Have you ever wondered how companies decide which products to launch? Or how to evaluate whether a traffic light is warranted at a particular intersection? The answer probably involves statistical analyses – and that’s why statisticians are in high demand. Statisticians do everything from compiling and creating data sets to analyzing, strategizing and communicating insights to stakeholders of all levels. There is a real breadth to the impact statisticians can make within a company.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics recently listed statisticians among the fastest growing careers of 2018, and the field is predicted to grow 33 percent by 2026. The number of students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in statistics grew 22 percent between 2016 and 2017, with 43 percent of those pursuing such degrees being women, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. UC Davis’ Statistics Department Chair, Alexander Aue, notes that statistics is popular now because data is popping up everywhere and there is a need for analysis.
To get a handle on what a career in the field is like, College Confidential sat down with UCLA graduate Elizabeth Frank, who now serves as the analytics manager at an educational organization. Read on to find out the insights that Frank shares about working in the field.
College Confidential: To what do you attribute the recent growing interest in the statistics industry?
Elizabeth Frank: Statistics applies to so many different fields, so pretty much any industry can use data, and because of that, they’re looking for people who can crunch those numbers and make sense of them. There are a lot of job opportunities, so there’s a need to train people and have them ready to tackle those roles. In addition, technology has allowed for more analytical insights pretty rapidly.
CC: What types of resources have you found that would be helpful for other women entering the field?
EF: There’s the Caucus for Women in Statistics, which I recently joined, and the American Statistical Association has had various panels and events centered around women in the industry, so there’s an awareness for the support groups and professional organizations there. When I was a student at UCLA, the school offered opportunities to meet other statisticians and shared careers in statistics while making sure they included women in those panels, which helped to make sure women didn’t feel isolated. UCLA also has made a really conscious effort to make sure it has a representative staff by aiming to hire women as lecturers but also as researchers and ladder faculty. I also currently mentor students and speak with them often about the field and the industry. I would encourage every young woman in a STEM field to seek out a mentor.
CC: What are the most common questions you get from those who are just entering the field?
EF: They often ask what types of jobs they can get out of school and whether they need a graduate degree in order to get quality positions. Some of the women I’ve mentored ask what the environment is like for females in the field. I’ve helped share my personal experiences, as well as resources in how to get promotions and grow the career for all of the students who I’ve talked to about the industry.
CC: When you review resumes for statisticians who are just entering the industry, do you view paid and unpaid internships as being equally valuable, or do you put more weight on resumes that feature paid internships?
EF: Any experience where you’re getting your hands on actual data is useful, because internships allow you to work with real-world data, not classroom data. In interviews, one of the biggest questions I’ve seen asked is “If you’re given a particular data set, how would you analyze it?” You don’t have to have all of those technical skills necessarily memorized, but be able to think about how you can deal with the messy data you get in the real world. Any internship can help you figure out how to work with that information, so both paid and unpaid internships are equally valuable.
CC: Do you have any networking tips for students who are about to enter the statistics field?
EF: I always tell students to reach out to the person who has the job they ultimately want and ask for an informational interview -- the worst they can say is “no.” I think it’s great to always reach out to find out what kind of skills you might need or what you can do to build your resume and work your way toward that type of job.