Career in statistics

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Paul Howerd works as an assistant statistician for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in Newport. He is part of a development team that investigates ways of improving the analysis of statistics.

What do you do?

I run projects to develop and test new methods for compiling statistics and using data. This is so they can be used consistently across the ONS to provide high quality information about current economic conditions. Much of the work is quite technical and most of my time is spent using a computer.

How do you do this?

I think of new ideas, then test them by writing statistical computer programs and developing spreadsheet examples. After this, I write a summary report and present it to management staff. They decide whether or not to accept the new methods, or ask me to carry out more research. I also give guidance to other people in the team and teach statistics once a week as part of a training course that the ONS runs.

What hours do you work?

I work flexible hours, which means I can choose when I start and finish, and whether I work long or short days. Most days I work from 8am to 4pm.

Why did you choose a career in statistics?

I chose this career because I wanted to use the skills I gained at university and because I enjoy statistics and mathematics.

What skills do you need?

Apart from needing sound statistical knowledge, I need to be well motivated and enthusiastic. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get into some of my projects. Communication skills are vital as I have to find solutions – and be able to explain them to other people too.

Having a good working relationship with other people is also very important. All of my projects require co-operation with others, whether it is working with them as part of my team, or delivering results for them to use. When working for someone else, you have to try to meet their requirements.

What do you enjoy about your career in statistics?

There is a lot of variety in my work –; no two days are ever the same! I like being able to research problems, discuss ideas and develop solutions to the problems. Working as part of a team is great, and I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the progress and improvements we are making.

What are the challenges in your work?

Being able to prioritise and juggle a number of tasks at once is probably the hardest thing to do. Also, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date with the work each team member is doing and the issues that they are finding in their work.

Finally, there are difficult technical issues that arise from time to time.

What are your ambitions for the future?

I would like to get promotion to statistician level and gain experience in other areas of national statistics.

Paul's route to his career in statistics

  • Degree in Mathematics.
  • PhD in Statistics.
  • Taught at Cardiff University for one year.
  • Took up post of assistant statistician at the ONS.

Paul's statistics career tips

  • Take an interest in mathematics and statistics.
  • Ask lots of questions and find out how things work.

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Salary of a statistician

  • Fast Stream assistant statisticians usually start at around £22,000 in London.
  • They may then progress to statistician level, with a salary starting at around £34,000 and rising to £48,000.
  • Salaries are lower regionally and start at around £19,500.

Career in statistics

  • To become a statistician, you need to have a statistics related qualification such as a degree, or a certificate or diploma from the Royal Statistical Society. If you have a related degree such as maths, the sciences, or economics, you can take a postgraduate course in statistics.
  • The Government Statistical Service (GSS) is the largest employer of statisticians in the UK – through the GSS, statisticians are employed in 30 government departments and agencies. The GSS runs an assistant statistician recruitment scheme (Fast Stream) for the best candidates.
  • Training takes place mainly on the job. You gain experience by working on projects under the supervision of experienced staff until you are able to work on your own. You may also work towards the professional qualifications offered by the Royal Statistical Society.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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