Biostatistics

Biostatisticians identify public health trends and explore biomedical phenomena by using statistical approaches. Read on to learn more about this specialized field of study, including educational requirements and course topics, as well as what to expect in terms of job growth and salary.

Are Studies in Biostatistics Right for Me?

Career Overview

Biostatistics, sometimes called biometrics, is the application of mathematical and statistical models to the analysis and interpretation of biological and medical information, such as demographics, morbidity, genetics or environmental data. As a biostatistician, you'd use these skills to address public health concerns, improve clinical trials and advance the medical industry. For instance, you might work on projects to reduce bioterrorism concerns, advance new medicines or improve environmental health. A career in biostatistics is suited to those with strong mathematical skills and a commitment to biological and medical interests.

Career Options

Career options in biostatistics are found largely within academia, government and private industry. As a biostatistician, you may work for a university, medical or governmental research institute focused on public health or biomedical research. Jobs within the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are also common in this field. Other sectors that employ biostatisticians include businesses and nonprofit organizations focused on developing, planning and monitoring health services programs. Related job titles can include clinical data analyst, principal research investigator, project manager or survey statistician.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that jobs for statisticians in general would grow at a much-faster-than-average rate of 27% during the 2012-2022 decade, largely due to the expansion of the pharmaceutical industry. The BLS also reported that as of May 2013, the median annual salary for statisticians, including biostatisticians, was $79,290, and the top-paid ten percent earned more than $128,430 annually (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Biostatistician?

Undergraduate Preparation

Biostatistics degrees are usually offered at the graduate level and are often part of a school's public health department. While there is no single path to prepare for graduate studies, a bachelor's degree in mathematics, public health, statistics or biology can be a good starting point. Regardless of your undergraduate major, you'd need to develop a strong background in mathematics and statistics to qualify for biostatistics graduate programs.

Graduate Programs

You might also consider earning a combined degree, such as a joint Master of Public Health (MPH) and biostatistics degree. A Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) may be required for an advanced research or teaching position at a major university or college. Common coursework might include topics in advanced statistics, medicine, epidemiology, biology and environmental health. You might also tackle regression analysis, computer modeling, clinical trial methods and demographic analysis, as well as research design and statistical genomics. Some online biostatistics courses may also be available.

Most master's degree programs require a practicum or research thesis, while Ph.D. programs typically culminate in a dissertation. Once you've earned an advanced degree, there are graduate certificate programs available in biostatistics if you want to continue your education.

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