Brad Carlin: Three Characteristics of a Good Statistical Consultant

Statistical consulting can be a very rewarding and lucrative career path for those interested in data and statistics. However, this field of work requires a skill set that often isn’t taught in most undergraduate and graduate statistics programs.

When considering a career in statistical consulting, it’s important to acknowledge that having a solid understanding of statistical methods and theories is the bare minimum — and that a great statistician does not necessarily make a great statistical consultant. Consulting requires a separate non-technical skill set that needs to be developed and honed over time.

Here are a few skills worth developing if you’re interested in entering the field of statistical consulting.

Learn to Communicate Effectively

Communicating your results and findings in a clear and concise manner is important. Being able to communicate statistical methods and findings to clients without a statistical background will be one of the most important skills you develop on the path to becoming a great statistical consultant.

Find Your Passions Outside of Statistics

John Tukey’s famous observation that statisticians “get to play in everyone’s backyard” is especially true for consulting statisticians. However, you can’t be an effective statistical consultant without having a solid understanding of each of the backyards you visit. Choosing subject matter that you’re actually interested in and perhaps even passionate about will make your engagements much more enjoyable, and will make you a more knowledgeable and effective consultant.

See Yourself as a Collaborator

As a statistician, your primary expertise lies in interpreting and analyzing data. For most of your consulting projects, you won’t have that same level of expertise within the field or subject matter that you’re analyzing data for. Your clients, however, likely do have that level of substantive area expertise. Being able to communicate and collaborate with your clients in order to bridge this “expertise gap” is what makes a good — and busy — statistical consultant.

Brad is statistician and a longtime musician who contributes to several bands throughout the Minnesota area.

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