Jobs for Statisticians
Keith Crank, ASA Research and Graduate Education Manager
Keith Crank has a BS in mathematics education and an MS in mathematics from Michigan State University and a PhD in statistics from Purdue University. Prior to joining the ASA as research and graduate education manager, he was a program officer at the National Science Foundation, primarily in the probability program.
I recently received two emails from people on opposite sides of the job search continuum. The first came from a recruiter:
I recently read your May 2010 article in Amstat [News] on “counting statisticians” and was wondering if you received any additional clarification from your readers. I currently work with a CRO [contract research organization] as a recruiter and definitely agree with your comment, “Given the high demand and low unemployment, evidently there are not enough.”
I am currently developing a work force plan for our biostatistics group to address both current and future openings and would like to include some realistic projections of the available talent pool over the next 2–5 years.
The second came from someone who recently graduated with a master’s degree in biostatistics and is on the job market:
- Number of jobs I have applied to: 26
- Number of responses (including, “Hey we got your resume. … We’ll let you know!”) I have received: 12
- Of these responses, the number of initial interviews: 8
- Of these interviews, the number that resulted from job placement centers at conferences: 6
- Of all the initial interviews, the number that resulted in onsite/follow-up interviews: 3
- Of all the interviews, the number [of interviewers who] notified me that the job was no longer available/I didn’t get it: 2
- Number of staffing places stalking me that offer no help whatsoever: 5
- Number of thank-you cards/follow-up emails I have written: 32
I want to applaud you, Mr. Crank, on your wonderful and inspiring editorial in the August 2010 issue of Amstat News. You presented a career in statistics as a secure and relatively recession-proof field, where a current graduate should not have any trouble finding a job. Actually, you mentioned verbatim, “As far as I can tell, graduate students in statistics and biostatistics, at both the master’s and doctoral levels, do not have much difficulty finding jobs.”
I have always felt this way, also. Look at any applicable job-search website and there are hundreds of postings for analysts, statisticians, and programmers. So, as far as any person could tell, there should be no problem in a fresh graduate finding work. I’m here, as a recent graduate, to enlighten you on the reality of this situation.
As a statistician, I will first give you a few statistics to give you a picture of what my job hunt as been like since I graduated in May:
It may be noticeable what the trend here is, but let me clarify anyhow. NO ONE has the decency to respond to applicants anymore. For over half of my applications, I did not get a single response back. For all the time, effort, and thought I put into each and every one of those cover letters, at the very least, I deserve a “We got it, thanks!”
But let’s forget about those people. What about the ones who responded, then dropped off the face of the planet? If you notice, of the people who bothered to respond, two-thirds went on to do an initial interview, and three actually did onsite interviews. However, only two, yes TWO, companies have notified me to let me know I didn’t get the job.
So I want to paint this picture in your head of what is actually happening to fresh graduates these days: We email, you email, we interview, we write beautiful thank you letters, we email, we email, we never hear from you again. Where are the days of job-hunting etiquette? Is it only reserved for those with 5+ years of experience? I’m not alone in this frustration. My sentiments have been echoed by fresh graduates across quite a few disciplines.
So, Mr. Crank, while a career in statistics may be secure and jobs may appear abundant, I can assure you things aren’t as easy as they appear. I think it is beneficial for you and everyone to understand the lack of respect fresh graduates are dealing with in these times. And, yes, I view blatant nonresponse as a lack of respect. Maybe your next article in Amstat News should be about employer hiring etiquette or how recent graduates can actually get one of these stat jobs.
There seems to be a disconnect here. Is there a problem finding jobs at the master’s level? (Is the PhD level better, or worse?) Are jobs available that students have difficulty finding out about? And what about the etiquette issue? What should be expected (from both sides) with regard to communication about the job search process? What can students and recruiters do to improve the job search situation?
Feel free to comment on this article, or you can send comments directly to me at email@example.com.
I also want to correct some information I put in my August column about Bureau of Labor Statistics projections. Their surveys do include companies headquartered outside the United States that have offices here. And they define their job categories on their forms, rather than relying on job titles. They do agree that they would not pick up new and emerging industries that need statisticians.
Finally, let me identify the National Science Foundation statistics and probability program directors for this year. Gabor Szekely (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Grace Yang (email@example.com) continue from last year. Haiyan Cai (firstname.lastname@example.org), from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, replaces David Stoffer as the third program director in statistics. Tomek Bartoszynski (email@example.com) continues as the program director in probability.