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A Career in Statistics: Beyond the Numbers by Necip Doganaksoy, Gerald J. Hahn

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CHAPTER 1

PROLOGUE: A CAREER IN STATISTICS

1.1 ABOUT THIS CHAPTER

We begin this introductory chapter with a brief examination of what is statistics, who is a statistician, and who employs statisticians. We then comment on the statistical thought process and what makes it special, the many skills required to be a successful statistician, and the role of statistics beyond the workplace. We provide “equal time” to presenting some downsides of a career in statistics and counter this with a brief summary of the excitement of such a career. We then indicate some alternative paths for embarking on a career in statistics, comment on ongoing efforts for accreditation, and review professional societies for statisticians. We conclude the chapter with a preview of what is to follow.

1.2 WHAT IS STATISTICS?

The rational basis for change is data. Data means statistical methods.

—W. Hunter

Some informal definitions of statistics, provided by various well-known statisticians, are

  • The science of learning from (or making sense out of) data (J. Kettenring).
  • The theory and methods of extracting information from observational data for solving real-world problems (C.R. Rao).
  • The science of uncertainty (D.J. Hand).
  • The quintessential interdisciplinary science (S. McNulty).
  • The art of telling a story with data (L. Gaines).

We prefer the preceding over the more formal definitions found online,1 such as statistics is “the science that deals with the collection, classification, analysis, and interpretation ...

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