Career stage - Further education (16 - 19)

Thinking about studying statistics at university? Don’t know which course to choose from? Interested in working with statistics for a living?

We’ll show you which degree courses involve statistics, what you need to do to apply and what to expect in a statistics degree. We’ll also tell you about the many exciting job opportunities a degree in statistics will open up.

 

  • Why choose statistics?

    If you get a kick out of solving challenging problems, enjoy finding out what data really means and understanding ways in which we all make informed decisions – then a Statistics or Math based career is for you.

    There is a wide range of undergraduate courses involving statistics. If you already know what course you wish to study, you can use the UCAS website to start your search now.

  • Where do I start?

    For most degrees leading towards a career in statistics, you need to study and do quite well at A-level mathematics (or the equivalent in other examination systems). A degree in mathematics or statistics gives you a great start to your career. As a professional statistician or mathematician, your skills can be applied in almost any area. See our Job Profiles page for the kind of jobs statisticians can do.

    Recruitment to the profession of statistician is usually at a graduate and post-graduate level. There are limited opportunities to enter a statistical career as a school leaver, such as a statistical assistant, and work up through an organisation with on-the-job training. But most people get a degree first, and most organisations mainly recruit graduates.

    You can study for a specialist statistics degree, or a joint degree featuring statistics (e.g. Psychology and Statistics). Graduates from degrees of these types are likely to be able to enter statistical employment straight away. Most employers require you to study a strongly based mathematics degree. So a strong A2 level in mathematics (or equivalent) is likely to be an entry requirement.

    Alternatively, you can take any degree and later follow it up by taking an MSc degree in statistics. This is also quite a common entry route into the profession. Several employers expect or require their new recruits to study for an MSc and will often sponsor people to do this. Usually your non-statistics undergraduate degree will be quite strongly mathematical or scientific. Examples are mathematics or many of the science and engineering subjects. Some social science degrees (e.g. psychology) are also suitable for this route.

    For higher level positions, you can study for a PhD and research in statistics. This is likely to be essential if you want a career as a university lecturer, and might also be helpful in some other strongly research-oriented careers.

  • Which course?

    There is a wide range of undergraduate courses involving statistics. If you already know what course you wish to study, you can use the UCAS website to start your search now.

    They courses at university usually lead to the degree of BSc, though in some cases other degrees (e.g. BA, BSocSc) might be available. There are many types of undergraduate courses such as:

    • Actuarial Mathematics and Statistics
    • Cyber Security & Comp Forensics with Statistics
    • Games Technology and Statistics
    • Geography and Medical Statistics
    • Geography and Statistics
    • Mathematical Sciences
    • Mathematics and Computing
    • Mathematics and Statistics
    • Medical Statistics and Applied Economics
    • Medical Stats & Applied Economics
    • Statistics and Computing
    • Statistics and Web Development
    • Statistics with Business Management

    Specialist statistics courses, often called 'single-honours' is where statistics is the main discipline studied throughout the course. A substantial amount of mathematics will also be required, and there might be some opportunity to take a few optional subjects from other disciplines (for example, introductory modules in accountancy are often popular, or a foreign language). Entry requirements are usually a good performance in an A2 level mathematical subject, or an equivalent qualification in other examination systems.

    Statistics also features in many joint degrees. Some of these, often with titles such as “Mathematics and Statistics”, are similar to the single-honours degrees except that there will be rather more mathematics and less statistics. The mathematics might well cover some more advanced pure mathematics and some other application areas. Entry requirements are again almost certain to include a good performance in A2 level mathematics, or equivalent.

    Some courses provide the possibility of including a year out in professional training by working for an employer in industry, business or commerce. This gives an opportunity to see how statistical methods are put to use in real-life work situations. These courses are usually known as “sandwich courses” and are four years long altogether. Otherwise, courses are generally three years long, but an important exception to this is the Scottish system of four-year courses. In addition, some universities offer “enhanced courses” four years long including an extra year in which more advanced material is studied. These lead to degrees with different titles, often MMath.

    Some university courses have been formally accredited by the Royal Statistical Society. Among other things, this means that graduates from these courses are automatically eligible to apply for the Society’s professional qualification of Graduate Statistician. The list of accredited university courses changes from year to year; the current list can be seen on the Society’s website. It should however be stressed that this accreditation is voluntary, and there are also many excellent courses at other universities.

  • Which university?

    Start your research a year before you wish to enrol at a course. Get hold of university prospectuses and brochures and attend general open days of the universities you are interested in; this will help you get a feel for what different universities have to offer. Some universities may visit your school or college and it is helpful to go to these talks if you can.

    To find a university, go to the UCAS. UCAS is the organisation that handles all applications to all universities and similar institutions (apart from the Open University) in the UK. Its 'Big Guide' covers all courses in all subjects at all of them. You can buy the 'Big Guide' on the UCAS bookstore web site.

    Check that the course structure and content suits you. This information can be found on websites, prospectuses and in your school or college careers library. Many public libraries and career centres will also have this information available. Check entry requirements, location, travel expenses, living costs, student culture, city lifestyle, whether or not it is campus-based, and so forth. If you like the course, there is every possibility that you will do well (and enjoy yourself in general).

    You can search for courses on-line, by subjects or by universities or by geographical regions, on the UCAS web site. Your search will give you a list of courses, each with its own link to further web pages. You may also find that your school or college subscribes to some other national database services carrying this kind of information.

    You can get prospectuses by post from the university or by visiting your local Careers section of a library. Information is usually also directly available on the university’s web site. Information is usually available about the university as a whole and about the courses offered by the faculties and departments within it. In many cases, departments have their own information handbooks; try looking for an individual department’s web site, or writing to the Admissions Tutor of the department in which you are interested and asking for a copy of the course brochure.

    And do not forget the Open University. This is unlikely to be relevant to school-leavers, but perhaps important to prospective mature students who may need to study part-time by distance learning. The Open University does not provide statistics courses going up to full degree level, but it does have excellent introductory and intermediate material in statistics. It also provides a great deal of mathematics material, including full degrees in mathematics; this material, even if not taken up to full degree level, might be very useful in providing the mathematics background likely to be necessary in supporting the study of statistics.

    Finally, there are professional examinations in statistics offered by the Royal Statistical Society aimed at mature students or those looking to improve their statistical skills at work.  The Society does not provide courses leading to these examinations, but distance-learning material is available from the University of Southampton.

  • What to expect when studying statistics at university

    Teaching and Learning

    Statistics like most science degrees will be typically taught through lectures with extensive practice assignments. You may be given a reading list prior to starting your course to help you prepare and during your course, however all required books should be available in your University Library.

    Top Tip: As soon as you get your library card (usually this is your Student ID card too), reserve or take out the books a couple of weeks prior to when homework or assignments are due. This will ensure you have a copy of the book(s) when you most need it. Some books however are on short loan (from 1-5 days) and cannot be renewed. In this case, usually one or two copies are available in the library (and cannot be taken out) for you to use. Alternatively, you can purchase your own copies but this is costly so consider Student Notice boards for other students selling second-hand copies.

    Lectures are further supported by regular small group tutorials in which solutions to problem sheets are discussed. This requires independent study and problem-solving through assignments in preparation for each tutorial. Some of the work will include output from statistical computing packages, and you will have practical classes in which you are taught how to use these.

    Methods of Assessment

    Most units or modules are assessed by taking an examination at the end of the semester. The more practical units of statistics or computing use a mixture of coursework and examinations, or coursework alone. Some of the assignments could also carry marks towards your overall assessment. These can be assessed individually and/or as a group.

    Some universities hold all their examinations together at the end of the academic year. It is also common now for the year to be broken up into two semesters, with examinations at the end of each.

    Many university courses also include project work. A project is your own individual work where you get to choose the subject related to the course to study in greater depth. The work is supervised by a member of staff such as a course tutor. Often these projects are in the final year, sometimes compulsory and sometimes optional to replace two lecture units/modules.

    Placements

    The professional skills the student gains from a placement can be invaluable. It can also be a foot-in-the-door to landing your first job when you complete your course. Placement degrees or “sandwich-courses” are available in 4-year format with a placement in Year 3, either at a European university or in industry.

    Students who take industrial placements are usually offered jobs after graduation by their placement employers.

  • Useful links

    Government departments and agencies provide information on websites as follows:

 

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