Biostatistics is the use of statistics and mathematics to predict outcomes of various situations involving human health and disease. At the bachelor's degree level, courses in biostatistics are generally offered through the mathematics or statistics programs. Entry into these programs requires a high school diploma or a GED. These programs generally require four years of study that includes general education courses.
Applicants to a master's degree program in biostatistics should have a bachelor's degree in mathematics or engineering or another relevant field. In this 2-year program, students gain advanced training in biostatistics research, learning to collect and analyze data to predict various situations, such as the side-effect rate for medicines.
Doctoral students perform research and take courses through various university departments. These research-centered programs require 4 to 5 years of study. In a doctoral program, the student chooses an area of focus and customizes a program. Many programs center on health and natural disaster management.
Bachelor's Degrees in Biostatistics
Biostatistics is at the intersection of ethics, public health, statistics and biotechnology. Concentrations in this field--either regarding biostatistics in general or specifically applied to the pharmaceutical industry--may be most commonly available in statistics and mathematics programs. Some schools offer a 5-year combination Bachelor of Science and Master of Science program. Students in bachelor's degree tracks can learn about experiment design, survival analysis and computer programming.
Students commonly study the subjects of biology, data structures and chemistry. Other topics of study could include:
- Regression modeling
- Survey sampling
Master of Science in Biostatistics
Graduate students in these programs can learn how to project the requirements of special needs populations, present the casualty projections for homeland security applications and work in emergency preparedness situations. Those working preparing to enter the pharmaceutical industry may be interested in projected side-effect rates and predicting the next global health epidemic. Not all programs require students to complete a thesis or a major academic paper in order to graduate from the program.
Graduate programs teach students about data management, analysis of time series data and variance. These types of programs often include subject matter like:
- Clinical trials
- Distribution theory
- Linear modeling
- Longitudinal data analysis
- Statistical computation
Ph.D. in Biostatistics
These programs are offered through university departments of epidemiology, biostatistics or public health. Doctoral scholars can learn about how genomics, spatial analysis and the ability to analyze continuous streams of data can affect survival distribution during a crisis. Programs often include researching and writing a dissertation. Applicants are generally required to have completed a bachelor's degree program in biostatistics, math, computer science, engineering or a relevant field.
Doctoral students may prepare for work in health and disaster management by running mass casualty simulations, or situations where human needs exceed the resources available. Fields of study can include:
- Behavioral sciences
- Environmental health
- Multivariate analysis
- Research methods
- Statistical consulting
The shift in the business world towards decision-making based on statistical analysis means that graduates with predictive analysis training are prepared for careers in most industries. Ph.D. program graduates are able to work in emergency preparedness, research and development, homeland security, universities and consulting.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, there were 29,870 statisticians working in the U.S. in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). The highest employment levels for these professionals were in scientific research and development services as well as state and federal governments.
Bachelor's and doctoral program graduates are qualified to work in fields such as:
- Bioinformaticists and biostatisticians
- Professors of biostatistics
- Staff scientists
- Data analysts
- Health analysts
- Senior statistical programmers
The BLS 2014-2024 job projections showed an expected 34% growth in employment opportunities for statisticians in general. Job prospects were anticipated to be best for those with backgrounds in engineering, biology or finance. According to the same source, the median annual wage for statisticians was $80,110, as of May 2015.
Biostatistics is a growing opportunity and an interesting one for those who enjoy math, statistics and their relationship within the health care field.