what is a biostatistician

What Does a Biostatistician Do?

Biostatisticians are data collectors and analysts who focus on biological data for fields such as medicine, agriculture, and public health.

In many ways, biostatisticians are the unsung heroes and wizards of health and data science–producing, analyzing, and verifying statistics that enable us to solve complex problems such as the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, biostatisticians verify statistics like, “The risk of hospitalization from COVID-19 after vaccination is about 5 in 100,000.”

With healthcare occupations projected to grow 13 percent from 2021 to 2031 and biostatistician careers projected to grow by 31 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Services (BLS), it is a great time to consider entering this growing field.

Though, you are probably asking yourself: “What is a biostatistician?” and “What does a biostatistician do?” Allow us to answer those questions and explain the benefits of this exciting career path.

What is a Biostatistician?

Biostatisticians take mathematical findings of clinical trials or research data and translate them into information to make public health decisions.

What Does a Biostatistician Do?

Biostatisticians are data-minded individuals delivering statistics, predictions, and studies on diseases and other health risks for living organisms, including people, plants, and animals.

In their daily role, biostatisticians apply mathematics, statistics, and data to biology. This is done by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing the data they collect during their biological research to draw likely conclusions.

Biostatisticians are often an essential part of teams focused on advancing groundbreaking research and topics from medicine to agriculture to public health. Furthermore, they gather data at every stage of an experiment or clinical trial to ensure and share detailed results from a big-picture perspective.

Additionally, biostatisticians issue reports or papers to clients such as agencies or employers regarding their research findings. Sometimes, biostatisticians are called upon to analyze data and determine disease occurrence or to provide support during a clinical trial to assess risk and effect and to prepare the corresponding reports.

Other tasks, responsibilities, and duties may include:

  • Performing senior review of TFLs and statistical analysis plans.
  • Coordinating and liaising global database procedures, processes, and standards.
  • Performing project management activities for identified projects, including resource planning, timelines, and milestone management..
  • Providing statistical input into other disciplines’ activities and participating in interdepartmental processes.
  • Reviewing CRF and other study-specific specifications and plans.
  • Creating automated processes, codes, and calculations with minimum oversight.
  • Developing trial designs that address study objectives that support regulatory approval and market access.

Where Do Biostatisticians Work?

Biostatisticians can work in several settings and on different research studies. For example, someone in the biostatistics field may find employment in the following institutions:

  • Universities
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofit organizations
  • Technological companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Medical corporations
  • Agricultural firms
  • Laboratories and research facilities
  • Hospitals

Biostatisticians may find work in pharmaceutical companies during their clinical studies to determine whether a drug is effective. Or, in a public health-focused non-profit, they may evaluate programs that inform policy-making—and even shape public health and education policies in government-related roles.

A biostatistician typically works regular office hours at about 40 hours per week. Depending on the role and project, travel may be required to confer with other scientists.

How Much Does a Biostatistician Make?

Biostatisticians can expect to make an above-average salary. For example, in addition to the abovementioned positive projected career growth, the BLS reports that mathematicians and statisticians earn a median annual salary of $96,280—and Indeed lists an even higher average salary of $126,004 per year.

How Do You Become a Biostatistician?

Biostatisticians are highly educated and trained individuals. In order to fulfill the important and gratifying work of a biostatistician, you must complete graduate study and hone the skills for success.

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

A bachelor’s degree in mathematics or statistics is a great starting point for becoming a biostatistician.

However, while some entry-level positions go to candidates holding a bachelor’s degree, most employers require postsecondary education through a master’s program in statistics or public health.

Why? Because employers like to see that their potential employees have experience with complex statistical analysis. Biostatisticians work with data to produce insights that have the potential to affect entire populations, so being an expert at data analysis is essential.

Be sure to research colleges and universities, as some, like Goodwin University, will offer Public Health degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s levels.

Step 2: Gain the necessary skills.

In addition to pursuing a bachelor’s and master’s degree, biostatistician candidates need technical and workplace skills. The specific skills and experience required can vary depending on the employer, so candidates should look at the job descriptions carefully.

Technical skills required of a biostatistician include:

  • Programming languages (R, Python, C or C++, Javascript, MATLAB, and SQL)
  • Ability to manage and clean data using data analysis software SAS
  • Strong knowledge of statistical theory, including longitudinal and complex data analysis
  • Expert knowledge and experience in specific areas, like epidemiology or public health
  • Familiarity with macros, data sets, computing, statistics, and writing protocols

Workplace skills needed to be a biostatistician are:

  • Effectively multitask or contribute to multiple projects at the same time
  • Excellent communication and collaboration skills
  • Academic-level writing skills
  • Prior experience in a consulting position
  • Time management and critical thinking skills

Goodwin University’s Master’s in Public Health (MPH) Master’s Program

As we mentioned, employers are more likely to require their biostatisticians to have a master’s degree. Thus, aspiring biostatisticians should consider a public health master’s program.

Goodwin’s fully online MPH program prepares you for complex, local, national, and global issues in contemporary public health. Students enjoy an immersive, inclusive environment where they will become profession ready through our up-to-date and innovative competency-based curriculum.

Our forty-two credit curriculum teaches students how to navigate various public health issues, from chronic illnesses to lifestyle and health behavior change, including maternal and child health, Medicare for all, obesity, and much more. The skills acquired in our MPH program are both practical and transferable to several healthcare careers, like a career as a biostatistician.

Other notable facts about our MPH program include the following:

  • 6 start dates throughout the year
  • 3 concentrations available
  • 7-week terms
  • No GRE/GMAT requirement
  • 12-to-15-month accelerated options depending on the individual

Now that we answered, “What does a biostatistician do?”, it’s time to ask yourself if you have what it takes to carry out the valuable job of a biostatistician. If you are fascinated by data and excited about this career path, contact us today to get started.

Enrollment is hassle-free and financial aid is available. Goodwin also offers various comprehensive support services to get you through college and into your career. We are here for you every step of the way!