Statistics is the science of applying mathematical principles to gather, analyse and present numerical data in a usable manner.
This 17th century science finds use in such diverse fields as agriculture, medicine, drug testing, economics (econometrics), insurance and finance, software development, market research and sport, where careers are to be made in working on scorecards of cricketers
What do they do?
In a reeling economy in 2008, campus interviews at the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata, fetched an average pay package of Rs 7.5 lakh a year, the highest being Rs 10 lakh. At the institute’s Delhi centre, the highest packages were Rs 8.8 lakh to Rs 9.5 lakh a year. See the obvious? Number crunching pays, and really well at that, if you have a good degree in statistics.
Initially used by governments to collect data on the population and economy, this 17th century science is now utilised in fields as diverse as agriculture, medicine, drug testing, insurance and finance, market research and sport.
Statisticians harvest, analyse and explain data in ways that help decision-making in governments, industries and research. The Central government recruits postgraduates in statistics, mathematical statistics and applied statistics for the Indian Statistical Service.
A big chunk of the ISI alumni get into analytics, banking and finance and software development. Knowledge process outsourcing firms are absorbing stats students as well. Some become actuaries, professionals who use mathematical and statistical methods to predict risks and uncertainty and for valuation of financial products. This is the “greatest draw” for Delhi University students.
A Hindu College topper, Sanchit Maini did a Master’s in actuarial science from Melbourne in 1999 and began his international career. A fellow of the Institute of Actuaries of Australia and the Institute of Actuaries of India, he has worked in GE Financial Assurance in the US, Watson Wyatt in London and Delhi, and BNP Paribas Assurance, Paris. “I wanted to do something in applied maths. After doing engineering drawing in Classes XI and XII, I realised engineering wasn’t for me. I would advocate statistics to anyone interested in applied maths and the probability theory,” says Maini, now deputy chief actuary with Max New York Life, New Delhi, where his role includes risk, financial and value management, actuarial aspects of business planning and oversight on product design and pricing.
Away from the financial world, another statistician uses his MSc stats training for drug testing. DU alumnus Ajay Singh writes reporting analysis plans (RAPs) on how statistical analysis needs to be done in drug trials at GlaxoSmithKline, Bangalore. “We analyse data from lab tests, ECGs and vital signs of subjects in drug trials and create tables or listings based on the data,” explains Singh, executive (statistics).
MC Agrawal, professor of statistics, DU, claims that in the 42 years of his career, he has never seen any student remain jobless. “It’s semi-ready material that needs to be baked, and which can then fit anywhere,” he says.
Abhay Gopal Bhatt, head, stat math unit, ISI, Delhi, adds, “Statistics is a subject used almost everywhere — academics, pharmaceuticals, insurance, bio-informatics, software development, and market research.” Statisticians with some grounding in social science can contribute to psephology, too, say Agrawal and Bhatt.
The job scene is so good, that it is bad news in a way — few statisticians opt for a career in academics, since industry woos them so hard.
Source: HT Horizons
- Good maths background
- Strong quantitative and analytical aptitude
- Logical thinking
- Good communication skills
- Team spirit
- Decision-making ability
- Infotech skills (required to use certain statistical softwares)
How do I get there?
Take maths through the Plus Two level. Opt for a Bachelor’s degree in statistics, offered at many institutions. A postgraduate degree in statistics helps in professional growth. To become an actuary, Sanchit Maini, deputy chief actuary with Max New York Life, New Delhi, suggests take a first degree in maths, economics, finance or statistics, which will equip you with good numerical and analytical skills. Or, go for a Bachelor’s degree in actuarial science offered in many universities abroad. You then need to clear certain exams conducted by the Institute of Actuaries of India while working in a firm dealing with actuarial work. The Union Public Service Commission conducts the examination for recruitment to the Indian Statistical Service. This exam is open only to postgraduates in stats and certain allied disciplines. More details available at www.upsc.gov.in
Pros & Cons about this career
High remuneration Technological advancement can allow for increased efficiency and ease of work Many different areas of focus, such as public health, product testing, education and sports
Deadlines may require you to work over 40 hours per week Some positions may require you to be away from home to visit clients Academic and independent research positions require a doctoral degree