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Startup Stock Photos Credit: Eric Bailey

Statistically speaking, statistics majors are pretty likely to find a job.

According to a study released by the American Statistical Association, numbers of statistics majors have been increasing at colleges and universities across the country over the past decade, but still aren’t meeting industry demand.

The number of undergraduates majoring in statistics has risen for 15 consecutive years, increasing by more than 300 percent since the 1990s, according to the report. Meanwhile, total employment for statisticians has risen from 28,000 positions in 2010 to 85,000 in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There’s a growing appreciation in industry and outside of academia for what value statistics training can bring,” Wharton statistics professor Larry Brown said.

Though the statistics department is housed in Wharton, there are numerous ways for non-Wharton students to partake. In addition to Wharton’s statistics concentration, statistics classes are open to Penn students in any school, and students in any school can minor in the field.

The growing value of statistics skills marks a major distinction from as little as a decade ago.

“Until about 10 to 15 years ago, most people coming out of high school had no clue what statistics was. Even many college students didn’t recognize it as a discipline,” Brown said.

This mindset has certainly changed, which is especially evident to the professors who teach statistics.

“Enrollment in statistics classes has increased tremendously,” Wharton statistics professor Jean Lemaire said. “We are bursting at the seams — we are understaffed.”

The statistics concentration is still fairly small, hovering somewhere around 50 students, according to Lemaire. He said the department often loses students to more “glamorous” concentrations like finance.

“There is a fixed number and we are all competing for students,” he said of each year’s Wharton class pool.

But the number of statistics concentrators has still risen over the last few years, and even more at schools other than Penn, according to Brown. This is partially due to the increased awareness, as well as the fact that statistics concentrators generally do just as well salary-wise as students in other Wharton concentrations. Lemaire said he’s had students graduate and go on to work in the health care and insurance fields, and even work with risk management at places like Disney and for the Olympics.

Statistics knowledge is becoming increasingly necessary in a wide array of disciplines, and taking advantage of the industry demand might be accomplished by simply taking a few classes and becoming well versed in the subject, instead of solely by concentrating.

“I certainly feel that there’s a need for every well-educated person in the modern world to have some understanding of statistics, [but] that doesn’t necessarily mean they have to concentrate in it,” Brown said.

Lemaire encourages all students regardless of major or career path to at least become familiar with statistics concepts.

“Everyone needs statistics,” Lemaire said. “People who aren’t taking any kind of statistics classes are hurting themselves.”

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