What is a biostatistician?
A biostatistician is a professional who applies statistical theories and methods to biological data. Their work is often involved in the planning and execution of clinical trials, the development of health-related programs, and the study of diseases and health trends in populations. They play a vital role in public health, medical research, and pharmaceutical development.
These professionals are instrumental in designing and analyzing research studies in health sciences. They apply their statistics knowledge to various health-related areas, including epidemiology, biology, and medicine, enabling them to make meaningful inferences from complex biological data.
Duties and responsibilities
The duties of a biostatistician typically involve designing research studies, collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting the results. They work closely with scientists, researchers, and healthcare professionals to develop research methodologies that ensure the accuracy and reliability of data.
They use statistical software to analyze data and then present the results comprehensibly to their non-statistical colleagues. These professionals may also publish results in academic journals and present their findings at conferences.
In addition to research activities, they often contribute to developing and implementing health programs. Their responsibilities may include:
- Analyzing data to identify health trends
- Assessing the impact of interventions
- Determining the efficacy of treatments
Biostatisticians typically work in an office environment, spending much of their time on computers conducting statistical analysis. They often work in teams with other health professionals and researchers, especially when involved in large research projects or clinical trials.
Their work can be found in many sectors, including pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, hospitals, and academic institutions. Despite the mainly office-based work, occasional travel may be required for conferences or collaborative projects.
Typical work hours
The work hours for a biostatistician are generally in line with a standard 40-hour week. However, depending on the specific project or research demands, they might need to work longer hours occasionally, especially when nearing project deadlines or critical health investigations are underway.
While the role does not typically involve shift work, flexibility may be necessary to collaborate with team members in different time zones or to meet urgent project requirements.
How to become a biostatistician
This career guide section outlines how to become a biostatistician. Acquiring the necessary education, gaining relevant experience, and developing key skills are primary steps to launching a successful career in this role.
Step 1: Complete a bachelor’s degree
The first step is to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Most employers require a degree in mathematics, statistics, biology, or a related field. A solid educational background in these areas will provide you with the foundational knowledge necessary to succeed in this role.
Step 2: Pursue a master’s degree or higher
If you are interested in this role, you will generally need to pursue a master’s degree or higher in biostatistics, statistics, or a related field. These advanced degrees provide specialized knowledge in statistical methods, study design, and data analysis techniques used in biological and medical research.
Step 3: Gain relevant work experience
Experience in statistical analysis, research, or related fields is essential for becoming a biostatistician. Internships, research assistant positions, or entry-level roles in academic or industry settings can help you develop the practical skills and knowledge required for this job. Focus on working with complex data sets, designing experiments, and applying statistical methods to solve real-world problems.
Step 4: Develop strong analytical and programming skills
These professionals must be skilled at analyzing data, interpreting results, and developing statistical models. Familiarity with data visualization tools and techniques is also beneficial.
Developing strong analytical skills and proficiency in programming languages such as R, Python, or SAS is essential for your success in this role. Udemy offers a free online course to learn about the R programming language. You can also learn how to create and interpret data visualizations using Python in this online Statistics with Python Specialization course offered by the University of Michigan through Coursera.
Step 5: Build a professional network
Networking plays a significant role in advancing your career. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and leverage social media platforms like LinkedIn to connect with other professionals in biostatistics and related fields. Networking can help you stay informed about new opportunities and developments in the field.
Step 6: Apply for biostatistician positions
With the necessary education, experience, and skills, you can start applying for jobs. Tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight your relevant qualifications and accomplishments in biostatistics, research, and data analysis. During interviews, be prepared to discuss your experience with statistical methods and provide examples of research projects you have worked on.
Step 7: Pursue certifications and professional development (optional)
While not required, obtaining certifications and participating in professional development opportunities can enhance your credibility and demonstrate your commitment to the profession. Some popular certifications include the Associate or Professional Statistician designation from the American Statistical Association (ASA).
Regularly attending workshops, seminars, or conferences can help you stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices, furthering your career in biostatistics. If you’re interested in a public health career path, Johns Hopkins University offers a fully online Biostatistics in Public Health Specialization through Coursera.
How much do biostatisticians make?
Several key factors influence biostatistician salaries. Education level, particularly in statistics or a closely related field, can significantly affect their earnings. Those with advanced degrees, such as a master’s or doctorate, often command higher salaries.
Experience is another crucial factor. As they gain more years of experience and demonstrate their abilities to manage data and solve complex problems effectively, they can expect an increase in their earnings.
The industry in which they work can also significantly impact their salary. For instance, those working in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing or research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences often earn more due to these industries’ high value and complexity.
Geographical location, particularly areas with a high concentration of pharmaceutical companies or research institutions, can also influence salary.
Highest paying industries
- Pharmaceutical – $112,000
- Federal Gov’t – $105,000
- Consulting – $103,720
- Scientific Research – $99,260
- Colleges and Univiersities – $96,000
Highest paying states
- New Jersey – $125,800
- Maryland – $109,860
- North Carolina – $106,110
- Massachusetts – $105,740
- California – $103,390
Types of biostatisticians
This section of the career guide discusses the various types and specializations of biostatisticians. Depending on their specific area of expertise, these professionals may contribute to medical research, epidemiology, public health initiatives, or the development of new pharmaceuticals.
Working with medical researchers and healthcare professionals, medical biostatisticians design studies, analyze results, and interpret data in the field of medicine. They contribute to clinical trials, observational studies, and comparative effectiveness research to enhance patient care and outcomes.
Pharmaceutical biostatisticians collaborate with drug development teams in the pharmaceutical industry. These professionals design and analyze clinical trials, help assess drug efficacy and safety, and aid in the regulatory submission process.
These biostatisticians work in epidemiology to study the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in populations. Their responsibilities include:
- Conducting surveys and experiments
- Analyzing data
- Interpreting results to understand disease patterns and develop public health strategies
Genomic biostatisticians specialize in the statistical analysis of genomic data. They contribute to research in gene expression, genome-wide association studies, and sequence analysis, playing a crucial role in the expanding field of genomics.
Professionals in this role apply their skills to studying environmental influences on biological systems. Their work may entail projects related to pollution impact, climate change effects on health, or biodiversity conservation.
Biostatistician in academia
Those in academia conduct their own statistical research and contribute to multidisciplinary research teams. They also teach biostatistics and statistical concepts to students in health and biological sciences.
Top skills for biostatisticians
Biostatisticians must have a strong analytical mindset as they deal with intricate data sets, identify trends, make predictions, and interpret results. They must be capable of applying statistical theories to real-world data and extracting meaningful conclusions. Strong analytical skills are crucial for making accurate predictions, identifying relationships in data, and providing valuable insights.
Being proficient in statistical software is essential for these professionals, who must be adept at using tools like R, SAS, Python, or SPSS for data analysis. Understanding programming languages, data visualization techniques, and machine learning algorithms can also be beneficial. This skill allows them to effectively manipulate and analyze data, making their findings more accurate and actionable.
They often work on projects related to medicine, epidemiology, or genetics and, as such, should understand the underlying biological concepts and terminology. A deep understanding of biological sciences helps them comprehend the context of the data, design relevant studies, and interpret the results correctly.
Communication skills are also vital, as they must collaborate with scientists, researchers, or healthcare professionals and explain their findings to non-technical audiences. Clear and effective communication can help accurately convey statistical findings’ implications, facilitate collaboration, and ensure that their work contributes effectively to decision-making processes or scientific discoveries.
Biostatistician career path
The career path for a biostatistician typically begins with an entry-level role as a statistical analyst or a research assistant in a healthcare or pharmaceutical setting. This early stage provides valuable exposure to practical applications of biostatistics, data analysis techniques, and industry-specific software.
After accumulating some experience and demonstrating proficiency, they may move on to a biostatistician role, designing studies, analyzing biomedical data, and interpreting findings to guide clinical trials or public health initiatives. At this stage, they often collaborate closely with scientists and healthcare professionals.
With further experience and a track record of successful projects, these professionals might advance to a senior role, where they lead study design and data analysis for more complex projects and may begin to mentor junior biostatisticians.
Beyond the senior role, individuals can progress to leadership roles such as a lead biostatistician or a manager of biostatistics. These roles involve overseeing a team of biostatisticians, contributing to strategic planning, and ensuring the integrity and accuracy of all statistical work.
At the highest levels, they can aspire to roles like director of biostatistics or chief scientific officer (CSO), guiding the strategic direction of research projects or the entire organization’s scientific endeavors.
Similar job titles
Biostatistician position trends and outlook
This profession is undergoing significant growth and transformation, driven primarily by the explosion of data in healthcare and life sciences.
The widespread adoption of electronic health records, advancements in genetic sequencing, and the proliferation of wearable health devices have led to unprecedented availability of biological and health data. This presents opportunities for these professionals to analyze this data and draw insights that can improve health outcomes and guide policy decisions.
Another significant trend impacting the profession is the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These technologies allow for more complex analysis of large data sets, opening up new avenues for research and discovery. Those with skills in these areas are increasingly in demand.
There’s also an increasing need for biostatisticians in pharmaceuticals and clinical trials, where they play a crucial role in designing studies, interpreting results, and ensuring regulatory compliance.
Employment projections for biostatisticians
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes biostatisticians under “Statisticians.” Employment for this category is projected to grow a whopping 31% through 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
This growth is expected to result from the more widespread use of statistical analysis to make informed business, healthcare, and policy decisions. In addition to strong statistical skills, those with a solid understanding of biology and health sciences will likely have the best job prospects.
Biostatistician career tips
Master statistical methodologies
Having a comprehensive understanding of statistical methodologies, including their application and limitations, is critical. These methodologies form the foundation of your work, whether you’re designing a clinical trial, analyzing data, or interpreting results.
Familiarize yourself with biomedical sciences
Biostatistics is applied within the realm of biomedical sciences. Therefore, a good understanding of biology, medicine, public health, or similar fields is essential. This knowledge will help you communicate effectively with colleagues, understand the context of your work, and make meaningful contributions to your field.
Embrace software proficiency
Proficiency in statistical software such as R, SAS, or SPSS is essential for data analysis. Familiarizing yourself with these tools and staying updated with new features or techniques can increase efficiency and accuracy in your work.
Develop excellent data management skills
In biostatistics, you’ll often work with large and complex datasets. Strong data management skills can help you maintain data integrity, streamline your work, and ensure that your analyses are based on accurate and reliable data.
Staying updated and enhancing your skills is crucial in the dynamic field of biostatistics. Some ways to continue learning include:
- Reading academic journals to keep up with recent research and developments
- Attending seminars, workshops, or conferences in your field
- Pursuing advanced courses or certifications in biostatistics or related fields
Build a professional network
Professional networking can provide valuable opportunities for learning, collaboration, and career advancement. Some professional associations and networks include:
- The International Biometric Society (IBS)
- The American Statistical Association (ASA)
- The Society for Clinical Trials (SCT)
Nurture interdisciplinary collaboration
Biostatistics is inherently collaborative and often requires working with professionals from various disciplines, such as doctors, researchers, and public health professionals. Nurturing interdisciplinary collaboration can foster a broader perspective, enhance the relevance and impact of your work, and contribute to more effective problem-solving.
Prioritize clear communication of results
Professionals in this role often need to communicate complex statistical results to non-statisticians. Developing the ability to present your findings clearly and effectively is vital. Use appropriate language and visual aids and provide context to help your audience understand the significance of your work.
Where the biostatistician jobs are
- Pfizer Inc.
- Merck & Co., Inc.
- Amgen Inc.
- Bristol Myers Squibb
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
Top job sites
What educational background is typically expected of a biostatistician?
They usually hold at least a master’s degree in biostatistics, statistics, or a related field. The curriculum typically includes math, statistical theory, and biological sciences courses. Many of these professionals also have a Ph.D., particularly those in academic or research roles.
What are the key responsibilities of a biostatistician?
They apply statistical methods to the study of life sciences, including biology, public health, and medicine. These professionals design and conduct studies, collect and analyze data, and interpret results. They are also involved in writing reports and presenting findings to non-statistical audiences.
What skills are essential for a biostatistician?
In addition to strong statistical analysis skills, they need a solid understanding of the biological or health sciences. Proficiency in statistical software and programming languages like R or SAS is also essential.
Effective communication skills are needed to present complex statistical information to non-technical audiences, and problem-solving skills are crucial for interpreting data and answering research questions.
What types of industries do biostatisticians typically work in?
Working in various industries related to life sciences, they are commonly employed in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, public health, and biomedical research. Government health agencies, universities, and research institutions also hire biostatisticians.
What is the role of a biostatistician in clinical trials?
In clinical trials, they play a crucial role in the design, execution, and analysis of the study. They help determine the sample size, define the randomization procedure, develop the statistical analysis plan, and analyze the trial data. These professionals also assist in interpreting the results and preparing the study findings for publication.
What are the most challenging aspects of being a biostatistician?
One of the challenges of this role is managing and analyzing complex, large-scale data sets. Ensuring the validity and reliability of studies, especially in the presence of confounding variables, is another challenge.
Communicating statistical concepts and findings to non-statisticians, and staying updated with evolving statistical methods and software, can also be demanding.
What role does a biostatistician play in a research team?
They are an essential member of a research team, contributing to the design and execution of studies and the analysis and interpretation of data. They work closely with researchers to formulate research questions, decide on methodologies, and provide insights based on statistical analysis. Their expertise enhances the rigor and reliability of the research.
How important is programming for a biostatistician?
Programming is vital, as much of their work involves managing and analyzing data using statistical software and programming languages. Proficiency in languages like R or SAS allows them to perform complex analyses, visualize data, and automate repetitive tasks.
How does a biostatistician contribute to public health?
They contribute significantly to public health by designing and analyzing studies investigating the causes and spread of diseases, evaluating the effectiveness of health programs and interventions, and guiding health policy decisions. Their work helps understand health trends and informs strategies for improving the population’s health.
What is the typical day-to-day experience of a biostatistician?
A typical day might involve:
- Meeting with researchers to discuss study design or results
- Writing or reviewing statistical analysis plans
- Managing and analyzing data
- Writing reports
They might also spend time staying updated with the latest statistical methods and trends in their field and presenting findings to colleagues or stakeholders.