Written by Scott Martin
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Statisticians are a highly-qualified group of professionals who design, study, and analyze data collections in order to draw unbiased conclusions. While many students of statistics enter work in a variety of fields, this specialized profession usually requires at least a Master's degree. Statisticians oftentimes hold a Ph.D. in statistics--the gathering, examination, and presentation of numerical data.

In effect, statisticians not only create means of data collection, but oversee the proper handling of data, and the arrival at results and interpretation. This specialized science can be utilized in practically any discipline that requires data analysis--from biology to social science to market research. Because of this need for accurately gathered and interpreted data, statisticians are employed by military, commercial, and humanitarian agencies regularly.

In fact, every time that a new drug enters the market--from antidepressants to antibiotics--statisticians play an integral role in assessing occurrence of side effects and the safety of the drug in question. Likewise, every political poll you might read about during an election year is the result of qualified statisticians at work. Even progress in the mental health field--such as the study of disorders such as bipolar disorder or attention deficit disorder--owes much to the hard work of elite statisticians.

How Statisticians Gather Data

Sampling is one method used by statisticians to obtain information on a large population by studying a small representative sample. This method is used in national product comparisons, television ratings compilations, and political polls. Statisticians create a sample group, and perfect the means of survey--whether by interview, questionnaire, or observation.

Statisticians then create a set of instructions which are followed by those administering the survey. Statisticians will also instruct data tabulators, so that data is handled in the most scientifically and mathematically correct way possible. Once the data is gathered and tabulated, statisticians interpret meaning for the data, employing their training, scientific rules, and experience.

Fields of Work

Roughly one-fifth of statisticians in the United States worked for the federal government in 2002. Many such statisticians have been employed by the federal Commerce, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services departments. State and local government statistical jobs account for an additional 16 percent, including work for public universities.

Of course, statistical analysis is needed in fields in the private sector, as well. In addition to the necessary testing for safe food and drug administration, many corporations employ statisticians as well. For instance, types and nature of product lines are tested for customer response and price setting by statisticians.

Furthermore, even the entertainment industry is affected by the work of statisticians. Many Hollywood movies are pre-screened, with a sampling of viewers surveyed as to their responses (both positive and negative) to the movie in question. Oftentimes, films are re-edited or even full scenes reshot due to audience ratings and response in these sample viewings. This is yet another example of how far-reaching and multi-disciplinary the work of statisticians can be.

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