Though you might consider getting a degree in either math or statistics, they are frequently combined into a single program because of their close relationship to one another. In general, this program will teach you about the scientific application of math to the collection, analysis and presentation of numerical data.
Depending on the education level you aspire to, you will need a solid background in both mathematics and statistics, so a love of numbers and analytical applications is important to success in this field. However, keep in mind that math and statistics have a place in most every area of business – from government, the environment and economics to engineering, health care and sports.
Many colleges and universities offer degree programs in statistics, biostatistics, and mathematics, while some offer combined degrees in math and statistics. Other schools offer degrees in applied mathematics as well as mathematics and economics. So you have a lot of choices depending on your field of interest.
And though school curriculums may vary, you will likely find yourself taking courses in subjects such as algebra, geometry, calculus, and number theory. Plus, because your analysis will not be done by hand, you’ll need strong computer skills. Here’s a sampling of other coursework you may have to take:
While there are undergraduate programs available in mathematics and statistics and the federal government regularly hires math and statistics undergrads, for real career impact you’re better off pursuing a graduate program. In fact, a master’s degree in statistics and/or mathematics usually is the minimum educational requirement for most statistician or industrial research jobs, while research and academic positions usually require a doctorate degree.
And if your undergraduate degree is in a field other than math or statistics (economics, business, engineering and education are good undergraduate choices), you’ll need to have sufficient expertise in math and statistics to be able to enter a master’s program.
As you consider entering a mathematics and statistics degree program, keep in mind how you want to utilize your degree. Taking additional courses related to your specific career field – engineering, economics, health care, science, business – is just as important as developing these skills:
Are your career plans to become a statistician? Then you can expect average career growth according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – about 13% growth over the next few years. But what if you hope to parlay your mathematics and statistics degree into another field? Actuaries can expect a faster than average growth rate at 21%. Economists can expect a slower than average growth rate at 6%. And mathematicians can expect a much faster than average growth rate at 22%.
Knowing this, are you still ready to take the plunge? Then you might want to consider one of the many great brick-and-mortar colleges and universities which offer math and statistics programs. Or if you hope is to take courses at a college online, there are a handful of schools which offer bachelor degree and master degree programs.
If you’ve got a head for numbers, a career utilizing mathematics and statistics may be the perfect match for your talents. With a background in math and statistics you open up a world of opportunity to make a difference. You can study the viability of alternative energy sources, evaluate the environmental impact on air, water and soil pollution or design and analyze studies on the effectiveness and safety of new medications. Or you might look at unemployment figures, consumer demand for products or agricultural studies.
Talk to the people at the American Statistical Association (ASA) and they will tell you that there is a great need for statisticians, not to mention a number of industries that utilize the skills of people with a background in math and statistics. For a helpful list of resources on where to begin your career check out these career brochures. There is also the American Mathematical Society (AMS) for people who prefer to gather the data, rather than analyze it.