How to Become a Sports Statistician

Sports statistics
Sports statistics

With Super Bowl LVI quickly approaching, it’s a thrilling time for football fans and an exciting time to be a Sports Statistician. Every year, fans and experts use statistics to evaluate players, rank teams and predict which team is most likely to win the championship. But, unlike the average fan, a Sports Statistician uses data sets and sophisticated technology to turn their love for sports into a booming career. 

Sports Statisticians make precise predictions about game outcomes, help sports teams optimize their rosters, and solve complex problems based on ever-changing player selections and conditions. Learn more about how to become a Sports Statistician and the expected career outlook, Sports Statistician salary, and Sports Statistician jobs in the market.


What is a Sports Statistician?

A Sports Statistician analyzes data related to sporting events, usually for major sports such as soccer, baseball, football, or basketball. Sports Statisticians help with recording live data, tracking player data, evaluating roster picks, and making predictions about winning outcomes. 


Job Responsibilities of a Sports Statistician

Generally, a Sports Statistician is responsible for the following:

  • Recording statistics live at sporting events
  • Auditing stats with play-by-play data 
  • Cleaning and organizing final stats for records
  • Scorekeeping for both teams
  • Entering computer data
  • Preparing summary reports for the media
  • Updating data by changing statistical scoring rules
  • Helping resolve disputed calls


What Skills Do You Need To Become a Sports Statistician?

Professionals who work in statistics must master essential skills that help them succeed in their roles. Statisticians are typically mathematical, detail-oriented, analytical, and strategic problem solvers. 

In addition to being highly analytical, a Sports Statistician must also be passionate about sports and eager to watch, track, and analyze the happenings in real-time and monitor historical data to make predictive and prescriptive recommendations. To excel as a Sports Statistician, professionals must be well-versed in the following five areas.


1. Competency With Modern Statistical Tools

Statisticians use advanced software programs to perform complex analyses and streamline tasks. Therefore, Sports Statisticians must familiarize themselves with the latest platforms to succeed in their job. 

Some of the most popular software platforms for statistical, graphing, modeling, management, and forecasting include:

  • Python
  • R
  • IBM SPSS Statistics
  • Tableau
  • SQL


2. Designing Scientific Experiments

Analyzing data is a science, and like in any field of science, statisticians must design and perform scientific experiments to test how well the integrity of their data and algorithms suit real-world applications

Testing statistical models is a best practice across industries. Tech Giants like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon regularly test their data and processes. For example, Google uses a four-stage approach to ensure its statistical models work in real-world applications. The experiment engages in the following four actions: 

  1. Appointing Google employees as internal testers; 
  2. Using a crowd testing platform; 
  3. Rolling out Google products for wider use among Google team members and; 
  4. Engaging in Beta testing by releasing a product to a small group of product end-users outside the organization.

For example, a Sports Statistician may create statistical models and experiment with artificial and historical data before inputting accurate player information. This testing ensures that the data models are sound before they inform decision-making.


3. Insightful Analysis and Interpretation of Data

Information mined from data provides intelligence for financial models, innovation, marketing, and production, and with modern technology, the implications for today’s organizations are tremendous. Organizations of all sizes and industries can benefit from Big Data. Extracting and interpreting this data requires the art and science of learning from data, which statisticians learn in their education.

In a typical statistics program, students enroll in courses focussed on designing, testing, and analyzing data sets. Learning how to interpret raw data and turn meaningless statistics into meaningful insights is one of the key outcomes of enrolling in higher education in statistics. At Michigan Technological University, students enrolled in the online Master of Science in Applied Statistics participate in courses that teach essential data interpretation methods, such as:

  • Statistical Methods: An introduction to design, conduct, and analysis of statistical studies, with course material related to statistical computing and preparation of statistical reports. This course covers design, descriptive, and graphical methods, probability models, parameter estimation, and hypothesis testing.
  • Probability and Statistical Inference: An introduction to probabilistic methods. This course covers probability laws, counting rules, discrete and continuous random variables, expectation, joint distributions, central limit theorem, and functions of random variables.
  • Computational Statistics: This introduces students to computationally intensive statistical methods and covers course topics, including simulating random variables from probability distributions, Monte Carlo integration and variance reduction methods, Monte Carlo simulation methods, Bootstrap, and jackknife, and permutation tests. This course will typically use the S-plus statistical software package. 
  • Predictive Modeling: Students learn the application, construction, and evaluation of statistical models used for prediction and classification. Course topics include data pre-processing, over-fitting and model tuning, linear and nonlinear regression models, and linear and nonlinear classification models.


4. Communication and Professional Networking Skills

Many Sports Staticians work closely with the media or communicate their findings to large teams. As a result, statisticians need to demonstrate above-average communication skills

People skills, such as persuasion, adaptability, emotional intelligence, and management skills, such as coaching, leadership, and negotiation, can all help statisticians move from entry-level positions into leadership roles. For example, a Senior Sports Statistician works with professional sports teams as a trusted advisor due partly to their exceptional communication and networking skills.


5. A Passion and Interest in Sports

Lastly, one soft skill that is not required for a typical role as a Statistician but essential to work as a Sports Statistician is a passion and interest in sports. Sports Statisticians are invited to athletic events, have the opportunity to meet well-known coaches and teams, and are required to keep up with sports news and media. This line of work is fascinating for professionals who enjoy following sports and appreciate the job’s perks. 


Where Can You Work as a Sports Statistician?

Sports Statisticians work at major television networks, sports data organizations, and even directly with coaching staff for professional sports teams. The largest employers of Sports Staticians also include top universities and colleges. According to the career expert Zippia, 20.5% of Sports Statisticians listed the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on their resume. 

Sports statistician is a great career option for those who are mathematically minded and passionate about sports


Sports Statistician Jobs

Before working as a full-time Sports Statistician, professionals seeking entry-level jobs may work as a Scorekeeper, Referee, or in an internship program. With a Master’s in Applied Statistics, professionals can move quickly into lucrative roles as a: 

  • Sports Statistician
  • Scout
  • Sports Writer
  • Director of Sports Analytics
  • Regional Statistician
  • Sports Statistical Analyst
  • Remote Sports Statistician


Why Become a Sports Statistician?

There are numerous reasons to pursue a career in statistics — and for the right candidate — a career as a Sports Statistician. Apart from earning a competitive salary and above-average job outlook, Sports Staticians can marry their love for sports with their aptitude for analytics. 

Paul DePodesta is a sports analytics pioneer, famously portrayed by Jonah Hill in Aaron Sorkin’s Moneyball. DePodesta graduated with an economics degree before working as a scout for Cleveland, and developed a revolutionary approach to win 20 straight baseball games on a low budget with a philosophy built not around the best players, but around mathematical certainties. 

DePodesta says, “In disciplines as disparate as baseball, financial services, trucking, and retail, people are realizing the power of data to help make better decisions.” In this quote, DePodesta captures why someone would want to become a Sports Statistician — to harness data to create better outcomes in sports and beyond.


Sports Statistician Salary Outlook 

The median annual wage for statisticians, in general, is $93,290, according to the United States Department of Labor. However, a Sports Statistician’s salary varies based on several factors, including the company size and sports team (Ex. NCAA vs. NFL). Ziprecruiter is seeing an average annual salary of $71,664 for Sports Statisticians in the United States. 


Sports Statistician Job Outlook

The United States Department of Labor also predicts that between 2020 through 2030, statisticians will see a 33% job outlook, much higher than the average career. With more sophisticated technology and a surplus of data, almost every industry is seeing a demand for statisticians, including those working as Sports Statisticians. 


Can Higher Education Help You Become a Sports Statistician?

A Master’s degree in statistics can help you land a lucrative job as a Sports Statistician. If you’re wondering how to become a Sports Statistician, a Master’s degree disseminates advanced statistical theory, programming and technology, real-world problem-solving, networking, communication, and leadership skills. 

Jae Hyun Lee, a Senior Analyst in Commercial Analytics, graduated from Michigan Tech’s MS in Applied Statistics Online. He said, “The courses cover multiple applications, which shows MTU has done adequate research to ensure students succeed post-graduation. The professors provide feedback to our discussion posts in a timely manner. I feel they are there for you whenever you need them.”

An MS in Applied Statistics spans different application areas so that graduates can enter roles as anything from a Sports Scout for the NFL to a Data Analyst at a top tech company. Higher education delivered online is the ideal route for professionals who want to specialize in statistics with a highly flexible schedule and an unparalleled support network. 


Why Take an MS in Applied Statistics From Michigan Tech?

An online Master’s Degree in Applied Statistics from Michigan Technological University will prepare you for high-demand, high-paying statistics and data science positions. The accelerated, 100% online program will teach you to analyze and interpret data in various professional settings and industries.

The coursework delivers insight into a broad spectrum of statistical science and methods that can be used to make predictions, devise experiments, and draw accurate conclusions. As a student, you will work with industry-standard statistical and data analysis software and conduct thorough research of real datasets to solve real-world problems.

In Michigan Tech’s MS in Applied Statistics, students focus on communication and leadership skills to build professional relationships and improve their ability to present findings confidently and clearly. Set yourself apart by building specialized, quantitative skills to meet the growing demand for statistics and data professionals with this math-driven statistics degree.

Michigan Tech offers numerous program features and benefits, including: 

  • 100 percent online and ideal for busy professionals
  • Three start dates per year
  • Accelerated format (7-week courses)
  • 30 credit hours (10 courses)
  • Earn a Graduate Certificate in Applied Statistics along the way
  • National Graduate Service Reduced Tuition Rate available to Military, AmeriCorps, and PeaceCorps personnel
  • Hands-on learning with industry standards software and tools such as R, SAS, S-Plus, and Python

Earn your Master’s in Applied Statistics Online with Michigan Tech University.