There are three possible ways in which you can be employed as a statistical consultant. You can work in a commercial statistical consultancy company, as part of a university statistical unit or as a freelancer. The key difference for a freelance consultant is that they are self-employed.
The role of a statistical consultant can be varied. Consultants are responsible for liaising with clients, delivering statistical analysis and research, and for providing statistical training, advice and support.
The start of a typical project will often involve liaising with a client to define its scope. For example, does the client require advice so that they can carry out analysis themselves or would they like you to analyse their data for them? At this stage it is common to write up a detailed proposal of the work including what data will be required, the methods that will be used, the deliverables and the timeline for completion. Once the project has started the consultant will carry out the analysis, advice or training in the agreed time frame. Effective communication is an essential part of the role and a consultant must ensure that any client reports or presentations are clear, concise and intelligible and do not contain any unnecessary technical detail. Overall, the length of a project can vary significantly from anything between 1-2 days to many months.
Statistical consultants often provide bespoke statistical analyses tailored specifically to the requirements of their clients. This means that the techniques used will often differ from one project to another (especially when working with clients from a variety of different sectors). As it is unlikely that all of these techniques will have been covered by undergraduate and postgraduate studies, ‘on the job’ learning can sometimes be necessary.
Take a look at our profile of statistical consultant Lynsey McColl to learn more.
An undergraduate degree in Statistics or Mathematics with a substantial component of Statistics is the minimum requirement to become a statistical consultant. Many statistical consultants will also have an MSc in Statistics. Due to the nature of the job the more applied courses are the most applicable to becoming a consultant. More information on the various MSc courses in Statistics available throughout the UK is provided on the Committee of Professors of Statistics webpage.
Some statistical consultants may also have a PhD in statistics. Whilst this is not a requirement to becoming a statistical consultant, it does provide additional skills in research and teaching.
Continued Professional Development
Statistical consultants need to continue their personal and professional development. Working directly with clients not only requires statistical expertise, but strong personal and professional skills, including time management, the ability to work in a team and effective communication. It is also unlikely that all of the statistical techniques required to carry out client projects will have been covered by undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Many of these skills and techniques will be learnt ‘on the job’ with the help and guidance of a mentor.
Most statistical consultants will work towards the Royal Statistical Society’s Chartered Statistician (CStat) qualification. This award not only recognises statistical qualifications, but also professional training and practical experience.
Salaries can vary and often depend on the size and nature of the company or organisation that you work in. Typically, a graduate with a MSc in Statistics could expect to start at around £24,000, but with the potential to increase to around £35,000 with experience. Senior posts within an organisation could attract higher salaries, but are likely to come with additional managerial and business responsibilities.
Statistical consultants will usually start their career working as part of a team with more experienced statisticians to mentor and guide them. With more experience a statistical consultant may expect to progress to a more senior role within a company with the opportunity to mentor more junior colleagues and project manage larger client deliverables. Depending on the size and opportunities available in the company there may also be the possibility of moving into a management role with line management responsibilities (including developing more junior staff) and other business responsibilities.
The work required of a statistical consultant is varied in both the statistics required and the subject areas that you work in. Working directly with clients can be particularly rewarding as it gives you a real insight into how your work can benefit an organisation. Statistical consultants are often required to work on multiple client projects at one time; this can be demanding and require careful time management.
If you work as a freelance consultant there are also likely to be additional pressures over and above delivering client projects, in particular, ensuring that you have sufficient work to keep you busy.