Biostatistics is an integral part of public health and medicine. Those working in the field will analyze the data and information collected, process it and interpret the meaning of the results for others. While epidemiologists (and other public health professionals) have skill sets to do this as well, none are more proficient or expert as the Biostatistician.
Why Work in Biostatistics?
Individuals who choose to work as biostatisticians will hold an essential role in the design of research studies and analyzing the data collected. They will be experts in mathematics, critical thinking, reading comprehension and complex problem solving. A biostatistician must be naturally investigative, constantly thinking of how to best solve problems and searching for facts. While the topics researched by biostatisticians is limitless (drug testing, cancer studies, clinical best practices, sinus infections, lung disease, etc.) the work style is not. Biostatisticians will follow set procedures and routines, adhering to best practices for solving problems.
A career as a biostatistician is best for those who enjoy working with numbers, are detailed, and are skilled at processing data. While interpersonal interaction is important (64% of biostatisticians reported working with a group or team as extremely important source), the importance of being exact and detailed when processing data are far more utilized skills.
Biostatistics Degree Programs
The majority of individuals working as biostatisticians will have a master's or doctorate degree, but some may hold a bachelor's in biostatistics, mathematics or statistics.
*Consider accredited online MPH programs that can put a Master's of Public Health degree well within reach:
- The online Master of Public Health (MPH) program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University ([email protected]) prepares public health professionals to make a difference in communities around the world, helping students succeed in advancing the health of populations locally and globally. Complete your MPH in 12 months. GRE waivers available.
Click here for admissions information.
- The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offers fully online, part-time master’s degree and certificate programs, designed for working professionals. The Online Programs for Applied Learning (OPAL) focus on emergent industry sectors that have a resounding need for highly skilled professionals. These flexible, online graduate programs are currently offered in the fields of Patient Safety and Healthcare Quality, Population Health Management and Spatial Analysis, and can be completed in as little as 2 years. Request Information.
- The Online MPH at Benedictine University is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and offers four specialization tracks in Health Education & Promotion, Health Management & Policy, Emergency Preparedness, or Epidemiology. With the accelerated MPH track and two dual-degree options, you can also earn an MBA or MS in Management and Organizational Behavior with your MPH. A GRE-waiver is available to students who qualify and there is no residency requirement associated with the curriculum. Click for Admissions Info.
Bachelor's Degree in Biostatistics
A solid foundation in mathematics is highly recommended for those seeking a Bachelor of Science in Biostatistics. Pre-requisite classes will include courses in math and biology and possibly ecology, epidemiology, chemistry or other science courses. Classes that focus on statistical packages, such as SPSS or EpiInfo, are a considerable help to those going into a career in biostatistics. It is also recommended to take courses that will improve communication skills. Programs held within schools of public health will also require a certain number of public health classes to ensure the student "gets the big picture" of public health and how biostatistics contributes to it.
A Bachelor of Science in Biostatistics may not be available to everyone. A BS in Statistics or Mathematics are good substitutions for those interested in biostatistics. The basic concepts and methodologies of statistics or mathematics will be taught, and electives can be taken in social, biological or natural sciences. These electives will help students to gain a better understanding of biostatistics and its integral relationship to public health.
Master's Degree in Biostatistics
Many schools and programs of Public Health will offer Biostatistics as an MPH concentration option. These programs will train students in statistical theory, bio-informatics and biostatistical methods, planning studies, conducting analysis, interpretation of analysis and writing reports. Knowledge of a programming language, calculus, and a statistical computing software are often among the requirements for entry into a masters of biostatistics program. Courses in probability, numerical analysis, biology, genetics and/or bio-informatics are suggested.
Courses for the MPH in biostatistics will focus on statistical theory's while applying these methods to Public Health. Some class examples are:
- Statistical Reasoning in Public Health
- Biostatistics in Medical Product Regulation
- Advanced Statistical Theory
- Methods in Biostatistics II
At the end of an MPH in biostatistics a capstone course and practicum are also required. The Capstone consists of a paper and a presentation that shows the students skills and competencies as they relate to a current public health problem. The practicum is a hands-on practical experience, putting the students skills and competencies to use with other public health professionals.
Research is a key component of biostatistics, and many departments of biostatistics encourage their students to work or volunteer for a research project during their education. This allows the student to gain valuable first-hand experience that will aid in later career development.
Doctorate Degrees in Biostatistics
Doctoral programs offering a Ph.D. in Biostatistics are aimed at individuals who are focused on scholarly research. Students in these programs will work on developing new biostatistical methodologies, publishing original research, analyzing complex medical and public health data including non-standard problems and collaboration with research scientists in other related disciplines. As a Ph.D. student most programs require individuals to teach, conduct independent research, or both. The purpose of this is both for funding for the students education, and to learn how to teach other students, professionals and research assistants.
The pre-requisites for a Ph.D. program are often met by having a Master's in Public Health with a concentration in Biostatistics. Master's level education in statistics, mathematics, or other related topics may also fulfill pre-requisites.
Top Biostatistics Careers and Industries
Careers in biostatistics are found in pharmaceutical companies, academia, hospitals, independent research groups, medical device manufacturers, public health organizations and the government. The majority of positions available require a master's level degree, but those with a bachelor's degree and proficient knowledge of a statistical analysis software can find work in clinical trials and research. Those interested in teaching or developing new biostatistical methods will need a doctoral degree. Most other career options are available to individuals with a master's degree.
The top industries hiring biostatisticians are the Federal Government and the private sector (medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) Positions within local and state government are hiring the least and also have the lowest average salaries (source). According to O-Net Online), the average median salary for a Biostatisticians is $80,000, with 16,000 projected job openings from 2012-2022. Careers as Operations Research Analysts and Mathematicians are also on the rise.
Top Biostatistics Associations to Know
The American Statistical Association (ASA) is the world's largest community of statisticians. The ASA provides development, application and circulation of statistical science best practices. The key activities of the ASA are meetings, publications and education. Membership includes a statistical magazine subscription, networking opportunities, career opportunities, and online access to journals source).
The mission of the International Statistical Institute (ISI) is to promote the understanding, development and good practice of statistics world wide. Rooted in history, ISI was founded in 1885 and has been working since to promote leadership and to face the needs of the statistical community. Membership can either be through an organization or on and individual basis.