Benefits of an Applied Statistics Degree for Electrical Engineers

Benefits of an Applied Statistics Degree for Electrical Engineers
Benefits of an Applied Statistics Degree for Electrical Engineers

If you are studying to become an electrical engineer, or are already working as one, you might be wondering if obtaining a degree in applied statistics is worthwhile. What is the importance of studying statistics? Would it serve to further your career or establish you more firmly in your profession?

Electrical Engineers–General Responsibilities

Consider the typical duties of an electrical engineer. In the course of their work, they frequently engage in:

  • Research and design–communications systems, information systems, and other processes and products
  • Development and testing of systems, processes, and products
  • Estimation–for resources and/or technology required for a project

Testing is generally conducted for compliance, be it of specifications, codes, or customer requirements. Much time is spent on computation and reporting on:

  • Results of analyses on existing projects
  • Estimations/models for potential projects

Electrical engineers are also expected to participate in frequent collaborations with other engineers, senior leadership, and sometimes the customers themselves. It is essential for any program of study for an electrical engineer to include not only statistics but effective methods of communicating and collaborating.

Why Study Statistics if I’m an Electrical Engineer?

Statistics are heavily used in electrical engineering, mainly applied statistics (where pure statistics are primarily based on theories and proofs, applied statistics have a greater focus on problem solution). This is well explained in Michigan Technological University’s blog on how software and electrical engineers can benefit from studying applied statistics. Electrical engineers are frequently tasked with solving production problems, requiring data analysis, and testing to ensure quality control. They need to understand reliability and the theories behind it when determining the risk of product failure. They need to know how to collect data and knowing sampling theory to collect the most appropriate and useful data sets.

Probability models figure largely in electrical engineering. Electrical engineers are often managing extensive distributed systems and real-time data monitoring in environments that are not always well controlled. These situations introduce much in the way of variability and randomness, two fundamental concepts in probability theory, and foundational to the study of statistics. Particularly relevant to electrical engineers are random processes where the engineer needs to understand the statistical properties of variability. Learning variability assists an engineer in building reliable systems by teaching them how to discern (and then manage) unreliable components. This also enables an electrical engineer to accurately estimate a product’s average values without having to test each and every product. The development and use of models are key in determining what resources are needed to build and implement high quality, reliable systems.

The importance of studying statistics includes learning experimental design. Electrical engineers may have had little exposure to the aspects of research design in their engineering courses. An advanced degree in applied statistics (such as masters) would enable the engineer to determine the appropriate design to use to solve problems. They would not only learn which design to use but how to apply it correctly. Electrical engineers also need to understand research methodologies and procedures to apply electrical and other theories to projects. Engineers need to understand the right methods in collecting data (such as field surveys) to identify and correct problems.

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Other Benefits to Studying Statistics

Much of electrical engineering is computational. Studying statistics will give an engineer additional training in programming languages and statistical software to most effectively analyze the data they've collected. These computational tools are used for the types of inferences an electrical engineer is frequently called on to make including prediction and hypothesis testing.

Another critical aspect of the study of statistics for an electrical engineer is reporting. While electrical engineers tend to develop strong visualization skills throughout their work (as they observe designs and processes), they also need to learn how to interpret, display, and report their results. Different outputs require different presentations–should the data be displayed as a graph? Are the descriptive statistics displayed effectively? Are the inferences clear and meaningful? A robust statistics program will teach an engineer how to create reports that are visually effective, easily interpreted, and understandable for technical and non-technical audiences alike.

Why a Degree in Applied Statistics?

Most electrical engineering programs include at least one course in statistics, but that course (or courses) may be secondary to overall engineering concepts. Studying statistics in a dedicated program gives the in-depth knowledge and training needed to not only be a capable electrical engineer but an innovative one. Applied statistics are particularly appropriate for engineers who tend to be active, "hands-on" learners. It is also essential for the statistics program to deal with solving real-world problems for it to be relevant to the engineer. A robust applied statistics program will also include communication and leadership–electrical engineers should be able to use their statistical toolset to take leadership of their projects. They will also learn the skills necessary to collaborate effectively and efficiently.

If you are looking to not only optimize your projects but also to optimize your career, one program to explore is the online Masters in Applied Statistics offered by Michigan Technological University. This program covers the statistical knowledge and capabilities every electrical engineer should have, along with the communication and leadership skills necessary to enhance and further their career. Having a degree in applied statistics would be a significant benefit for any electrical engineer, particularly the one looking for the highest levels of success.

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  • Why Software and Electrical Engineers Can Benefit From Studying Applied Statistics