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A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers

ISBN: 978-1-118-49013-6
August 2012
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A valuable guide to a successful career as a statistician

A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers prepares readers for careers in statistics by emphasizing essential concepts and practices beyond the technical tools provided in standard courses and texts. This insider's guide from internationally recognized applied statisticians helps readers decide whether a career in statistics is right for them, provides hands-on guidance on how to prepare for such a career, and shows how to succeed on the job.

The book provides non-technical guidance for a successful career. The authors' extensive industrial experience is supplemented by insights from contributing authors from government and academia, Carol Joyce Blumberg, Leonard M. Gaines, Lynne B. Hare, William Q. Meeker, and Josef Schmee. Following an introductory chapter that provides an overview of the field, the authors discuss the various dimensions of a career in applied statistics in three succinct parts:

  • The Work of a Statistician describes the day-to-day activities of applied statisticians in business and industry, official government, and various other application areas, highlighting the work environment and major on-the-job challenges
  • Preparing for a Successful Career in Statistics describes the personal traits that characterize successful statisticians, the education that they need to acquire, and approaches for securing the right job
  • Building a Successful Career as a Statistician offers practical guidance for addressing key challenges that statisticians face on the job, such as project initiation and execution, effective communication, publicizing successes, ethical considerations, and gathering good data; alternative career paths are also described

The book concludes with an in-depth examination of careers for statisticians in academia as well as tips to help them stay on top of their field throughout their careers. Each chapter includes thought-provoking discussion questions and a Major Takeaways section that outlines key concepts. Real-world examples illustrate key points, and an FTP site provides additional information on selected topics.

A Career in Statistics is an invaluable guide for individuals who are considering or have decided on a career in statistics as well as for statisticians already on the job who want to accelerate their path to success. It also serves as a suitable book for courses on statistical consulting, statistical practice, and statistics in the workplace at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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PREFACE XIII

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS XVII

CHAPTER 1 PROLOGUE: A CAREER IN STATISTICS 1

1.1 About This Chapter 1

1.2 What is Statistics? 1

1.3 Who is a Statistician? 2

1.4 Who Employs Statisticians? 3

1.5 The Statistical Thought Process and What Makes it Special 4

1.6 Many Skills Required 7

1.7 Beyond the Workplace 8

1.8 Some Downsides of a Career in Statistics 9

1.9 The Excitement of a Career in Statistics 10

1.10 Embarking on a Career in Statistics 11

1.11 Accreditation 15

1.12 Professional Societies 16

1.13 A Preview 16

1.14 Further Reading 17

1.15 Major Takeaways 18

Discussion Questions 19

PART I THE WORK OF A STATISTICIAN 21

CHAPTER 2 WHAT STATISTICIANS DO IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY 23

2.1 About This Chapter 23

2.2 Manufactured Product Applications 23

2.3 Service Business Applications 28

2.4 Process Improvement 30

2.5 Further Applications 31

2.6 Major Takeaways 32

Discussion Questions 32

CHAPTER 3 WHAT STATISTICIANS ENGAGED IN OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT STATISTICS DO 35

3.1 About This Chapter 35

3.2 The Scope of Official Statistics 36

3.3 Examples of the Work 39

3.4 Challenges of the Work 41

3.5 Research Opportunities 45

3.6 Some Major Employers in the U.S. Federal Government 46

3.7 Required Credentials 47

3.8 Integration of U.S. Government Statistical Activities 49

3.9 Local Official Government Statistics Activities 50

3.10 Government Statisticians Outside The United States 51

3.11 Compensation and Other Considerations 52

3.12 Sources of Further Information 53

3.13 Major Takeaways 53

Discussion Questions 54

CHAPTER 4 WHAT STATISTICIANS DO: SOME OTHER APPLICATION AREAS 57

4.1 About This Chapter 57

4.2 Regulatory Activities 57

4.3 Health 59

4.4 National Defense 61

4.5 Other Scientific Research 62

4.6 Social and Behavioral Sciences 65

4.7 Teaching (in Nonacademic Settings) 71

4.8 Some Further Institutes for Research in the United States 71

4.9 Major Takeaways 73

Discussion Questions 73

CHAPTER 5 THE WORK ENVIRONMENT AND ON-THE-JOB CHALLENGES 75

5.1 About This Chapter 75

5.2 Receptiveness to Statistics and Statisticians 75

5.3 Where do Statisticians Fit into the Organization? 79

5.4 Two Modes of Operation 80

5.5 Grading Systems 82

5.6 Globalization 83

5.7 Hail to Our Managers! 84

5.8 Some Challenges 86

5.9 Women in Statistics 90

5.10 Major Takeaways 93

Discussion Questions 94

PART II PREPARING FOR A SUCCESSFUL CAREER IN STATISTICS 97

CHAPTER 6 CHARACTERISTICS OF SUCCESSFUL STATISTICIANS 99

6.1 About This Chapter 99

6.2 Analytical and Technical Skills 100

6.3 Communication and Interpersonal Skills 100

6.4 Ability to Size Up Problems and See the “Big Picture” 101

6.5 Flexibility 102

6.6 A Proactive Mindset 102

6.7 Persistence 103

6.8 A Realistic Attitude 104

6.9 Enthusiasm and Appropriate Self-Confidence 105

6.10 Ability to Prioritize, Manage Time, and Cope with Stress 105

6.11 Team Skills 106

6.12 Leadership Skills 106

6.13 Ability to Properly Apply and Adapt Knowledge 107

6.14 Passion for Lifelong Learning 108

6.15 Further Reading 108

6.16 As Others See It 108

6.17 Major Takeaways 111

Discussion Questions 111

CHAPTER 7 EDUCATION FOR SUCCESS 113

7.1 About This Chapter 113

7.2 The Statistics Advanced Placement Course and Other High School Programs 114

7.3 Degrees in Statistics: The Numbers 114

7.4 How Far To Go: Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Ph.D. Degree? 116

7.5 Selecting the Right School and Program 120

7.6 Statistical Education: Setting the Foundations 125

7.7 Coursework in Statistics 126

7.8 Statistical Computing and Software 131

7.9 Some Other Recommendations 134

7.10 Internships and University Consulting 138

7.11 Entering Statistics from Other Fields 141

7.12 Further Resources 142

7.13 Concluding Comment: The Limits of Formal Statistical Education 142

7.14 As Others See It 143

7.15 Major Takeaways 145

Discussion Questions 146

CHAPTER 8 GETTING THE RIGHT JOB 149

8.1 About This Chapter 149

8.2 Defining Career Goals 149

8.3 Identifying Opportunities 151

8.4 Resume Writing 154

8.5 The Job Interview 157

8.6 Follow-Up 164

8.7 Providing References 165

8.8 Some Further Hints 165

8.9 Assessing Job Offers 166

8.10 Major Takeaways 170

Discussion Questions 171

PART III BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL CAREER AS A STATISTICIAN 173

CHAPTER 9 ON-THE-JOB STRATEGIES: PROJECT INITIATION AND EXECUTION 175

9.1 About This Chapter 175

9.2 Project Initiation 175

9.3 Project Execution 184

9.4 As Others See It 190

9.5 Major Takeaways 194

Discussion Questions 194

CHAPTER 10 ON-THE-JOB STRATEGIES: COMMUNICATION, PUBLICIZING, AND ETHICS 197

10.1 About This Chapter 197

10.2 Communication, Communication, Communication 197

10.3 Publicizing Statistics (And Statisticians) 205

10.4 Ethical Considerations 207

10.5 Major Takeaways 216

Discussion Questions 216

CHAPTER 11 GETTING GOOD DATA: A KEY CHALLENGE 219

11.1 About This Chapter 219

11.2 Designed Experiments 220

11.3 Census and Random Sampling Studies of Human and Other Populations 221

11.4 Systems Development Studies 224

11.5 Observational Studies 225

11.6 Hints for Getting the Right Data 233

11.7 A Process for Data Gathering 240

11.8 Major Takeaways 247

Discussion Questions 248

CHAPTER 12 CAREER PATHS 251

12.1 About This Chapter 251

12.2 Some Roles for Applied Statisticians 251

12.3 Other Major Roles to which Applied Statisticians Might Aspire 253

12.4 Some Career Paths 256

12.5 More on Statistical Leadership 258

12.6 Contributions Beyond the Workplace 259

12.7 Some More Career Examples 261

12.8 Putting It All Together 264

12.9 Major Takeaways 265

Discussion Questions 265

PART IV FURTHER PERSPECTIVES: CAREERS IN ACADEMIA AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT 267

CHAPTER 13 CAREERS IN ACADEMIA 269

13.1 About This Chapter 269

13.2 What Statisticians in Academia do: An Overview 270

13.3 Types of Positions 273

13.4 Location within the Institution 277

13.5 More on Tenure 277

13.6 Life Beyond Tenure 279

13.7 Teaching Challenges 280

13.8 Research Challenges 286

13.9 Consulting Challenges 292

13.10 Administrative Service Challenges 294

13.11 Professional Service Challenges 295

13.12 More on the Academic Environment 296

13.13 Training to Become an Academic Statistician 298

13.14 Career Paths 300

13.15 Downsides of a Career as an Academic Statistician 303

13.16 Bright Sides of a Career as an Academic Statistician 304

13.17 A Career as a Statistician in Academia: A Summary Comparison 305

13.18 Major Takeaways 305

Discussion Questions 307

CHAPTER 14 MAINTAINING THE MOMENTUM 309

14.1 About This Chapter 309

14.2 Some Internet Resources 310

14.3 Formal Education 311

14.4 Technical and Professional Journals 312

14.5 Technical Conferences 315

14.6 Future Opportunity Areas 318

14.7 Major Takeaways 319

Discussion Questions 319

REFERENCES 321

INDEX 331

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Gerald J. Hahn, PhD, worked at the GE Global Research Center for 46 years, where he managed its statistics group for 28 years and was elected a Coolidge Fellow, the organization's highest honor, in 1984. A Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and American Society for Quality (ASQ), Dr. Hahn is the author of numerous papers and the coauthor of Statistical Models in Engineering; Statistical Intervals: A Guide for Practitioners; and The Role of Statistics in Business and Industry, all published by Wiley. He has received many professional awards and served as adjunct professor at various universities.

Necip Doganaksoy, PhD, is a Statistician and Principal Technologist at the GE Global Research Center, where he has worked for over 20 years; he is also an Adjunct Professor at Union Graduate College. A Six Sigma Master Black Belt and a Fellow of ASA and ASQ, Dr. Doganaksoy has written more than 60 articles on quality, reliability, and productivity improvement and coauthored The Role of Statistics in Business and Industry (Wiley). He received ASQ's William G. Hunter Award in 2009.

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“From now on whenever someone asks me about a career in statistics I will point them to this book which I think addresses their questions and concerns much better than I could with just my personal account.”  (Significance, 1 September 2011)

"This book needs to be readily available to majors or potential majors at any college or university that grants degrees in mathematics or statistics." (Mathematical Association of America Reviews, 16 March 2012)

"A valuable guide to a successful career as a statistician A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers prepares readers for careers in statistics by emphasizing essential concepts and practices beyond the technical tools provided in standard courses and texts ... A Career in Statistics is an invaluable guide for individuals who are considering or have decided on a career in statistics as well as for statisticians already on the job who want to accelerate their path to success." (Green Technology, 29 November 2011)

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