Statisticians: Sudden glamour of statisticians

Once dry-as-dust backroom statisticians have suddenly transformed into glamorous data analysts, discerning meaningful patterns and insights from ever-increasing troves of data.

With the dawning of the digital age and the internet revolution, which have triggered a global information explosion, the demand for professionally qualified statisticians with the capability to analyse and interpret mountains of data is growing exponentially. Suddenly hitherto dry-as-dust backroom statisticians have transformed into glamorous data analysts, driving powerful computers and sophisticated mathematical models to discern meaningful patterns and insights from ever-increasing troves of data being generated in the digitally driven information age.

Professionally, statisticians collect, evaluate and interpret data to solve conundrums in a wide variety of fields including crime detection, demographics, ecology, medicine, media, finance, insurance, labour, population, elections etc. All these disciplines require the analytical capabilities of statisticians to interpret numerical data for the public and often, private good. Using questionnaires, surveys and diagnostic tests, they help scientists and researchers in biology, economics, engineering, medicine, physics, sociology, and psychology to verify and validate their conclusions. The minimum educational qualification of a professional statistician is a bachelors degree with a major in statistics or mathematics. A Masters degree or Ph D is required for higher-level positions.

Most universities in India offer B.Sc and M.Sc (statistics) study programmes. Moreover with the demand for trained statisticians rising, Mumbai University has introduced one-year diploma courses such as PGDASS (postgraduate diploma in applied statistics and software) and PGDAS (postgraduate diploma in actuarial science). Theres tremendous enthusiasm for these focused programmes, admission into which is determined by entrance tests. A degree in statistics also qualifies graduates to write the Indian Statistical, Indian Economic as well as civil services exams.

School leavers aspiring to study statistics at the undergraduate level should have successfully completed Plus Two or equivalent exam with a minimum of 50 percent in physics, statistics and computer science. For admission into M.Sc degree programmes, students should have cleared B.Sc/B.Com with maths, statistics and/or computer science as subjects.

With financial institutions, major corporates, research organisations, the media, and teaching institutions scrambling for their services, theres no dearth of employment opportunities for well-qualified statisticians. Often endowed with designations such as econometrician, biostatistician, research analyst, biometrician, epidemiologist etc, statisticians are also employed by institutions such as Planning Commission, National Council of Applied Economic Research, Institute of Applied Manpower Research, Indian Council of Medical Research, statistical and economic bureaux etc. Remuneration norms for certified statisticians tend to be good depending on qualifications and experience. Fresh B.Sc (statistics) graduates tend to be signed up for Rs.2.5 lakh per annum and those with an added qualification (PGDASS or PGDAS) could start with Rs.6 lakh per year.

Theres huge demand for statisticians for market, clinical, media, equity, banking and insurance research, quality control etc. Indeed, today theres no business or profession in which statistics does not play a pivotal role. With the emergence of BPOs and particularly KPOs (knowledge process outsourcing firms), demand for statisticians has skyrocketed,” says Rajesh Devasia, the promoter-chief executive of Market Pulse Solutions, a Mumbai-based market research firm.

A B.Sc (maths) graduate from SIES College, Mumbai, Devasia began his career as a private tutor for maths and science to class X and XII students. In 2001, he acquired an MBA (marketing) degree from Mumbai University through the Anjuman-I-Islams Allana Institute of Management and served on the college faculty until 2007 when he was signed up as senior manager (statistics) by the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council. Two years later this March, he resigned to promote Market Pulse Solutions. Currently apart from managing the firm, Devasia is visiting faculty at several B-schools including the Lala Lajpatrai and Somaiya colleges in Mumbai where he teaches business statistics and quantitative management techniques.

A self-confessed workaholic whose workday starts at 7 a.m and ends at 10 p.m, Devasia believes the demand for professionally trained statisticians is set to rise vertically with the new boom in clinical research which has opened up opportunities for doctors as well as statisticians. Although this is a demanding profession, it is satisfying because its knowledge-based. In the emerging global knowledge economy, professional statisticians are being highly appreciated and well remunerated. The future is rosy for youth entering this once boring profession which has undergone a complete makeover. Its now an exciting and happening vocation,” he enthuses.

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