Anyone who studies statistics will tell you that the field is split into two main branches: applied and statistical. On the surface, it’s easy to see the relationship between these fields. Both deal with numbers, right?
For those considering a course of study in either of these fields, such as a Master’s in Applied Statistics program at a provider such as Michigan Tech University, it’s vital to know the key differences. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between statistics and applied statistics so that you can choose the branch which best suits your career aspirations.
What is statistics?
Statistics is the study of data and the inferences you can draw from data. This field uses methods to organize, process and analyze information. Statistics aims to turn data into knowledge and create valid conclusions based on that data. As a result, statisticians collect and analyze data to make predictions. The primary focus of statistics is on the theory and methodology of data analysis.
What is applied statistics?
Alternatively, applied statistics is the application of statistical methods to specific research problems. Applied statisticians work to develop and use statistical methods in the pursuit of research goals. They design and analyze experiments, draw conclusions based on data and make recommendations according to their findings. While statisticians generally focus on theory, applied statisticians concentrate on putting that theory into practice.
The key difference: Research vs. practice
The most crucial difference between statistics and applied statistics is that the prior is theoretical and the latter is practical. Thus, applied statisticians focus on specific problems and use statistical methods to solve them, while statisticians focus on the theory behind those methods.
Another critical difference between statistics and applied statistics is applied research. In other words, applied statisticians solve real-world problems by drawing on statistical methods and theory. Meanwhile, the statistics field focuses on the underlying theory of statistics and processes used to analyze data.
Statisticians in the real world
Most statisticians work in government or companies providing business intelligence, designing experiments and analyzing data. They might work on commercial products, like food, water or pharmaceuticals, or apply their skills to the marketing, education, sports and healthcare fields. Some statisticians work on creating or improving survey and sampling techniques. Others work in academic settings, like universities and colleges, and may be involved in writing textbooks and academic papers.
Theory vs. solving real-world issues
As you can see, applied statistics and statistics differ in several ways. While statistical areas focus on theory, applied fields focus on solving real-world problems. Statistical fields analyze data to make predictions, while applied fields use data to draw conclusions and make recommendations based on their findings. In short, applied fields focus on putting the theory of statistical methods into practice. Conversely, statistical fields focus on the theory behind those methods. In sum, to consider a career in statistics, you should keep these differences in mind as you consider your options.