Department of Statistics Unitmark
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Carnegie Mellon’s Top-Rated Statistics Department Among Fastest-Growing

It looks like Google Chief Economist Hal Varian’s 2009 prediction that “the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians” was right on the money.

According to numbers released by the American Statistical Association (ASA), statistics is the most rapidly increasing Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) discipline for undergraduate students, even outpacing computer and information technology-related fields.

And, Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Statistics — a global leader in applying statistics to many areas of science, technology, policy and education — is among the fastest-growing statistics departments.

“The Statistics Department — and indeed Carnegie Mellon as a whole — exhibits an ethos that values and benefits from true interdisciplinary work,” said Christopher R. Genovese, head of the Statistics Department in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences. “Our undergraduate curriculum builds on this by offering authentic engagement with interdisciplinary problems and extensive experience with the analysis of real data. (We have no “textbook” datasets after the introductory courses.) I think this is a key to both the recent growth and the continuing demand for our courses.

“Throughout the program, we emphasize modern statistical and computational methods, strong communication skills and effective statistical thinking. Carnegie Mellon provides an environment with low barriers to interaction among different fields, for students and faculty, and with the flexibility that allows students to tailor their program to meet their goals and interests,” Genovese said.

Genovese, Rebecca Nugent and Howard Seltman, who co-direct the department’s undergraduate program, were featured in ASA’s magazine to share how Carnegie Mellon keeps pace with the increased interest. Highlights include:
1. The number of CMU statistics undergraduate majors has roughly doubled since 2010 and has grown twenty-fold since 2005.

2. One strategy the department has used is to build on and highlight connections between statistics and other fields by offering joint majors, such as with economics and machine learning (new this year); new tracks within majors in neuroscience and statistical theory; and a statistics-operations research track in the Mathematical Sciences Department.

3. In recent years, roughly 10–20 percent of primary statistics majors have gone on to graduate or professional school. Among the rest, the most common sectors in which CMU statistics students get jobs are, in recent years, finance and banking, consulting and analytics, and management and marketing. It is becoming more common for CMU graduates to get jobs labeled “data scientist.” There are also a reasonable number who work in industrial research, pharmaceuticals, software companies and teaching.