It is becoming more and more common to take an introduction to statistics course during college years, but have you ever considered diving in and learning statistics for a career? Most students pursuing careers in data analysis, machine learning, and even weather forecasting need a background in statistics to achieve their goals.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to successfully learn statistics. We’ll start with the fundamental question of what statistics is and move forward to provide a step-by-step guide and a selection of our favorite courses, books, and online resources to learn statistics.
Statistics is a way to understand data. By using mathematical analysis and data collection, statistics is used to develop and study various aspects of sets of data. Everything from collecting to interpreting, analyzing, and presenting data is covered in statistics.
You don’t have to be a mathematician to use statistics. In fact, this is one field we see in almost every aspect of our lives.
Even something as simple as investing your money or trying to figure out if your favorite sports team has a chance at winning their next game often involves statistics.
What Is Statistics Used For?
Statistics is a field not often thought of as used in the real world, but it is found in a surprising number of industries. From quality testing to predicting disease outbreaks, learning statistics is important.
- Quality Testing. It is well-known that most companies perform quality tests on their products, but have you ever thought about statistics working behind-the-scenes? By conducting focus groups and random sampling tests, companies use statistics to determine product quality quite frequently.
- Weather Forecasting. We always joke about how the weathermen never accurately report the weather, but the truth is they use statistical methods to draw conclusions. This means that while they are often correct in their forecasts, there is no way to be 100 percent certain when using probabilities to make predictions.
- Emergency Preparedness. While we aren’t always able to predict natural disasters and their severity, using statistics, emergency managers can use previously collected data to gain an idea of what conditions are likely to cause natural disasters and how severe they will be.
- Predicting Diseases. Every year during the flu season, millions of people receive flu shots. These shots are meant to prevent people from contracting the flu, but since there are two strains, scientists use statistics to predict which strain will be more prevalent each year and give the correlating flu shot.
Types of Statistics
While any expert in statistics will tell you how important it is to learn all of the different types of statistics, they will also tell you how important it is to be able to differentiate between them.
The two biggest types of statistics you will need to learn are descriptive statistics and inferential statistics.
Descriptive statistics is the most common type of statistics. This type uses numbers to describe patterns and features within sets of data. Within descriptive statistics, there are two subtypes: measures of central tendency and measures of spread.
Using measures of central tendency, you will find yourself working with the mean, median, mode, and range of a data set to draw conclusions. On the other hand, using measures of spread, you will find yourself using standard deviation, variance, and frequency distribution, amongst other things.
In inferential statistics, scientists have to use more complex mathematical processes to gain insights into the relationships between random variables within a population. Since individual variables cannot all be examined, scientists use statistical samples and sampling distributions to more conveniently study data.
As with descriptive statistics, there are two subsets within inferential statistics: confidence intervals and hypothesis testing. Confidence intervals use a range of values to study statistical samples from a population, while hypothesis testing uses various tests such as chi-squares and t-tests to determine if a theory about a population is correct.
Whether you want to learn statistics to aid in learning predictive analytics, decide between data science vs statistics, or simply for your own personal use, we have you covered. You can use any combination of the following resources to create your own custom-learning plan.
Since there is no right way to learn statistics, we suggest determining what type of learner you are and make a game plan from there. That plan may include in-person or online courses, reading books, or simply watching free online tutorials, and as long as it helps you learn, you’ll be ready to go.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Statistics?
Since there is no one way to learn statistics, it only makes sense that there is no one time frame, either. If you choose to learn statistics on your own and devote six to eight hours a day to your studies, you can become a master statistician in just a couple of months.
However, if you decide to enroll in a college degree program, it will take anywhere from two to four years, depending on your degree. There are also plenty of people who learn on their own and take years to become statistics masters. It all depends on your learning type and goals.
How to Learn Statistics: Step-by-Step
Even though there are dozens of different paths you can take to become a statistics master, this step-by-step guide provides an outline that can be used in any of those paths.
- Take Math Courses in High School. If you are lucky enough to realize you want or need to learn statistics while still in high school, take advantage of that. Take as many upper-level math courses as you can before graduation to get a head start.
- Begin to Learn Basics. While there are total math whizzes out there, most people struggle to learn statistics by just diving in. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the basics before trying to learn anything complex.
- Enroll in Descriptive Statistics Courses. After learning the basics, you’ll want to take courses focusing on descriptive statistics. This is generally considered the easier-to-learn type of statistics, and you will need to understand this type before moving to inferential statistics.
- Enroll in Inferential Statistics Courses. Once you have mastered descriptive statistics, you can begin to learn the more complex inferential statistics. Enroll in classes or watch tutorials focusing on this more difficult type of statistics.
- Learn About Predictive Models. Finally, after mastering both descriptive and inferential statistics, you can begin focusing on predictive models. Learning about models such as ANOVA, linear regression, and logistic regression requires a good understanding of the topics covered in both descriptive and inferential statistics.
The Best Statistics Courses and Training
For those just beginning to learn statistics, we highly recommend enrolling in a few statistics courses. These courses are often taught by experts and provide students with one of the best ways to learn. Whether you prefer in-person, online, or free courses, we’ve got your back with the best options below.
Best In-Person Statistics Classes
Many students learn best from in-person classes, as it requires less time-management and self-teaching. These are a couple of our favorite in-person statistics courses for beginners.
- Provider: University of Illinois- Chicago, IL
- Length: 1 college semester
- Prerequisites: Intermediate Algebra
Through the University of Illinois at Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, you can enroll in an introduction to statistics course that lasts for one semester. This course can be taken as part of one of their degree programs or on its own and provides valuable insight into the basics of statistics.
- Provider: Penn State- University Park, PA
- Length: 1 college semester
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $2,241
The prestigious Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania, offers a Statistical Concepts and Reasoning course for $2241. While the tuition is rather expensive, this class could be taken as part of a degree program and paid for by scholarships, if possible.
By enrolling in this course, you will learn about many different concepts to be found in the world of statistics, preparing you for more complex courses in the future.
Best Online Statistics Courses
Enrolling in online courses is great for students who prefer to learn from home and on their own time. As long as you have good time management skills and are okay with learning trickier concepts on your own, you should enroll in one of our top online statistics course picks.
- Provider: The Institute for Statistics Education
- Length: 8 weeks
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $599
This online course offered through the Institute for Statistics Education provides an introduction to the world of statistics for $599. The best part of this course is that it can be taken independently and later used for college credit if you enroll in a degree program later or would rather take a lower cost course than the one your dream school offers.
- Provider: Udemy
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: $94.99
Udemy has always been a fan amongst those trying to learn new skills online, so it is no surprise to find it in our favorites list. This Statistics for Data Science and Business Analysis costs $94.99 and can be completed at your own pace. Though no prerequisites are required, it is a good idea to have a basic understanding of statistics before enrolling, as this course covers more complex topics than an introductory course.
Best Free Statistics Courses
Who doesn’t love a free opportunity to learn? We sure do. There are hundreds of free courses available to learn statistics for free, but these two are some of our favorite options.
- Provider: Carnegie Mellon University
- Length: 1 college semester
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: Free
Offered by the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University, this Probability and Statistics Open and Free class follows the same course curriculum as their on-campus version of this course for free. Online and lasting for the duration of a college semester, this class is a great option for those who don’t want to pay for a college class but still want that quality education.
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- MIT OpenCourseware
- Length: 15 weeks
- Prerequisites: None
- Cost: Free
Also available through an esteemed college, MIT’s Introduction to Probability and Statistics course lasts 15 weeks and teaches students the same course material as taught in their regular curriculum. This course is free and offered online, so anyone can take it.
Best Statistics Books
Reading books about statistics may seem boring, but it is an effective way to learn. You may decide to read a couple of pages a day to supplement your learning, or you may find yourself sucked in and finishing an entire book in just a few hours. Whatever the case, these three are some of our top picks.
An installment in the classic For Dummies series, Deborah J Rumsey’s Statistics for Dummies is the perfect guide for beginning statisticians. This book walks readers through everything from the most basic concepts to the most complex. Even self-proclaimed experts in statistics can find useful knowledge in this book.
Funny title aside, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data is Charles Wheelan’s take on making statistics easy to learn. Wheelan’s writing style is both humorous and informational, allowing readers to relax and realize that statistics is not as difficult to learn as they once thought.
David Spiegelhalter’s The Art of Statistics: How to Learn from Data takes a more realistic approach to help readers learn statistics. By relating statistical concepts to real-world scenarios, Spiegelhalter expertly weaves a narrative of why everyone should learn at least a little bit about statistics.
Being certified in statistics is one of the best ways to prove to both yourself and future employers that you know your stuff. These professional certificate options are some of our favorites, but there are many out there, so be sure to determine exactly what you will need.
Statistics.com offers nine different statistics-related certificate options. Depending on your future career, earning one of these may be useful. For example, if you intend to go into data science, you may consider earning an Analytics for Data Science certificate. For a career in health and human services, you may be interested in the Biostatistics Certificate.
These certificates are designed to represent a graduate level of knowledge in statistics, meaning you could potentially earn one or more of these instead of a college degree. However, many employers will require a degree, so be sure to double-check your dream job’s expectations.
Through Texas A&M University, you can enroll in an Applied Statistics Certificate Program. This program lasts for the duration of 12 credit hours, meaning it can be completed in as little as four semesters of full-time study.
With over 20 options for statistics courses you can take to fulfill the certificate requirements, there is plenty of opportunities to specialize in one area. Or, if you want a more broad education, you can easily take courses from all disciplines of statistics. This is a versatile certificate program.
Best Online Statistics Resources
Even when you think you have learned all there is to know about statistics, you will likely continue to run into complex scenarios you can’t solve on your own. These online resources are great for everyone from total beginners to statistics wizards.
Harvard University’s online learning website offers online courses for almost every subject you can think of, statistics included. While you do have to pay for some of the courses, the majority are free of charge and offer a learning experience comparable to one taking place within the walls of Harvard University.
Every mathematician has heard of and likely used Khan Academy at least once in their life. With detailed tutorials and full, multi-lesson courses available for everything from trigonometry to statistics, it is no surprise this website is so beloved by the math world.
Not a fan of asking for help? Many people aren’t, and Stat Trek understands that. Rather than forcing you to admit you are stuck and need an expert to guide you, Stat Trek provides free online tutorials for the most basic and the most complex concepts, allowing you to figure it out on your own.
Should You Study Statistics?
So, should you study statistics? While there are a few fields out there that require you to study statistics, it is important to remember how often you may use this knowledge in other aspects of your life. There are quite a few careers you could end up in and be surprised by how often you use statistics.
We absolutely think you should study statistics. In fact, we believe almost everyone could benefit from at least learning the basics. But, if you need to learn for a career, you should become as much of an expert as possible. Using the resources provided in this guide, learning statistics should be easy.
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