A career in medical statistics requires a degree in statistics, applied mathematics, or a comparable field, as well as computer science training. A bachelor's degree may be sufficient for an entry-level position; however, most employers prefer applicants with a minimum of a master's degree, and a Ph.D. is required to specialize. Professionals in this field can work in pharmaceutical research, biomedical research, or public health, or choose to pursue an academic career.
Medical statisticians, also called biostatisticians, work in a variety of medical and public health fields. They conduct statistical research to advance medical knowledge, track or prevent diseases and improve medications and treatments. Medical statistics careers usually require either a master's or a doctoral degree.
|Required Education||Bachelor's for entry-level; Graduate degree to specialize|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||34% for all statisticians|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$80,110 for all statisticians|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Statistics degree programs prepare graduates for many careers related to or involving medical statistics, including those in the pharmaceutical and biomedical research fields, public health, and academia. Statisticians who have specialized in biostatistics through a graduate-level degree program or through work experience can readily find positions in the field of medical statistics.
Like in most careers, the availability, salary, and outlook for certain jobs in this field vary due to the level of education achieved. Again, like in most careers, research positions require an advanced degree. Conversely, to be fit for positions with the federal government, applicants should have at least a bachelor's degree.
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Medical Statistics Job Options
Statisticians can find work in a wide variety of health and medical settings, including research laboratories at hospitals, pharmaceutical or biomedical firms, government agencies and academic institutions. These biostatisticians can design and implement experiments, studies and surveys to assist other scientists and medical professionals with the collection, analysis and interpretation of useful statistical data. Statisticians apply mathematical principles to scientific problems and questions, helping researchers decide whether large scale experiments or studies are viable or even necessary, which can save time and money.
Pharmaceutical Research Jobs
Statisticians working in the pharmaceutical industry can conduct applied research and clinical trials that aid in the development of new medications, drug therapies and other treatments. At each stage of a multi-phase clinical trial, statisticians can design and carry out mathematical tests, surveys and studies to collect data on the effectiveness and risks of chemical compounds. They may collaborate with other scientists, use computers and statistical software for modeling and sampling, analyze results and write reports. They also typically help pharmaceutical companies adhere to government regulations for drug safety.
Biomedical Research Jobs
Statisticians working in hospitals and research laboratories commonly conduct biomedical studies to improve treatments and medical devices. These statisticians can assist researchers in planning, conducting and interpreting statistical research, since the computer modeling and databases require in-depth knowledge of mathematics and computer science. In this field, head researchers often determine the focus of research projects and the statisticians are utilized for their expertise.
Public Health Jobs
Government and public health organizations can employ statisticians to collect epidemiological data from interviews, surveys, disease surveillance and other sampling methods. By gathering, analyzing and interpreting data on diseases, illnesses and other health problems, public health organizations can gain a better understanding of a population's health and seek ways to control and prevent health problems. Data collected by these statisticians is often used in scholarly journals or government publications.
Since statistics is a field with broad applications, statisticians can find employment as professors in mathematics, statistics, computer science, public health, biostatistics, engineering and economics departments at colleges and universities. These professors teach math, statistics, biostatistics or other courses to undergraduate and graduate students, provide academic advising and mentoring, oversee student research and conduct their own research projects. Professors are usually expected to serve on university committees, publish research in scholarly journals and acquire funding through grants.
Education Requirements to Become a Medical Statistician
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), statistician jobs with the federal government usually require at least a bachelor's degree, while most other statistics jobs require advanced degrees (www.bls.gov). Many employers will accept a master's degree as the minimum educational requirement for employment, but positions in research laboratories and academia often require a Ph.D., the BLS said.
The American Statistical Association (ASA) recommends an undergraduate degree in applied mathematics, statistics or another similar field, with extensive training in computer science, to prepare for a career in statistics. Graduate degree programs are often more specialized, with master's and Ph.D. programs in biostatistics offering extensive preparation for medical statistics careers. Coursework in advanced degree programs includes linear regression, statistical inference, probability, sampling methods and data analysis as well as specialized medical statistics courses relating to epidemiology or other health topics.
Salary and Employment Outlook
Although the BLS doesn't have salary data specifically for medical statisticians, it reported in May 2015 that the median annual income for all statisticians was $80,110. These professionals were expected to see employment increase by about 34% from 2014 to 2024, which is much faster than the national average for all careers. Payscale.com does report a median salary of $73,452 specifically for biostatisticians as of 2016.
Medical statisticians collect and interpret data that can be used to help prevent a disease from spreading or improve treatments. They can work in research for pharmaceutical companies or hospitals, or may opt to work for the government and focus on data related to public health. Statisticians can also pursue an academic career, and are qualified to teach in many postsecondary subject areas.