Statistics

Students learning in the Science facilities at the UNSW Kensington campus

Model the behaviour of the world we work and live in

How do computer games work? How is the information contained in an MP3 file transformed into music? How are traffic lights programmed to yield the best flow of traffic? How do we know which quantity of an antibiotic is going to get rid of your flu? All of these questions are answered using mathematics and statistics.

In statistics, we start with some real-life data and want to find out as much as we can about the processes that produced the data. Modern life produces almost endless amounts of data, which means that statisticians are always in high demand. The process of posing questions and then seeking to answer them by collecting and analysing suitable data is an essential component of research in a remarkably diverse array of fields. This includes agriculture, medical research, industrial research, forensic science, market research, environmental science and quality assurance. This mode of inquiry also features prominently in the decision-making processes of both commerce and government.

Unlock a variety of career paths

From biology to engineering to the finance industry, statistics is in action. Statistical skills are flexible and transferable, and can be applied to almost any industry. The role of the statistician is to determine, for a given question, the type of data that is needed, the way it should be collected and how it should be analysed in order to best answer that question. The data may result from a planned experiment designed to investigate specific things.

This sort of data - experimental data - is common in such areas as agricultural and biomedical research. The concern of the statistician is not just the analysis of the data from someone else's experiment, but is also about designing the experiment in the first place to ensure that resources are used efficiently and that the questions can be answered by the experiment. Other types of data arise from observational studies, where investigators go out and see what is actually there. Censuses of the population, hospital databases, Gallup polls, traffic data, consumer databases, market and media research are all examples of observational studies. Survey and questionnaire design are important issues in many of these examples. 

Statisticians are employed as biometricians (statistical scientists specialising in biology-related applications) in government agricultural departments and as consultants in a number of government, quasi-government and private research firms. This includes:

  • Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) - Mathematics and Information Science Division
  • hospitals and health departments
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
  • commercial firms
  • market and media research organisations
  • financial institutions

Gain a competitive edge with a UNSW degree

We're ranked 48th in the world for mathematics.* Our School of Mathematics and Statistics is a leading centre for mathematical research at both the national and international level. As the largest School of Mathematics and Statistics in Australia, we have expertise across wide areas of applied mathematics, pure mathematics and statistics, including financial mathematics, biomathematics and environmental statistics. Computing has become firmly entrenched in modern statistics and our courses take full advantage of our excellent computing facilities. This will only enhance the portfolio of skills that you bring to your career.

Our programs 

*QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023