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Statistical Consulting

Read about statistical consulting and what fields use these services.

Statistical consultants rely on data to make predictions and solve problems. [©Jupiter Images, 2010]
©Jupiter Images, 2010
Statistical consultants rely on data to make predictions and solve problems.

Statistical consulting helps companies make the most of their data, improving sales and making their products more marketable. Statistical consultants are hired in fields as diverse as biotechnology, manufacturing and academia, and are skilled in performing multiple types of analysis.

What is statistical consulting?

According to the American Statistical Association, a statistical consultant uses the science of statistics to solve practical problems in diverse fields, including marketing, manufacturing, medicine, product design, government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, agriculture, financial institutions and genetics.

In order to work in this field, one should have a bachelor's degree in mathematics or statistics at the minimum. A master's degree in statistics or biometry, or a Ph.D. in statistics, makes one more marketable. Many employers also prefer candidates who have three to five years of research experience.

If one wants to work in an academic institution, they will need to have at least a master's degree. University statistical consulting departments have many Ph.D.s and Ph.D. candidates on their staff. A statistical consultant should have a broad base of knowledge of statistical methods and will have to continue schooling to hone their skills and keep up to date with new technology and skills. They should have good communication and people skills. It is vital for a statistical consultant to have excellent computer skills. They should be knowledgeable programmers and be familiar with and capable of using statistical software.

Businesses hire consultants for a variety of reasons, usually related to analyzing data and developing strategies to make the business run better and make more sales.

There are many places to train to become a statistical consultant. As of 2004, 230 universities in the United States offered undergraduate level degrees in statistics, mathematics or biostatistics. Many other schools offer master's courses in applied statistics. Graduate statistics programs do not require an applicant to have an undergraduate degree in statistics to qualify for admittance.

Some of the things student statisticians study include linear algebra, differential and integral calculus, designing and analysis of experiments, statistical methods, applied multivariate analysis, mathematical modeling, mathematical statistics and probability theory.

Some statistical consultant jobs prefer their new hires to have education and experience in fields other than statistics as well. For example, a pharmaceutical company or agricultural company would need a statistical consultant who is adamantly familiar with biology, chemistry or health sciences. Businesses specializing in market research or business analysis would require a statistical consultant experienced in economics and business administration.

What can a statistical consultant expect to do?

Statistical consultants at Sempax Consulting work on a wide variety of projects, including SPSS projects, Minitab projects, Excel projects, multiple regression analysis, analysis of variance and hypothesis testing, non-parametric statistics, survey design, reliability analysis, factor analysis, time series and linear and nonlinear optimization.

Many statistical consultants tutor university students. The Alliance of Statistics Consultants answers questions about statistics in plain English, helps students develop testable hypotheses, teaches people how to use statistical software, interprets statistical output and formulates conclusions from the information, helps prepare graphs from information, helps create questionnaires, and sets up databases and data organization schemes. They also can help graduate students with their thesis.

Researchers use statistical consultants to help them develop research questions, design methods, validate surveys, enter data, analyze data, interpret results and prepare tables and graphs from the experiments results.

A statistical consultant may work with a retail store to develop statistical models for sales and go-to-market programs, set up experiments that will accurately answer business questions, create mining tools and modeling techniques that will solve business problems, prepare documentation that backs up and supports business strategies, and analyze data to provide business recommendations.

Statistical consultants at the University of Louisville Statistical Consulting Center do a wide variety of jobs. They design studies, develop research questions, create scientific and accurate ways to collect data and compute sample sizes, write statistical analysis plans, test hypothesis, graph models, multivariate analysis, analyze data using clustering techniques and tree-based model fitting and use bioinformatics. They are also able to provide professional writing for scientific reports, write journal articles and produce statistical analysis for manuscripts.

Western Statistical Consulting Company's statisticians do statistical analysis, SAS programming, IND/NDA submissions, annual reports, IDE/PMA/501(k) submissions, table specifications and creation, design studies, calculate sample sizes, write scientific and scholarly papers, make statistical analysis plans and do CRF development.

What types of fields require statistical consultants?

Many statistical consultants run their own businesses. Others work at universities and medical facilities. A law office may use a statistical consultant to analyze their data and make statistical conclusions about it, which can be useful in proving a court case. A hotel manager may hire a statistical consultant to analyze historical trends and make statistical predictions as to what the hotel's occupancy rate will be for a given season, week, or even a day out of the year.

A manufacturing firm may need statistical consultants to help with quality control. Numerous fields require these services, such as food industries, the automobile industry, airlines and aviation industries and pharmaceutical companies. Statistical consultants help make sure products meet federal standards, improve production systems and help make products more marketable both nationally and internationally.

Statistical consultants may work as part of a marketing team, assessing the results of marketing campaigns and identifying patterns and trends. Researchers may also work with statistical consultants in conducting research and designing and executing clinical trials.

Duke University's Statistical Education Center is made up of faculty and graduate students who are working on their Ph.D.s in statistics and help the university's undergraduate statistics students with any questions they may have. They can help with course selection as well as with tutoring services.

A statistical genetics consultant helps develop research methods of genetic prediction. They use molecular markers, pedigree and phenotypic data in statistical methods. A statistical genetics consultant may come up with prediction models and strategies to improve plant breeding.

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