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Biostatistician: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a biostatistician. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties, and necessary skills to find out if this is the career for you.

Biostatisticians analyze data to determine the causes of issues affecting living organisms. Those who are interested in becoming a biostatistician will need to earn at least a bachelor's degree for any entry-level position. A master's or doctoral degree is required for higher positions.

Essential Information

Biostatisticians work as academics in the biomedical field analyzing the effects of treatments, environmental conditions, and other factors on living things. Common places of employment include government agencies, educational institutions, and pharmaceutical companies. Although a bachelor's degree is enough in some cases, most of these professionals have a master's or doctorate degree in biostatistics or a related field, such as mathematics or biology.

Required Education Bachelor's degree for entry level; master's or doctoral degree for advanced work
Required Skills Math, speaking, writing, problem solving, and critical thinking skills
Projected Job Growth 34% for all statisticians from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (January 2016) $77,860 annually**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

Biostatistician Job Description

Biostatisticians may work on healthcare-related topics in the public or private sector. This may include performing research for a government agency or setting the statistical parameters for a new study by a pharmaceutical company. Work generally takes place in an office setting, but may extend into the field.

Duties

Daily duties for research or pharmaceutical biostatisticians may include analyzing genetic data and disease occurrence. This information may be used in developing clinical trials to assess drug treatments. Academic and government biostatisticians may review data of populations exposed to environmental chemicals and conditions to understand the risks and effects. For example, they may be required to analyze the impact of oil spills on the environment.

Starting a Career in Biostatistics

A bachelor's degree is sufficient for entering the field of biostatistics; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that advanced work typically requires a Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biostatistics, Mathematics, or Statistics. Aspiring biostatisticians attending a school that doesn't offer a biostatistics undergraduate degree, may consider completing a bachelor's degree program in statistics or applied mathematics. Programs may include coursework in developing population samples, computer modeling, and data analysis.

M.S. and Ph.D. curricula generally offer more specific and advanced courses including the design and completion of a biomedical study. Students may be required to outline their methods and present their study findings.

Career and Economic Outlook for Biostatistics

The continued growth of the pharmaceutical field will generate a large share of the demand for biostatisticians, according to the BLS. The bureau reported that the number of jobs for statisticians as a whole were expected to grow by 34% between 2014 and 2024. According to PayScale.com, biostatisticians made a median wage of $77,860 in January 2016. Most workers earned salaries between $55,657 and $120,361 a year.

Research is a major part of being a biostatistician, and aspiring biostatisticians should also have an interest in science and how living things interact with their environment. Studies done by biostatisticians can further medical research or aid those in government with health-related decisions.

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