Sports fans often love to discuss player and team statistics, and many utilise them to make decisions for their fantasy league teams. Sports statisticians are responsible for compiling these statistics for baseball, hockey, football, basketball and other sports, so accurate records of players' performance may be gathered. It can be a fun job for those who love sports, but few sports statisticians are able to make a full-time career out of the work.
Sports statisticians document all statistics that occur during a game while it is being played. Afterward, they must compare their data with the play-by-play account to verify that they have accurately recorded the stats. They must also enter the data into a computer program so others can access the statistics. Sports statisticians are also responsible for preparing mid-game and final statistical summary reports for the media. In some instances, they may also serve as official scorers, which means that they determine how a particular play will be scored according to the sport's official rules. Sports statisticians are responsible for compiling the year end stats for league records as well, and often perform statistical analysis on player performance to determine if there are any trends that teams or opponents may use to their advantage.
Most statisticians, including sports statisticians, earn a master's degree in statistics or mathematics. Statistics programs may include courses in statistical methods, calculus, mathematical modelling and probability theory. Sport statisticians must also take courses in computer science because they must use statistical software to record data. Continuing education courses are also important for sports statisticians because technology is always advancing, and they must keep up with the latest programs. In addition to a formal statistical education, those going into the field of sports statistics must possess a strong knowledge and understanding of the sports that they will cover. If they are serving as official scorers, they must be well acquainted with the rule books as well, so they can accurately score plays. Many sports statisticians gain experience by scoring games for their college teams.
Most sports statisticians work part-time.They are often required to put in irregular hours because they must attend sporting events to record data. This usually includes nights and weekends. Work as a sports statistician also requires a great deal of data entry, which may lead to eyestrain, back pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. The job can also be tedious as sports statisticians must verify the accuracy of their work by auditing it against play-by-play records.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wages of statisticians, including full-time, salaried sports statisticians, were £47,196 as of May 2008. The highest 10 per cent were paid more than £76,173, while the lowest 10 per cent were paid less than £25,831. The American Statistical Association, however, reports that because most sports statisticians are employed on a part-time basis, they are paid on a per diem basis for individual games. Per-game earnings usually range from £32 to £65 for professional sports such as basketball, baseball and football.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of statisticians, including sports statisticians, will increase by 13 per cent between 2008 and 2018, which is about as fast a rate as the average for occupations. Sports statisticians, however, will face fierce competition for full-time jobs because there are a limited number of organisations that employ full-time sports statisticians. The organisations that do, such as television networks, sports teams and sports data agencies, usually employ only one full-time statistician. Those looking for part-time sports statistician work will enjoy better prospects.