What is a Statistics Degree?

The degree field of statistics is focused on the study of probability theory and sampling theory. Students use techniques like sample survey theory and variance analysis (the quantitative investigation of the difference between actual and planned behavior) to examine the relationships between groups and measurements. In simple terms, statistics is about collecting data, organizing it, analyzing it, and interpreting it in practical ways that guide decision making in both business sectors and politics.

While mathematics courses naturally make up a significant part of any statistics curriculum, most programs also include classes in economics, finance, accounting, and sociology, because each of these fields frequently relies on statistical methods.

Specializations within the field of statistics include:

  • Biometry – the development and application of statistical analysis to plant, animal, and agricultural biology
  • Forensic Statistics – uses statistical models to study scientific evidence used in criminal cases
  • Medical Statistics / Biostatistics – focuses on human biology and the application of statistics to medicine and healthcare
  • Operational Research – the development of statistical models to analyze, understand, and optimize the operation of organizations
  • Predictive Analytics – focuses on the study of historical and current facts to predict future events
  • Computational Statistics – focuses on the role of statistics in computer science: information processing, computer programming, software development, and artificial intelligence

Program Options

Depending on the school, degrees in statistics are offered at the Associate, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral levels.

In all degree programs, students can expect coursework in the following areas, which naturally increases in depth and complexity as they progress from undergraduate to graduate classes:

Descriptive Statistics
Courses in descriptive statistics examine probability, frequency distributions, graphing, correlations, measures of location, variation, joint and marginal probabilities, and regression

Applied Statistics
In this course students use data to estimate the probability of events occurring. Subjects studied include surveys and experiments, tests of significance, exploratory data analysis, and sampling distributions.

Probability Theory
This subject area covers various probability theories, such as conditional probability, axiomatic probability, and Bayes’ Theorem.

This is the study of data from experiments in the field of biology.

Statistical Design and Experimental Analysis
This course is a requirement of many graduate level programs. It teaches students how to design valid experiments and analyze data.

Data Mining
The focus of courses in data mining is the process of uncovering trends, themes, and patterns in ‘big data.’

Linear Models
A linear model is an equation that describes a relationship between two quantities that show a constant rate of change.

Survey Sampling
Coursework covers the three parts of survey sampling: selecting a sample, collecting data, and interpreting data.

Degrees Similar to Statistics

The field of accounting is focused on analyzing income and expenditure records; on tracking budgets and revenue; and on producing financial records for individuals, businesses, industries, and governments.

Applied Mathematics
This degree program provides students with in-depth training in mathematics, statistics, and probability. It teaches the use of models in analyzing and solving financial problems and includes coursework in economics, finance, accounting, and computer science.

Economics asks wide questions about world economies, how governments should respond to financial crises, how stock prices and exchange rates are set, and how to help people living in poverty. The degree field of business and managerial economics is focused on how to use the concepts and theories of economics to study and solve problems in business.

Genetics is the study of how DNA is passed down from one generation to the next. Statistical genetics is concerned with the analysis of genetic data.

Systems Engineering
This degree program is concerned with how to use math and science to develop innovative technologies that help run businesses. Students take courses in operations management, computer-based simulation systems, and statistical applications in business.

Degree programs in mathematics typically teach both the theory and abstract of pure mathematics and its practical application to the world, known as applied mathematics. In other words, math majors study algebra, geometry, calculus, and statistics; but most pair this mathematics concentration with classes that reveal how math concepts are used in business management, computer science, economics, finance, music, philosophy, physics, and sports science.

Skills You'll Learn

The set of transferable skills that statistics grads gain throughout their studies is directly related to the field’s focus on the collection, organization, analysis, presentation, and interpretation of data:

  • Collecting and presenting information
  • Problem solving
  • Organizational skills
  • General math skills
  • Understanding statistical data
  • Computational and data-processing skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Analytical skills
  • Investigative and research skills
  • Report writing

What Can You Do with a Statistics Degree?

Banking / Finance / Investment
Financial analysts use statistical techniques to analyze, evaluate, and summarize large amounts of data that are used in identifying financial market trends and making decisions about financing and investing.

In this sector, economists use mathematical and statistical methodologies to examine financial data and advise businesses on the production and distribution of goods and services.

In the field of education, collecting, classifying, organizing, and summarizing data are all vital to drawing general conclusions. Statistics also play a role in evaluation and measurement; and in the standardization of tests and exams. Educational data gathered help teachers identify appropriate teaching methods based on their students and the differences between them. Statistics are also an important aspect of educational research.

Statistical data is generated by many government sources, because government runs on statistics. Government statisticians analyze information about population, business, and society in general. They are tasked with conducting surveys and social experiments, as well as observation of trends like spending habits and medical records. Their scrutiny and interpretation of specific data provide information on a region’s or country’s population and its needs. Governments use this information to project expenditures and revenue and make budget decisions.

Statisticians employed in the healthcare field monitor local conditions and compare them to state, national, and international trends. Health statistics help administrators to efficiently allocate funds for both research and operations.

Information Technology (IT)
This is a natural fit for individuals with a statistics background because the field of information technology, like the discipline of statistics, is concerned with collecting, managing, processing, and distributing information.

Statistics are particularly important in the insurance industry. Actuaries, who are trained in investment strategies and statistical tools, use statistics to determine what risk an insured party poses to an insurance company, what percentage of policies is likely to pay out, and how much money a company can expect to pay out in claims.

Market Research
Without statistics, market research in every sector would be impossible, quite simply because statistics provide the data needed to conduct valid market research.

Operations Research
The analytical skills of statistics graduates are especially important in operations research. Individuals working in this field use statistical models to improve operations in a variety of business sectors. For example, in the transportation industry, they may help airlines or railways determine the most efficient schedules.

Statisticians in the pharmaceuticals industry work in the development areas of pharmacology, biological and process modelling, cost-effectiveness modelling, and health economics.

In politics, statistical analysis influences the positions that politicians take on various issues; it can determine the direction of political campaigns; and it plays a significant role in driving public policy decisions.

Utility Companies
Energy and water companies, for example, hire people with statistics backgrounds to apply their knowledge to estimate usage and pricing of these public utilities.


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