How to Succeed in a Graduate-Level Statistics Program

student studying for her online statistics program
student studying for her online statistics program

Are you employed and thinking about how a program in statistics may enhance your career, or lead you to a new career entirely? You've likely done your homework and you are aware of the career potential that a degree in applied statistics can provide:

  • An average starting salary of $88,190 per year (per the Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Strong outlook with an expected growth rate of 33% through 2026.

You have also likely noted that the typical degree requirement for many related job titles is a master's degree. If it has been a while since you went to school, you may find the academic rigor and time-management of a master’s program demanding. Here are some tips to overcome the challenges and prepare for your post-graduate program.

Brushing Up: Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Statistics

If it has been a while since you have taken a math course or worked with probabilities, you’ll likely want to review in those areas. Mathematics is long understood to be a perishable skill–if it has been more than two years since you’ve taken a math class, some of the concepts may seem dim. The good news, however, is that we tend to regain that knowledge more quickly than it took us to learn the first time. Probability as the logic of uncertainty is fundamental to statistics, so definitely reviewing basic probability will be to your advantage. While many have found algebra to be sufficient for basic statistics, certainly understanding the general concepts of calculus will provide a strong foundation for your applied statistics degree.

To be successful in Michigan Technological University’s Online Master of Science in Applied Statistics program, students must have taken calculus, linear algebra, and introductory statistics at the undergraduate level. The skills and concepts covered in these courses would be great to brush up on prior to starting your graduate-level statistics coursework.

Learn More About Our Statistics Program

How to Study for Statistics: Study Groups

The first step is to get to know your classmates. This can be done regardless of the classroom environment, be it online or in person. These individuals have the potential to become study partners, which is invaluable in a course that can be complex. Conferring with your fellow classmates allows you to get varying points of view on statistical theories and concepts, lending to your understanding of how and why procedures are applied in given situations.

When studying, don't hesitate to ask questions. Your instructors are there for just that purpose. As an adult and a graduate student, you might hesitate–particularly if you believe your problem to be minor. Bear in mind that your question is probably regarding one of the fundamentals of statistics and should be asked. There is also a possibility–or probability–that other classmates have the same question.

Be prepared to do all assigned problems, even those that won’t necessarily be turned in. You wouldn’t decide to run a marathon one day and get up and run it the next–you would prepare with daily running plans to build yourself up to successfully manage the race. The ability to think in an analytical fashion and master statistical theories and techniques takes a similar dedication, and the payoff is highly gratifying–knowing what counts as information and evidence and how to use it in almost any given situation.

Acing Your Statistics Degree: Knowing the Fundamentals

What generally are the fundamentals of statistics? They typically include:

  • Data distributions (this is certainly where probability comes in)
  • Measures of central tendency (mean, median, mode)
  • Measures of dispersion (range, variance, standard deviation)
  • Sampling
  • Variables

Be sure to take your time and ensure that you understand these and other fundamental concepts that your instructors introduce. These are the building blocks of statistical procedures; without them, any study you design and results you interpret will likely be problematic. Not only should you read these chapters in advance of your class, but you would also be well-served to read them a few times before class. That way, class-time can be focused on the questions you may have regarding the material, rather than a first attempt to grasp the material.

Once in class, take notes. If your instructors emphasize specific points, those should be captured in your notes. Do what you can to keep the course as relevant for yourself as possible. Think about projects and situations at work while covering the material and how you could apply what you are learning to those projects. Relating the topics to your real-world experiences will go a long way toward understanding and retaining the subjects.

One way to test yourself to ensure that you have mastered a fundamental? Take a topic such as “sampling” and write from memory everything you have learned about it. Start with the target population and work your way through various sampling techniques, how they work, etc. Then check against your notes and your textbook and see what you included and what was left out. This act of writing alone will assist you in retaining and comprehending the concepts.

Additional Tips to Prepare for Your Statistics Degree:

  • Make sure your syllabus is handy–note due dates on your calendar and when you plan to work on your homework and projects.
  • Keep your stats textbooks when a class is over–they will become part of your statistical reference library and may come in handy for the next class for review.
  • Investigate peer-reviewed research journals in your area of interest–challenge yourself by critiquing interesting studies that you find.

Looking to Learn Statistics Quickly?

It is no longer necessary to spend long hours in a classroom to achieve a master’s degree in statistics. Online programs are available and just as rigorous as in a traditional setting. One you might check into is offered by Michigan Technology University; take a look at their online Master of Science in Applied Statistics. Enrolled in such a program, and using the tips above, you are sure to succeed in your quest to enhance your career.

Learn More About Our Masters Program