Thanks to the explosion of digital data, statisticians — who can earn $125,000 at top companies in their first year after receiving a doctorate — have seen their stature rise significantly, reports the New York Times. At Harvard, Carrie Grimes majored in anthropology and archaeology and ventured to places like Honduras, where she studied Mayan settlement patterns by mapping where artifacts were found. But she was drawn to what she calls "all the computer and math stuff" that was part of the job. "People think of field archaeology as Indiana Jones, but much of what you really do is data analysis," she said. Now Grimes does a different kind of digging. She works at Google, where she uses statistical analysis of mounds of data to come up with ways to improve its search engine.
Grimes is an internet-age statistician, one of many who are changing the image of the profession as a place for dronish number nerds. They are finding themselves increasingly in demand–and even cool. "I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians," said Hal Varian, chief economist at Google. "And I’m not kidding." In field after field, computing and the web are creating new realms of data to explore: sensor signals, surveillance tapes, social network chatter, public records, and more. And the digital data surge only promises to accelerate, rising fivefold by 2012, according to a projection by research firm IDC…

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