Sandy (Tenbrink) Peterson
Mathematical Statistician for the US Census Bureau
Bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science in 2001
Master’s degree in Survey Methodology from the University of Maryland in 2007
Math was my favorite subject in high school, so I picked it as my major going in to my freshman year of college. I didn’t really have a career goal that was related to it, but figured I could change my major to something else once I found something I liked better. That never happened, so I ended with the same major I started with.
My current position is Mathematical Statistician for the US Census Bureau in a Maryland suburb of Washington DC. Which I find hilarious because I was not a big fan of statistics in college. But thank goodness I took the stat courses I did because they helped me qualify for this job. Anyway, I had no clue what to do with my math major towards the end of school, so I tried to become an officer in the Air Force doing Operations Research. That fell through (due to bad hearing, of all things), so I was jobless when I graduated. So for about a year I lived with my parents, worked the night shift at Denny’s, and applied to all sorts of math-type jobs all over the country. The Census Bureau is the first one who hired me.
How I use math in my job:
Most of the math I use these days is statistics. My survey team is currently researching new weighting adjustment methods to reduce bias and variance in our survey estimates. We also produce annual reports of nonresponse bias analysis and quality measures about our survey.
Advice to Truman students getting ready to hit the job market:
My advice when job hunting is to keep an open mind about the type of job that might work for you. I never would’ve predicted enjoying a job in statistics, but I love my job and will probably be here the rest of my career. My starting salary was also well below what I expected to get in the private sector, but annual pay increases improved the salary quickly in the first few years.