The role of a statistician in the sports industry can be very varied and can encompass individuals of varying academic backgrounds from undergraduates to PhD. The basic goal of a statistician in the sports sector is to try to model sporting events. One of the biggest employers of sports statisticians is in consultancy to the betting industry. Take a look at our profile of sports statistician Rob Mastrodomenico to learn more.
There are no hard and fast rules on qualifications needed and most will depend upon the position. However, as a rule, research positions would generally be available to those with postgraduate qualifications typically a PhD. However not all roles within the sports sector are research based so in many instances a good undergraduate degree in a mathematical/statistical subject can suffice.
Skills can vary depending upon the position but in general employers look for the following:
- An interest in sports.
- Experience in developing and implementing mathematical or statistical models.
- Experience in statistical computing and relational databases.
- An understanding of the probability in relation to sporting outcomes and the betting markets.
- Ability to work under pressure and work to deadlines.
- Enthusiasm, self motivation and the ability to work as part of a team.
Again, with the variety of roles, salaries can be very different so you could expect to get anywhere between £ 25,000-£ 50,000 depending on experience and qualifications.
As in academic research it is not uncommon for you to be expected to generate your own ideas. However your research may have to tie in with an existing research direction so there is not complete freedom. Unlike in academia there is generally no possibility of publication of work due to the confidential nature of the work. There may also be stricter deadlines to get work done by. Other tasks may involve a lot of code writing and this facet of the job is something that you should be aware of and can differ a lot from academia.
Most companies try to have a relaxed working environment with flexible working hours and a lot of freedom compared to other private sector jobs. In a lot of research-based roles it is also the norm to work weekends which can be a worry for some. One big misconception is that you will spend all your time watching sports, this certainly is not what a statistician would be expected to do.
The bigger companies are generally on the look out and some recruit throughout the year. They are actively present at a lot of statistical conferences. Adverts can also be found on statistical mailing lists. Be warned that competition for these roles can be high so you must do your research before applying.
With the industry being relatively young, career progression is not as fixed as for other industries. Companies can also be much smaller than in other industries such as pharmaceuticals and the financial sector. In many instances there may be a very flat structure which may not suit all. However over the last 10 years the industry has grown massively and looks set to continue.
For some, working in sports is a dream job. For many researchers it provides an academic style working environment with private sector pay. One of the major downsides is that due to the confidential nature of a lot of the business individuals cannot publish their work. With the industry being in its relative infancy there is also the risk of the unknown in terms of future progression. However, the sports sector can provide a very interesting career option for those with an interest in sports and statistics.