Sports statisticians analyze data pertaining to sporting events, usually for major sports such as baseball, football or basketball. Sometimes called a scorer, sports statisticians record data live as it occurs.
There are two types of sports statisticians: academic and recorder.
Academic sports statisticians analyze data to look for trends. For example, Robert Schutz recently analyzed overtime in hockey.
"The National Hockey League Record Book provided us with all the overtime games over the past 10 years," he explains. "We used the data to decide the value of overtime and to determine the optimal length of an overtime period."
These people usually have a master's degree or doctorate in mathematics or statistics. They are often university professors.
"We pursue sporting statistics as an interest or hobby," says Schutz. "We are professors, researchers, and we build sporting statistics into our work as a professor.
"Using sporting statistics is also a very good way to teach statistics, because many students are interested in sports. But there is no occupation in either the U.S. or Canada where you would analyze sporting statistics as the main thrust of your job."
Schutz estimates there are approximately three academic sports statisticians in Canada and a few more in the U.S. In all cases, these people are not hired as sports statisticians, but are pursuing it as a special interest.
The other type of sports statistician is a statistical recorder, who attends sporting events and records the data in real time. According to Statistics in Sports (a section of the American Statistical Association), the responsibilities of a statistical crew include:
- Recording statistics as events happen
- Auditing stats with play-by-play
- Preparing final stats for league records
- Serving as official scorekeeper for both teams
- Entering computer data
- Preparing final and mid-game summary reports for the media
- Keeping up to date on changes in statistical scoring rules
- Being involved in resolution of disputed calls
Although sports statistics is fun for people who have a passion for sports, not many are able to make a full-time living in this career field. Most sports statisticians work part-time, and they’re often required to put in irregular hours because they need to attend sporting events to record data.
Sports statisticians will face fierce competition for full-time jobs because there are a limited number of organizations that employ full-timers. The organizations that do, such as television networks, sports teams and sports data agencies, usually employ only one full-time statistician. If you’re looking to do this on the side, or create your own niche, then you’ll likely have better luck making this work.
Sports Statisticians usually have at least a bachelor's degree in some combination of mathematics, statistical analysis and computer science. Definitely also need strong communication skills, computer literacy, keyboarding skills, a knowledge of sports, good observation skills and the ability to handle stress and work within deadlines.
Volunteering or getting an internship for a team in any sport to gain experience will only strengthen your resume and put you above the pack so take advantage of official, and unofficial, internship opportunities while you’re in college.
Salary Information 2018
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following information corresponds to the salaries of Sports Statisticians in 2018. The bottom 10% of earners made less than $27,640, the median salary was $69,700, and the top 10% of earners made more than $132,320.
Want to know more?
- College Foundation: Sports Statistician
- AMSTAT: Statistics in Sports
- STAT Track: Sports
- eHow-Sports: Statistician
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