Freelance statisticians: Becoming one of the world's most in-demand professions - The Kolabtree Blog

Freelance statisticians: Becoming one of the world’s most in-demand professions

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It has been named one of the fastest-growing and top-paying jobs in the industry. According to the job site CareerCast, ‘statistician’ topped the list of the best jobs to have in 2017. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the demand for statisticians and mathematicians is expected to grow by a phenomenal 33% from 2016 to 2026. And it’s no surprise: as the data we generate and collect grows exponentially, we need more and more analysts who can help us make sense of it. And so, an increasing number of statisticians (including freelance statisticians) are coming into the workforce, who can help interpret this data, and extract relevant insights from it.

Statisticians provide a wealth of benefits to a wide range of industries, helping them save costs, optimize processes and make decisions based on on reliable inferences. But many organizations cannot afford to hire in-house statisticians, whose salary averages at $80,500 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2016). Companies are now starting to hire freelance statisticians, who can work on short-term projects and provide quick solutions. Platforms like Kolabtree make it easy for statisticians to offer their services to businesses and researchers who need them.

There has been a lot of buzz around the demand for statisticians of late, a field that is getting fiercely competitive. Data released in 2015 shows that from 2000 to 2014, master’s and doctorate degrees in statistics grew at 260% and 132%, respectively. However, the high demand for statisticians is thought to outpace this growth!

As the gig economy takes over the workplace, organizations are starting to realize the benefits of hiring on-demand workers. Statisticians too, are tapping into the potential of being able to work on multiple projects remotely on a contract/freelance basis. Young workers are moving away from traditional career paths, and are choosing the flexibility and freedom that freelancing offers. By taking up freelance work, statisticians can:  

  • Work on challenging projects from clients worldwide
  • Understand market demands and upskill accordingly
  • Build a reputation as a freelancer, an advantage in a rapidly changing economy
  • Gain useful experience and strengthen their credentials

A 2017 PayScale analysis rated a PhD in statistics to be the best graduate degree for a job, followed by a Masters in biostatistics. A Masters in statistics took 9th place. It was also found that a doctorate in statistics involved low stress levels!

The statistical skills in demand are expertise in tools and software such as R, Tableau, SPSS, SAS, MATLAB and Excel. While some organizations look for PhD-qualified statisticians (typically for research-based positions), many look for graduates or postgraduates who can handle business analytics. Here are some examples of typical employers of statisticians:

  • Government offices and agencies
  • Medical research organizations/Contract research organizations
  • Nonprofit organizations and NGOs
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Educational organizations
  • Market research companies
  • Environmental and wildlife conservation bodies
  • Sales and marketing divisions of businesses
  • Data analytics service providers

Many of these organizations hire freelancers for short-term projects or for specific challenges that they might want to solve. Data from Kolabtree shows that healthcare and pharma organizations are looking to work with freelance biostatisticians and medical statisticians, who can help them design studies, analyze medical data and measure the impact of public health programmes. 

For example, a breast cancer surgeon based in California hired a freelance statistician from India to design a clinical trial that helped him estimate the effectiveness of his treatment. Jessica Adams, a social worker in Uganda, hired a PhD researcher for help designing a statistical model to analyze the impact of a music festival that aimed to reduce HIV-associated stigma. Since 2015, over 100 biostatisticians have registered on Kolabtree, from institutions like Imperial College London and John Hopkins University, demonstrating that well-qualified statisticians are seeking out freelance opportunities.

As industries adopt big data analytics, sharpen their insights, and arrive at better decisions, the demand for those who are able to make this possible will continue to rise. Statisticians provide the numerical groundwork upon which companies can build robust strategies and roadmaps. Being able access and afford freelance statisticians at short notice is beneficial to both employer and employee. Given the way the gig economy is disrupting industries, it might not be long before statisticians switch from traditional jobs to full-time freelance careers.

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About Author

Ramya Sriram manages digital content and communications at Kolabtree. She's had about 8 years of experience in publishing, advertising, and digital content creation. She loves all things science and tech, and moonlights as a cartoonist and travel writer.

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