m not kidding.”

Statisticians Work in Many Fields

Statisticians work in teams with other industry leaders on real-world issues like climate change, social networking, health, medicine, and wildlife preservation, to name just a few.  You can apply statistics to many different niches of industry, government or academia.

For instance, I didn’t want to commit to just one specialty, so I decided to consult after getting my degree. This career path has allowed me to work on projects with clients ranging from market researchers to cardiologists.

I love that I can work on topics like cardiovascular surgery, marketing, the education system, veterinary practices, or pig and poultry enzymes, even though I don’t have expertise in any of these areas.  What I bring to the table is the capacity to take a dataset, parse out the important information, and then communicate it to an audience in an understandable manner.

It’s this ability (courtesy of statistics!) that has allowed me to work in these many fields.


Jobs in Statistics are Growing Fast

Statistics is a field that is booming. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts jobs for statisticians will grow 27 percent between 2012 and 2022, much faster than the growth rate of 11 percent for all occupations, and 18 percent for computer occupations.

Salaries are High

If the promise of actually getting a job doesn’t entice you enough, consider this:  The average annual wage of statisticians was $83,310 in 2013 compared with $85,640 for civil engineers, and $80,930 for computer programmers. And pay for statisticians is expected to grow as demand for their skills remains strong.

A report by McKinsey Global Institute predicts the U.S. will need up to 190,000 new professionals with analytical skills to help manage the Big Data movement and run data analytics and business intelligence operations in the private and public sectors.


It’s a Great Field for Women

If you are a woman thinking about the sciences or STEM majors and careers, you’ll be interested to learn that 50 percent of mathematicians and statisticians are women. This is impressive considering that among science and engineering jobs, only 26 percent are performed by women.

 

The Bottom Line

If you are data literate and have knowledge in statistics, you will be a valuable contributor to a company. The ability to talk about data, look at it intelligently, and make decisions that drive a business forward will be invaluable to a future employer.

 

Want to learn more about careers in statistics? A good place to start is the American Statistical Association.  Also consider enrolling in a statistics course at your college or university. And remember, no pocket protectors are required!

 

About the Author:

Meghan Tooman graduated from Purdue University with a Masters in Applied Statistics, and now runs a consulting business, Statistical Research Solutions, LLC.