A career in statistics is the job of the future
In 2009, Hal Varian, chief economist, Google, had said, “I keep saying the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. People think I'm joking, but who would've guessed that computer engineers would've been the sexy job of the 1990s?” He could not have been more correct. It is the INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF STATISTICS and statisticians across the world are celebrating their subject in today’s data-driven world.
Statistics 30 years ago and statistics today are completely different. For starters, “When I was a student of the Indian Statistical Institute, we had the tools to interpret data, but no data. Now, the scenario is the exactly the opposite, we have enormous data but not all the tools to interpret it,” says Srinivas Bhogle, Director and India Country Manager of TEOCO Software Pvt. Ltd.
Delampady Mohan, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute-Bangalore, who defines statistics as the study of uncertainty or variability, says that of all the applications of statistics, it is data analytics which is now gaining momentum. “This is an area of statistics dealing with huge quantities of data where one does ‘data mining’,” he says. Statistics is popularly identified with average, mean or standard deviation while others connect it to sports-related data. “There is a lot of information contained in numbers, and to process that intelligently is statistics. We can draw many inferences from just one number and that is the beauty of statistics,” says Dr. Bhogle.
With collection of data becoming easier, we now have immense data that needs to be analysed. “And we also need a large number of people to do this,” says Dr. Bhogle. Data now is not just in numbers; medical data, text data, voice and video data have emerged in this era of digitisation.
According to Dr. Bhogle, data analytics is the best thing to do in the next 5-10 years.
Another buzzword in the industry is Big Data. According to www.statistics2013.org, this refers to large data sets that are collected from every imaginable source and analysed by businesses to discover ways of creating new revenues. The website is run by the global team that is observing the International Year of Statistics. It quotes Peter Sondergaard, head of research at Gartner, one of the world’s leading information technology research and advisory companies, according to whom by 2015, the thirst for Big Data mining experts is expected to create 4.4 million jobs around the world; nearly half (1.9 million) of these new data analysis jobs will be in the U.S. alone.
Listing out the varied applications of statistics, Prof. Mohan says, “Many problems across many fields require modelling variability. Then the model is identified or refined using data, and subsequently used in prediction (or some other inference) like in stock market (financial statistics), clinical trials (biostatistics), wildlife monitoring (ecology) or insurance (actuarial statistics), to name a few.”
Where to study
Where to gain expertise in statistics to be in the profession of the future? While all major colleges and universities provide degree courses, the Indian Statistical Institute, headquartered in Kolkata with campuses in New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Tezpur, offers bachelor’s and master’s courses in statistics. But the institute does not have a high intake. “It is a shame that an institute with many people who have the best knowledge in the area does not have even 100 students per year,” revealed Dr. Bhogle.