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Difference Between Statistician & Biostatistician

Both statisticians and biostatisticians collect and analyze data using mathematical principles. The difference between these two professions involves the type of data collected and the associated challenges.

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Comparing Statisticians to Biostatisticians

Designing ways to collect and analyze data describes the work of both statisticians and biostatisticians. The main difference between the careers, however, involves the type of data that's collected. The term 'statistician' is broad and covers professionals who work for a wide range of employers requiring data collection, such as government agencies (including labor or agriculture) or companies that test and develop products, while 'biostatistician' is a term that describes a type of statistician that specializes in data related to health.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
Statistician Master's degree $80,500 (2016)* 34%
Biostatistician Master's degree $74,521 (2017)** 14%

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

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Responsibilities of a Statistician vs. a Biostatistician

Both of these professions are responsible for verifying information using data collection methods that accurately represent a specific issue. They look for trends in the collected data and report on the limitations of future projections. The work of statisticians is important for businesses and engineering, while biostatisticians work with pharmaceutical companies and hospitals. Each profession uses similar methods, but the type of data collected presents different challenges. Statisticians may rely on data from sales and must account for biases that arise from differences in the way organizations track their products. Biostatisticians working on a single clinical trial must account for differences in the medical history and genetic factors that arise from the patients involved in the trial.

Statistician

Statisticians collect basic demographic data, economic data, sports data, opinion poll data and data for the federal government. They work to make sure the data collected accurately reflects the question being researched and provide an analysis that specifies the limitations of the methods applied. The validity of the data is established mathematically within specific confidence intervals. Federal application of statistical analysis includes determination of the national unemployment rate or regional representation in Congress from the National Census. Statisticians also work with other scientists. For example, if the toughness of a material designed for use in outer space were researched, a statistician would work with engineers to collect and analyze data collected from tests of durability, heat resistance, and pressure tolerances.

Job responsibilities of a statistician include:

  • Using computer software to identify relationships in data
  • Modeling data trends based upon different sampling methods
  • Improving data collection methods based upon probability theory
  • Manipulating raw data into graphs and charts to display relationships

Biostatistician

A biostatistician might study the effectiveness of a particular drug in treating a disease, or the population viability of an endangered species or the levels of environmental pollution, or any other data from a living source. This requires specialized training because living organisms are inherently variable and a biostatistician has to be able to account for this variability when validating the data. They must be able to determine if there are significant differences due to the question being researched. For example, if a particular drug has significant success in treating lung cancer, the biostatistician must be able to verify that it is due to the activity of the drug and not due to other factors in the clinical trial.

Job responsibilities of a biostatistician include:

  • Modeling infectious disease cases to predict potential outbreaks
  • Collaborating with doctors to design longitudinal studies of health
  • Researching birth and death records
  • Working with computer programs to simulate situations projected by collected data

Related Careers

If you are interested in the job of a statistician, you might also like the work of an information architect because it involves organizing information to optimize relationships to search parameters. If you prefer information related to biology, you might like the job of an epidemiologist who studies disease trends.

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