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ASU adds Arizona's 1st bachelor's degree in statistics

March 17, 2011

Starting with the Fall 2011 semester, university students in Arizona will have the opportunity to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in statistics. Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences will offer the degree on ASU’s West campus.

“Arizona is the 16th most populous U.S. state and until now was the only one in the top 20 without a bachelor’s degree program in statistics,” said Roger Berger, director of New College’s Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences.

“The addition of this degree will benefit the state’s economy by providing graduates who possess the knowledge and skills needed to help meet today’s demand for continuous improvement and cost reduction in both the public and private sectors,” Berger said. “Statisticians help to make decisions and solve problems in the face of uncertainty, using the limited data available from an experiment or survey. Because the use of statistical methods is common in all areas of business, government, and natural and social sciences, there is strong demand for individuals with all levels of statistical training.”

The field of statistics has impressive supporters. According to Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, “I keep saying the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?”

A recent New York Times technology article featured the headline, “For Today’s Graduate, Just One Word: Statistics.”

Graduates from the ASU program will be prepared for entry-level positions as statisticians or for graduate school in statistics or related fields.

The new program encompasses both theoretical and applied statistics, with an emphasis on computer-based statistical analysis. Students will take several courses in mathematics and applied computing and also will select an area of focus from fields such as biology, criminal justice, public health or business.

“The program’s structure is in keeping with New College’s emphasis on providing interdisciplinary experiences for our students,” said Elizabeth Langland, dean of New College. “Students nearing graduation will complete a capstone project developed in conjunction with an outside industry or agency, serving to demonstrate our core values of community engagement and service.”

The new program adds to ASU’s degree offerings in statistics. The university’s Graduate College offers a master’s and a Ph.D. program in the field.

“There is a growing interest in the field, both because of the demand for statisticians and because more students are learning about statistics in high school, mainly through Advanced Placement courses in statistics,” Berger said. “The AP statistics exam was first administered in 1997 to approximately 7,600 students, and the numbers have grown by roughly 10 percent each year since then. The most recent available figure, for 2009, was more than 116,000 students taking the exam. Until now, there has been no option in Arizona for students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in statistics.”

Once they complete the new bachelor’s program, students may decide to pursue an advanced degree in statistics or a related field. “The fact that students in the B.S. program will take multiple classes in an area of focus will prepare them to pursue interests in specific applications of statistics. We anticipate that these students with deep quantitative skills will be excellent candidates for advanced degree programs in a wide range of fields,” Berger said.

Among the course titles in the bachelor’s degree program are Design and Analysis of Experiments, Applied Regression Analysis and Time Series, Statistical Computing, Quality Improvement, and Multivariate Analysis.

According to Berger, “We expect some quantitatively oriented students in other ASU majors to benefit from the new degree, because they will take advantage of the opportunity to take some of the new courses offered in the statistics program.”

For more information about the new statistics degree, email or call (602) 543-6050.