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Think numbers? Think statistics

In a world overwhelmed with data, students possessing a first or a second degree in statistics are in high demand reports Debasree Goswami

education Updated: Jun 02, 2010 09:13 IST
Debasree Goswami

In this age overwhelmed with data, adopting a scientific approach for its analysis is the key to extraction of information for overall development of society. In this regard, statistics as a subject plays a predominant role. Its usefulness is visible in a wide range of applications such as the search engine listings for given keywords, the insurance premiums, "shuffle feature" on the iPods, the Duckworth/Lewis method in cricket etc.

In spite of these, parents and their children alike are found to be, in general, "not so well informed" about the subject and its associated career prospects. This can be attributed to the fact that for a 17-plus-year-old child, who is just out of school, exposure to the world of statistics primarily lies in the content of 10+2 level maths syllabus. There are, however, boards in the country that offers statistics (like maths) as a subject at the 10+2 level. Thus, it is not unnatural for the two top-most questions in the list of FAQs to be: “What all do we study in this?” and “What do we do after this?”

Statistics Honours is the first degree that provides students with rigorous classroom based theoretical as well as computational training to deal with statistical analysis of data. The subject (in contrast to maths) has its foundation on 'objectively quantising uncertainty' through probability theory. A student pursuing BSc(Hons.) in statistics undergoes a number of papers like probability theory, statistical methodology, stochastic processes, statistical inference, or operational research, biostatistics, etc., besides a set of conventional papers in maths.

Career options
The BSc (Honours) in statistics as the first degree qualifies a person for the usual career options available for general/science graduates viz., armed forces, civil services (with statistics as subject), banks, Reserve Bank of India etc.

Though career options for students with a BSc (Honours) degree in statistics are available in the private sector, the academia recommends a postgraduate degree in statistics. This is because, the typical job profile in 'analytics' in the industry demands a very strong foundation in academics. It is indeed thought-provoking that for those looking beyond the horizon, while a bachelor's or a master's degree should be reasonable, a PhD in a relevant field is the mantra for never looking back in life.

The insurance industry has provided impetus to quality as well as quantity of employment for students of statistics. The profession is known to be among the highest paid in the industry. Students' enrolment to the Institute of Actuaries of India's actuarial science programme has increased manifold in recent years. However, a meticulous planning in the approach has to prevail upon the euphoria of writing the exam itself. To this end, BSc (Honours) in statistics as a subject choice is "most preferred", as it is closest to the curriculum of the professional examinations.

Apart from these, career opportunities exist in a wide variety of fields such as management science, information technology, bio-informatics, biostatistics, data mining and data warehousing, finance etc.

Skill sets required
Strong foundation in 'mathematical statistics'
. Ability to interact with persons from diverse fields to understand a problem
. Logical thinking and ability to comprehend key facts leading to formulation of the solution process
. Versatility in solving problems and appraisal of results
. Strong background in statistical computing
. Ability to stay updated on recent literature and statistical software

The author is an associate professor, Department of Statistics, Hindu College, University of Delhi


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