Bioinformatics PhD Vs. Biostatistics PhD

May 24, 2019

Bioinformatics and biostatistics are closely related fields and are available for study at the doctoral level from many different institutions. Learn about some of the differences between the 2 subjects and degree programs, as well as how to apply.

While both a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Bioinformatics and a PhD in Biostatistics degree program train students to work with biological data, bioinformatics includes research and analysis from a variety of fields versus biostatistics that focuses on the mathematical analysis. Explore some of the other differences, as well as some similarities, between the 2 doctoral programs below.

Comparing a PhD in Bioinformatics to a PhD in Biostatistics

Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics

A PhD in Bioinformatics may include courses from various areas like biology, computer science, biochemistry, and mathematics to train students in the analysis of diverse biological information. These programs may require anywhere from 64 to 108 credits beyond a bachelor's degree and typically require qualifying and comprehensive exams and a dissertation/doctoral thesis. Students usually finish in 5 years and can also pursue a minor area and/or teaching responsibilities. Coursework can be tailored to a student's personal areas of interest and may include laboratory rotations to help students identify those interests, but students may also take courses with topics in molecular biology, ethics, computational genomics, biomedical engineering, bioinformatics, and database analysis. Graduates of PhD in Bioinformatics programs can pursue careers in academia or as researchers in a variety of industries pertaining to the molecular life sciences.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biostatistics

A PhD in Biostatistics focuses on the statistical methods used to analyze a wide range of data from the fields of public health and biology. Students in these programs may need to complete around 71 credits of coursework and usually have to complete qualifying and comprehensive exams and a dissertation. These programs generally take 4 to 5 years to complete and may include additional responsibilities such as teaching, journal clubs, and/or seminar attendance. Coursework may discuss topics in biostatistical theory, epidemiology, probability, biostatistical consulting, linear models, and categorical data analysis. Graduates of PhD in Biostatistics degree programs can also pursue careers in academia or careers as biostatisticians and researchers for the government, private agencies, and other organizations.

Common Entrance Requirements

Most PhD programs in bioinformatics or biostatistics will admit qualified applicants with a bachelor's degree in a related field, but some programs may require applicants to hold a master's degree. Students may need to meet a minimum GPA requirement, typically of at least a 3.0, and may need to have prior coursework in probability, linear algebra, and calculus. Those applying to bioinformatics programs may need mathematics courses, as well as prior coursework in areas like biology, physics, and/or programming. Both doctoral programs typically require the GRE, but some programs may leave it as optional. Other common application materials for both degree programs include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a resume or CV, and/or a statement of purpose/intent.

Students interested in working with biological data can pursue a PhD in Bioinformatics or Biostatistics, both of which typically require a dissertation and can be completed in about 5 years. However, doctoral programs in bioinformatics tend to incorporate additional subject areas and can lead to various research jobs in multiple fields, while biostatistics programs focus on mathematical analysis and tend to lead to careers as biostatisticians.

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