An American Statistical Association (ASA) analysis of government education data revealed that statistics is the fastest-growing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) undergraduate degree in the United States over the last four years.
The ASA analyzed data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on 160 STEM bachelor’s degree categories granted by U.S. public and nonprofit colleges and universities. Degree categories with a minimum of 200 completions in 2013 were included in the ASA analysis.
The ASA analysis showed that the number of undergraduate statistics degrees nearly doubled from 2010 to 2013.
“The analysis confirms what the ASA has known for some time: Statistics is a hot career field that more and more students are choosing to enter,” ASA President David R. Morganstein said in a statement announcing the findings. “It’s also important to note that this growth is not a passing fad. Across the country, universities and colleges are dedicating new resources so their respective statistics departments can expand to meet this growing demand.”
These findings come at a time when Gartner predicts that 4.4 million IT jobs will be created globally to support big data and the McKinsey Global Institute predicts a shortage in the United States of 140,000 to 190,000 people with analytical expertise and 1.5 million managers and analysts with the skills to understand and make decisions based on the analysis of big data.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, finds that the number of statisticians will grow by 27 percent between 2012 and 2022, far outpacing the projected 11 percent growth rate for all other career fields. And LinkedIn ranked statistical analysis and data mining as the most important job skills in 2014.
“The main driver is the job market,” said Frederic P. Schoenberg, chair of the statistics department at UCLA. “Our graduates are getting excellent jobs in industry with a statistics degree. Businesses throughout the country are forming analytics groups and seeing the value of data analysis. They are, therefore, hiring statisticians at a high rate and that is fueling our majors.”
In response to the growing demand for statistical and analytics skills and students’ related interest in learning these skills, many colleges and universities are developing Big Data University Programs around areas of study. In addition, to address this anticipated skills shortfall, some companies are offering analytics training or making analytics technology available to academia.
The ASA analysis revealed that more than 45 percent of undergraduate statistics degrees during the period studied were awarded to women. Over the past four decades, women have earned more than 40 percent of math and statistics bachelor’s degrees. This percentage of degrees awarded to women far outpaces that of other STEM fields. For example, in 2013, 18 percent of undergraduate computer science degrees, 19 percent of physics degrees, and 23 percent of engineering degrees were awarded to women.
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