Careers in Biostatistics

Biostatisticians use statistical tools to interpret scientific data and answer research questions in the fields of medicine, biology and public health. With the vast amount of data and information available today, these tools are becoming increasingly necessary to detect correlations and causations of many public health issues across large data sets. 

By pursuing a career in biostatistics, you can address the need for skilled public health experts who have the ability to rigorously evaluate scientific information and use it to better society.

What Do Biostaticians Do?

Biostatisticians are often brought in to analyze trends and outcomes in various spheres of public health — including chronic diseases, cancer, human development and environmental health. They design and conduct experiments, collect and analyze data and interpret the results to assist with public health decisions. 

Biostatisticians can work on a single public health issue or on large-scale public health concerns. Areas of analysis can include the widespread effects of new medications, risk factors for diseases, indoor/outdoor air quality and studies on drug and alcohol use.

Biostaticians perform the following job functions:

  • Develop new mathematical rules, theories and concepts that are then used and applied by health professionals such as epidemiologists
  • Collect and analyze data through observations, interviews and surveys, and biological samples to find the causes of sickness and disease
  • Present and communicate their findings to health practitioners, policymakers, private organizations and the public
  • Decide what data are needed to answer specific questions or problems related to public health
  • Leverage data analysis to support and improve public health decisions on a global scale

How Do I Become a Biostatistician?

A career in biostatistics typically begins with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, science or statistics. Courses usually include calculus, differential equations, and linear and abstract algebra. Once students acquire their bachelor’s degree, a master’s-level degree is typically required for employment.

To be considered for most graduate programs, students must complete advanced math and statistics courses to be accepted into biostatistics graduate programs. In some cases, earning a master’s in biostatistics is actually a specialization in the public health or statistics fields.

Topics covered in a master’s in public health with a biostatistics specialization can include:

  • Applied biostatistics
  • Database design and management
  • Statistical consulting
  • Applied survival and longitudinal analysis
  • Design of clinical trials
  • Analytical epidemiology
  • Statistical theory
  • Research methods in epidemiology

A Career in Biostatistics

Biostatisticians work in a variety of industries and settings, including pharmaceutical companies, educational institutions, research facilities, universities, government organizations, hospitals and other companies in the medical industry.

Aspiring biostatisticians fascinated by the idea of investigating, analyzing and collecting data to improve the health of populations around the world may be interested in a career in biostatistics.

The impact of biostatisticians in the public health field is far reaching. Examples of their work include:

  • Testing new drugs and using data to determine risks and effectiveness
  • Studying various risk factors leading to disease
  • Using statistical data to look at links that could highlight causes or cures of disease
  • Evaluating results of cancer studies
  • Working with researchers or medical professionals to develop new procedures for improved health

Job Growth and Salary Outlook for Biostatisticians

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overall employment of mathematicians and statisticians is projected to grow 30 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for statisticians was $91,160 in May 2019.1

In addition, aspiring professionals interested in working in the health care field may find more job opportunities due the field’s inherent growth. Employment of health care occupations is projected to grow 14 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 1.9 million new jobs.2 Health care occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups.