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Why You Need to Study Statistics

Applications of statistics have grown rapidly in the past ten years. As a result, the demand for statisticians has also increased. Statisticians are hired by almost any business that hires engineers, computer programmers, economists, or mathematicians. Corporations that employ engineers or computer programmers, such as Norfolk Southern, hire statisticians. The statisticians have a strong programming background and work alongside engineers to help test equipment and current shipping methods. It is the statistician's responsibility to determine if the current methods are the most efficient. They also, on occasion, hire statisticians with a strong computer background to work with their overall shipping system - a major computer program which sends goods all over the country. Other businesses hire statisticians to work specifically with engineers to fit mathematical models to experimental data. In addition, statisticians are used to determine product safety and in quality control. Consulting firms which hire a large number of economists, hire many statisticians with a strong background in economics, or mathematics. For example, Booz-Allen & Hamilton hire a lot of people who are strong in any two of those three disciplines. A person wishing to go into the consulting industry will work one on one with a large number of clients, and must be extremely self-motivated. Most consulting firms work with a base salary and commission.

The largest employers in the U.S. and Canada for statisticians and mathematicians are the national governments. In many cases mathematicians and statisticians are considered to be interchangeable since many universities have joint math/stat programs. As a result, both mathematicians and statisticians are quite often hired for the same job and then specifically trained for that job. Nearly all departments of the U.S. government also hire statisticians to work solely on analyzing data. Examples of this can be found in the Department of Labor Statistics and in the Census Bureau. Some, on the other hand, hire statisticians to work with engineers. Two examples of these are the Department of Transportation and the Department of the Navy. Some government agencies hire statisticians with other strong backgrounds. The Department of Health and Human Services hires Statisticians to work with social scientists. The Environmental Protection Agency and The Department of Agriculture have statisticians who work with chemists, and agronomists.

Another applicable field of statistics can be found in actuarial science. Students with a statistics degree are given a solid background with which to pursue this option. Those interested are strongly encouraged to take one or more of the actuarial exams before graduating. The statistics major includes coursework needed for the first three of these exams. Though actuaries are considered to be the insurance company's "mathematicians," they are also widely found within governmental agencies, consulting firms, and industry. Information about Actuarial exams can be obtained from Christina Dillon, ugradstat@vt.edu.

Biostatistics is also an increasingly important field with applications in medicine, agriculture, forestry, environmental work, etc. Because statistics is such a widely applicable and diversified field, statistics majors who obtain a minor or concentration in another discipline are well-prepared for a wide range of careers.

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