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Public Sector & Defence careers

Statistics, Research & Public Information

Why are statistics, research & data collection so important to the public sector?

The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, once said: “You cannot feed the hungry on statistics.” He was correct – that’s literally impossible! However, the statistical, social and economic information that is collected, researched, recorded and distributed by civil servants plays a huge role in influencing government policy and improving the public’s understanding of our society and economy.

Every time a statistic is used in a news story (which concerns the economy, work, benefits, immigration, healthcare, or traffic accidents etc.), it has probably been sourced by a civil servant whose job is dedicated to statistical research. Every single governmental decision is not just made on a whim; it will be founded on tons and tons of extensive research and analysis. If that sounds like your bag, a graduate job in statistics, research and data collection could be for you.

What public sector jobs involve statistics, research & data collection?

Many careers within the Civil Service are entirely focused on the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of important information. You might work as part of the Government Statistical Service (GSS), Government Social Research Service (GSR), or Government Economic Service (GES).

Careers within these branches of the Civil Service allow people to work across the whole range of central government departments and are dedicated to conducting research, data collection, analysis and writing reports that influence departmental activities.

Alternatively, you might be able to pursue a career with the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is the executive agency for the UK Statistics authority and is the government’s single largest producer of statistics. This organisation also provides careers that aren’t focused purely on collecting, analysing and processing data, such as opportunities within administration, corporate services and a specialist information management team.

One thing to note is that there is a public sector recruitment freeze in effect at the moment, and so currently the only way to get a job with the GSS, GSR, or GES is to apply through the Civil Service Fast Stream graduate programme.

How do I get started as a public sector statistician?

The GSS produces National Statistics and other official statistics that facilitate government understanding and decision-making. The department currently employs approximately 7,000 civil servants.

If you work in this area you are likely to start your career as an Assistant Statistician where you will provide valuable assistance in the collection, analysis and interpretation of government data. You might then progress to be a full-blown Statistical Officer or Statistician Team Leader.

To break onto this career path, you will need to be analytical, logical, highly-numerate and have a strong knowledge of statistical theory and methodologies. A minimum 2:1 degree in a numerate degree, such as statistics, mathematics, or economics is essential.

The GSR provides government departments with social research information that provides evidence for policy development and delivery. The data that this department processes and analyses relates to what people and organisations think, what their behaviour might be, and how they might respond to new initiatives and changes in policy.

To begin your career as a Research Officer, you will need to obtain a minimum 2:1 degree in a relevant social science subject, such as human geography, psychology or social anthropology. Here, you might be developing social research surveys, analysing data and processing statistics.

As you progress through your career, you might become a Senior Research Officer and then eventually a Principal Research Officer. You could be working in one of the many different government departments, such as the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Home Office, or the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

A career with the GES will involve the analysis of financial and economic data within central government departments to influence policy. Public sector budgets are a burning issue at the moment and your work would play a vital role in allowing government departments to get the most out of their limited financial resources.

The GES currently employs 1,400 economists in more than 30 government departments and agencies. You might be analysing labour market trends, taxation and international finance issues. From starting as an Assistant Economist, you might progress into an Economic Adviser position.

To follow this route, you will need an economics degree, or a joint economics degree where 50% of your modules were economics-based. You are going to need a sound understanding of economic principles and be able to apply these to practical situations.

The ONS is the central hub of statistics for the UK. This government department collects and publishes official statistics about the UK’s society and economy. Its largest project is the census, which is conducted every ten years (the last one was in 2011). They are based throughout the UK across three sites in Titchfield, London and Newport.

The statistics they collect influence governmental decisions regarding finances, resources and policy that influence all of our lives. They also keep the public informed about the society they are living in. The ONS produces statistics that concern population, business output and activity, the labour market, births, deaths, marriages, Gross Domestic Product, and many more important things. Their work is overseen by the UK Statistics Authority.

The huge amount of data that is stored and managed by the ONS means that they also need to employ a wealth of expert I.T. professionals to work as part of their information management team.

These guys use a combination of statistical knowledge and I.T. expertise to help manage the masses of data that the ONS processes. The organisation is entirely dependent on this lot and the careers on offer are rewarding, challenging and highly-important to the organisation’s objectives.

They employ people across a whole range of specialist I.T. professions, such as information assurance and security, applications development, testing, database management, service management, systems analysis and database architecture. For more information on these kinds of roles, check out the I.T. & Telecommunications sector now!

If you’ve got a head for figures and an interest in the UK population as a whole, and would like to put your knowledge towards helping the government make larger decisions, then come to your ‘census’ – this could be the career for you!