What does a professional statistician do?
December 3, 2012 2:10 PM   Subscribe

(Good) jobs involving probability and statistics other than math teacher or actuary?

I am trying to determine what career I should pursue. I like math, specifically probability and statistics. Teacher and actuary are both on the table, but I want to know what other options there are.
posted by CustooFintel to Work & Money (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Statisticians and mathemeticians are employed a LOT in government.

There are currently 134 postings on USAjobs.

Risk and Compliance, is another area employing these skills.

Go on Linkedin, there are a ton of jobs there.

Read the descriptions. See if any click for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:15 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: There are a lot of careers that use maths, especially statistics, so much that it's probably impossible to make an exhaustive list.

- there are a lot of statisticians (and others with training in statistics) employed in health and health care research, doing quantitative analysis - every time you read in the news something like "1 in 10 Canadians have arthritis", that number was worked out by a statistically trained health researcher

- statistically-trained people are also employed in all sorts of social and public policy research - such as working for organizations like Statistics Canada (and whatever is your local equivalent)

- also (as noted above) for other government departments -- a sociologist friend says that many sociologists who have good quant skills are employed by governments

- economics (whether academic or non) is very statistical

- market research employs people with statistical skills

Knowing statistics is like knowing how to read and write: it's a skill that can be applied to many different topics, depending on your other interests.
posted by jb at 2:21 PM on December 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

Taking a grad-level probability course right now. It's taught through our business school, so the prof often makes connections to Wall Street "quants".

Does "academic researcher" fall under "teacher"? Because yeah, statistics + just about anything else really sets you on the right path to be a good researcher in that field. (Maybe not the PI of a whole lab, unless you do an undergrad in statistics with, say, a psych minor, then a Ph.D. in psychology.)
posted by supercres at 2:28 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: My friend has a masters or PhD in statistics and she works as a 'statistician for hire' for other scientists, primarily biologists and medical researchers. I think her job title is "Statistical Consultant" - she both advises on study design and crunches collected data.
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2012

Quants on Wall St. generally, but not necessarily always, don't have a pure statistics background, though statistical literacy is definitely a requirement. If that is an area that interests you (and it's not clear from your question, as being a "quant" is vastly different than being an actuary, even though both nominally fall under "finance"), peruse Paul Wilmott's site for an idea of the math skills required of quants.
posted by dfriedman at 2:40 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: Knowing statistics is like knowing how to read and write.


As a former actuary with acquaintances who are quants, it amazes me how non-math people reflexively mention "actuary" and "quant" as the glamorous math jobs that you should strive for and guarantee you a six-figure salary. Peeps don't realize that a) the jobs are quite different from what the general public imagines them to be, b) these jobs make up an infinitesimal minority of the workforce, and c) you have to be genius-smart, lucky and (sometimes) connected to join these ranks. It's like saying you should become a neurosurgeon just because you liked biology class.

Asking what one can do with Math/Stat is like asking what one can do with English. The answer is anything and everything, because it is a base skill. You need to find a niche that fits your interests and your talents. That is why almost every economics, science or engineering degree requires you to take Math/Stat, because mathematics is the language that describes the physical / financial world that surrounds us.
posted by wutangclan at 3:44 PM on December 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Epidemiology is basically statistics applied to health/disease in populations. Epidemiologists help design health research studies so that the results will be meaningful statistically. It is a really interesting area of applied math, with good job prospects.
posted by barnoley at 3:49 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Good) jobs involving probability and statistics other than math teacher or actuary?

Almost any job that requires decision making based on hard data. Finance, engineering, medicine, computer science, etc, etc, etc.
posted by empath at 3:51 PM on December 3, 2012

How about being a Data Scientist? The phrase "data scientist" is kind of a trendy, start-up-world re-branding of "business analytics". But the description can describe anything from graphic designers who work on data visualization, to engineering teams at start-up companies who work on A/B testing their website's UX.
posted by tinymegalo at 3:55 PM on December 3, 2012

Check your MeMail.
posted by PMdixon at 4:29 PM on December 3, 2012

Best answer: There are a lot of roles in finance besides quant where you often find people with a statistics background. I was an options trader and a risk analyst.

Quants, that is, the people who build models (and I mean, for example, stochastic volatility model when I say "model" here, not some discounted cashflow thing for MBA students), tend to be relatively rare and usually have a PhD and badass programming skills.

Traders often have a math/stats/engineering background and many only have a bachelor's, though master's is fairly common too. What do traders do? Speaking very broadly, they make markets, meaning they show prices where they are willing to buy and sell a given quantity of a given product. They make money (again speaking very generally) by buying on the bid, selling on the offer, and collecting the spread. Their risk is carrying inventory when they buy/sell something and cannot immediately sell/buy it out. A trader is differentiated from a broker in that the former takes risk, the latter does not and only acts as a go-between. Brokers generally don't have any math background (nor do they need it) but many are former traders.

Risk analysts have the same type of background and can sometimes be called "risk managers". The roles described by this title can very widely, in some of them they work closely with the traders to do deep dive analysis, suggest hedges, etc. and in others they serve in more of a regulatory/compliance function and basically measure the risk and check that it doesn't exceed a certain limit. It is generally easier to get a job as a risk analyst than a trader and the compensation reflects this. "Valuations analyst" is a related role.

Interviews for these types of positions often involve a lot of probability and stats brainteasers, and poker is very popular among traders. The options market making firm SIG actually trains recruits by making them play poker.
posted by pravit at 4:34 PM on December 3, 2012

I have a friend with a BS in math who works for a state department of natural resources. As others have said, almost anywhere you have natural or social scientists doing heavy quantitative stuff/modeling they have math and stats folks who work with them. Being a state employee is a "good" job in that it is fairly stable and has great benefits.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:37 PM on December 3, 2012

My applied statistics professor consults with the government as a labor economist (statistician). I don't know the details, but I believe he works with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and analyzes data to look at things like whether policies to prevent people losing their jobs are worth it (as just one example).
posted by asciident at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2012

Google employs a number of people with the job title "statistician". Most have advanced degrees in statistics. I'm sure they aren't the only tech company out there that specifically hires statisticians. There are also plenty of regular old software engineers at Google with degrees in statistics, but if you specifically want to be doing stats all day long and you're really, really good at it, apply as a statistician.
posted by town of cats at 9:18 PM on December 3, 2012


Seriously. We just hired a data scientist to help make sense of all the data we've got in our BI warehouse.

Depending on the field, BI in general can be a math-heavy career.
posted by krisak at 7:09 AM on December 4, 2012

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