What Statisticians Do
Statisticians must develop techniques to overcome problems in data collection and analysis.
Statisticians use mathematical techniques to analyze and interpret data and draw conclusions. Many economic, social, political, and military decisions rely on the work of statisticians.
Statisticians typically do the following:
- Determine the questions or problems to be addressed
- Decide what data are needed to answer the questions or problems
- Determine methods for finding or collecting data
- Design surveys or experiments or opinion polls to collect data
- Collect data or train others to do so
- Analyze and interpret data
- Report conclusions from their analyses
Statisticians design surveys, experiments, and opinion polls to collect data. Some surveys, such as the U.S. census, include data from nearly everyone. For most surveys and opinion polls, however, statisticians use sampling to collect data from some people in a particular group. Statisticians determine the type and size of the sample to be surveyed or polled.
Statisticians develop survey questionnaires or reporting forms for collecting the data they need. They also often write instructions for workers who collect and tabulate the data. Surveys may be mailed, conducted over the phone, or collected online or through some other means. Statisticians analyze the data that are collected. In their analyses, statisticians calculate averages, reliability, and other specifics of the data. They also choose and conduct tests to find out the data’s reliability and validity.
Statisticians explain the limitations of the data to prevent inaccurate conclusions from being drawn, and they identify trends and relationships. Statisticians use computers with specialized statistical software to analyze data. Some statisticians help to create new statistical software packages to analyze data more accurately and efficiently.
Statisticians write reports to explain their findings and the data’s limitations. They may present their reports to other team members and to clients with tables, charts, and graphs. Statisticians also recommend how to improve the design of future surveys or experiments.
Statisticians work in many fields, such as education, marketing, psychology, and sports: any field that requires collection and analysis of large amounts of data. In particular, government, health, and manufacturing employ many statisticians:
Government. Nearly every agency in the federal government employs statisticians. Some government statisticians develop and analyze surveys that measure unemployment, wages, and other estimates of jobs and workers. Other statisticians help to figure out the average level of pesticides in drinking water, the number of endangered species living in a particular area, or the number of people who have a certain disease, for example. At national defense agencies, statisticians use computer programs to test the likely outcomes of different defense strategies.
Health. Statisticians known as biostatisticians or biometricians work in pharmaceutical companies, public health, and medicine. They design studies that test whether drugs successfully treat diseases or conditions. They also work for hospitals and public health agencies, where they help identify the sources of outbreaks of illnesses in humans and animals.
Manufacturing. Statisticians design experiments for product testing and development. For instance, they help to design experiments to see how car engines perform when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Statisticians also contribute to the design of marketing strategies and prices for final goods.